Peace Corps Is Suspending all Operations and Evacuating Volunteers


March 15, 2020

WASHINGTON – The following is an open letter to Peace Corps Volunteers from Director Jody Olsen.

Dear Volunteers,

I know this is a very stressful time for you and your families, your host communities and the staff at your post.

As you know, we recently evacuated Volunteers from China and Mongolia due to the COVID-19 outbreak and related travel constraints and school closings. Further evacuations are now under way at several posts. Unfortunately, it has become clear in the last 48 hours that numerous posts must follow suit.

It is against this backdrop that I have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all Peace Corps operations globally and evacuate all of our Volunteers. As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.

Evacuations are difficult, emotionally draining experiences for everyone involved. We are here for you, and we will do all that we can to keep you informed and up to date on the latest developments. Ensuring your health, safety and security is the highest priority of the Peace Corps. I want to stress that Headquarters remains open under its own Continuity of Operations Plan, and agency personnel are working 24/7 to support you and our staff overseas.

I also want to assure you and our host country partners that these evacuations represent the temporary suspension of Volunteer activities. We are not closing posts, and we will be ready to return to normal operations when conditions permit. Importantly, our host country staff will remain in their current positions. They play a critical role in every element of the Peace Corps mission, especially in a time of crisis.

Look for more information from your Country Director in the hours ahead. I deeply appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through these logistically challenging operations.

My thoughts are with you, and I am incredibly grateful for your service.


Jody K. Olsen



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  • This is drastic. I wish rather than closing down thousands of volunteers, that volunteers were given the choice of remaining in their volunteer communities or returning home. Most are younger than the high risk age, and would recover if sickened. Steve Ethi VI

  • RPCVs are making many suggestions on how to help. I see two priorities for RPCVs who have not been exposed:

    1) Supporting returning Volunteers who are being evacuated: RPCVs, via Facebook, are offering their homes in specific cities, for example.

    2) RPCVs are already working with Refugee Communities. These communities need special support to understand what is happening. RPCVs are in a better position to be helpful.

  • Isolationists have been trying to end the Peace Corps since 1972. They finally succeeded using this virus as an excuse. Since service is voluntary, any volunteer who felt threatened could terminate service at any time. Peace Corps management could also have evaluated which sectors could have been most likely exposed for reassignment and/or termination. An example might have included volunteers working in university settings. Those volunteers working in remote, village regions most likely did not have to worry about exposure. This is most probably the end of the agency. What a sad day.

  • Lorenzo,

    You may well be right. I think one of the problems was that if a PCV got sick or had an accident and needed emergency care, there could be problems be getting medical care or transportation home.

    The RPCV community is over 230,000 strong and totally independent!

  • I am also disappointed with our mass media. They have fanned the flames of a full-blown panic. The data I have read reported a 2% mortality rate. More people die each day in motor vehicle accidents! Plus, mortality seems to be concentrated on the elderly. Young, strong people (like PCVs), don’t usually die from it.

    Anywho, the Peace Corps has gone the way of the Buffalo soldier. We need written accounts of this noble experiment so that it is not forgotten.

  • Song Lyrics From Around The World THERE’S A LONG, LONG TRAIL Stoddard King& Music Alonzo “Zo” Elliott)1913
    *** This song was written for a college fraternity banquet at Yale University when lyricist and composer were both studying there
    in 1913. They could not find a publisher in the USA, but, while Zo Elliott was studying at Trinity College, Cambridge the following
    year, he was able to get it published in England. The song then became very popular with British troops during World War I***

    Nights are growing lonely,
    Days are very long;
    I’m a-growing weary
    Only list’ning for your song.
    Old remembrances are thronging
    Thro’ my memory,
    Thronging till it seems
    The world is full of dreams,
    Just to call you back to me.

    There’s a long, long trail a-winding
    Into the land of my dreams,
    Where nightingales are singing
    And a white moon beams:
    There’s a long, long night of waiting
    Until my dreams all come true;
    Till the day when I’ll be going down
    That long, long trail with you.

    All night long I hear you calling,
    Calling sweet and low;
    Seem to hear your footsteps falling
    Ev’ry where I go.
    Tho’ the road between us stretches
    Many a weary mile,
    Somehow I forget
    That you’re not with me yet
    When I think I see you smile.

    There’s a long, long trail a-winding
    Into the land of my dreams,
    Where nightingales are singing
    And a white moon beams:
    There’s a long, long night of waiting
    Until my dreams all come true;
    Till the day when I’ll be going down
    That long, long trail with you.

  • Concerning Lawrence Lihosit’s above comment, Let’s hope that it is NOT the de facto end of the Peace Corps. As for a historical commentary on the entire effort, we have a good start with Stanley Meisler’s volume, “When the World Calls”, published in 2011 (Beacon Press). It”s well done, and a pleasure to read. John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment, -63, -64, -65.

  • TURNBULL: I hope you’re right and I’m wrong. Mycue’s post reminded me of an old Guy Clark tune that Jerry Jeff Walker made famous a couple of years before I reported for duty in Honduras. These are the last two verses with a small change.

    One day I looked up and he’s pushing sixty
    Had brown tobacco stains all down his chin
    To me, he’s one of the hero’s of this country
    Why’s he dressed up like them ole men
    Drinkin’ beer and playin’ Moon and forty-two

    Like desperados waitin’ for a train

    The day before he died I went to see him
    I was grown and he was almost gone
    So we closed our eyes and dreamed us up a kitchen
    Sang another verse to that ole song
    Come on Jack, it’s comin’ around

    Like desperados waitin’ for a train
    Like desperados waitin’ for a train

  • Call it ironic, synchronic, karmic, tragic, apropos, or whatever; first the death of Peace Corps writing’s darkest raconteur – Moritz Thomsen – from cholera, and now the knelling death of Peace Corps itself from coronavirus.

  • There are three goals for Peace Corps. The Federal agency is responsible only for the first and second which the Federal agency has abandoned.

    But the all-important Third Goal: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. persists.
    The RPCV community has made the Third Goal its own. The RPCV ccommunity is unconnected to the federal agency and needs no permission from anyone to act. Books, stories, blogs, articles, and service projects within America and in all host countries further this goal and that continues.

    Now, the RPCV community has assumed an additional responsibility: offering support to the Volunteers who have been evacuated. It is the moral responsibility if not also the legal responsibility, in my opinion, of the federal agency to provide support, specifically health information and benefits to these evacuated Volunteers. But it appears there are “gaps” in what the federal agency has evidently done.

    Evacuating Volunteers will only have health insurance coverage for one month. They are not all evidently being tested for the virus. Some, if not all, are being advised to “self-quarantine” for 14 days. However, that is hard to do without exposing friends and family to the potential of exposure to the virus.

    A support group,U.S. Peace Corps COVID-19 Evacuation Support Group, has sprung up on Facebook and evacuated Volunteers are flooding the site with requests for help. RPCVs are trying to provide that help. Visit the Facebook page to get a better idea of the dimensions of the problem.

    • Finding this Facebook group is harder than I thought. Going on Facebook, first and then pasting the above title might work, but you may have to scroll all the way down to find it.

      It is so good to see the kind of response RPCVs are offering to evacuating PCVs. I am in the high risk group, as are so many of us and that limits the ability to offer physical help. However, the younger RPCVs are just wonderful and it is heartwarming just to read the responses.

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