Because of the coronavirus, the Peace Corps is doing more than evacuating its 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries.
It’s also firing them.
In a March 15 open letter to the volunteers, the agency’s director, Jody Olsen, said, “We are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.”
But nowhere in the statement posted on the agency’s website does it tell the public that all the volunteers are being dismissed. That information is in the agency’s “frequently asked questions” about the evacuations.
“All evacuated Volunteers and trainees, regardless of length of service, will be classified as having undergone a Completion of Service (COS),” it says.
That leaves volunteers like Kimberly Ruck — who have sacrificed in service to two nations, at home and abroad — upset, dismayed and angry.
Although the volunteers received dismissal notifications separate from the open letter, “Director Jody Olsen’s statement is very misleading to the public as well as the volunteers,” Ruck said by email Friday, her last day as a volunteer in her post in Windhoek, Namibia, in southwestern Africa. “What is really happening is she has ended the service of ALL volunteers and there will be no volunteer activity in any of the 61 countries until the Corona Virus is over, until countries open borders, until countries issue visas and until Peace Corps begins accepting applications to join.”
An agency statement to the Federal Insider said volunteers were dismissed, instead of being allowed paid leave, because “it is logistically impossible for the agency to place each of them on administrative hold for an indeterminate period of time.” Peace Corps volunteers typically serve for about two years. The Peace Corps is an independent agency of the U.S. government.
Ruck’s annual stipend was less than $14,000 for her economic-development duties in a Windhoek community center that serves orphans and vulnerable children. She said her evacuation and dismissal mean that “I abandon them when they need me the most.” Ruck, 51, now describes herself as “currently homeless, former residence Carefree, Arizona.”
I fully expect the Peace Corps to be quietly buried in the next budget battle. Certainly the administrative staff won't be funded with no volunteers to administrate.
And just like that, the Trump regime has ended the Peace Corps.