Two Items Of Interest to RPCVs


The current issue of The New Yorker, March 30, 2020, has an article entitled, “Life on Lockdown” Forty-five days of avoiding the coronavirus in China by Peter Hessler (China 1996-98). Peter and his wife with their nine-year-old twin daughters, Ariel and Natasha, went to China in August where his next book will be set. And then came the virus. Two weeks ago Peter wrote about the China PCVs being terminated in his host country for The New Yorker.

Peter Hessler joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2000. From 2000 until 2007, he was the magazine’s correspondent in China and, from 2011 to 2016, he was based in Cairo, where he covered the events of the Egyptian Arab Spring. His subjects have included archeology in both China and Egypt, a factory worker in Shenzhen, a garbage collector in Cairo, a small-town druggist in rural Colorado, and Chinese lingerie dealers in Upper Egypt. Before joining The New Yorker, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Fuling, a small Chinese city on the Yangtze River. He is the author of six books, including a trilogy about the decade-plus that he spent in China: “River Town,” “Oracle Bones,”which was a National Book Award finalist, and “Country Driving.“ His book about Egypt, “The Buried,” was published in May. He is the winner of an American Society of Magazine Editors award and, in 2011, was named a MacArthur Fellow. He lives in southwestern Colorado.


Laurette Bennhold-Samaan (PCs HQ 1994-2001) answers the question of whether these PCVs were “fired” from the agency. Her statement to me at my request:

Having been involved with The Peace Corps for many years as a staff member, The Peace Corps did not fire the volunteers. They did the most generous option they had- they classified them as having completed their service. Otherwise, they would have been on administrative leave. By closing out their service, the volunteers still able to go back, if circumstances change. None of those would have been otherwise possible. This was the kindest and compassionate approach.


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  • Laurette’s explanation was about what I had assumed the reasoning was but it is nice to have it verified officially. Relative to recalled PCV’s and their returning to the U.S.A., I’ve become aware that most have to undergo a period of quarantine to make sure they are not infected by or carriers of Covid-19. I am proud to pass on that a retreat center in Massachusetts which I have served on the board of several times, Cedar Hill Retreat Center, is providing a place for one of those returned Peace Corps Volunteers to live during their quarantine at no charge.
    Cedar Hill in Massachusetts is a non-profit and any RPCV groups or a family group looking for a great place to hold a reunion on the Atlantic coast should check it out. It has a private beach, lots of nice rooms, a great big kitchen and is just a bit south of Boston and north of Plymouth. The website is .

    • Many RPCVs are stepping up to help the evacuated Volunteers. Stephen, your offer is great and the kind of support which is being offered. But there are more than 7000 coming home and many of the evacuees do not have a safe place for the 14 day guarantine. That is not right, in my opinion. Peace Corps has said it will reimburse, however, that presumes an evacuee arrives at a familiar city, either has relatives and/or a place to stay and/or money to pay for 14 days in a hotel and then seek reinbursement from Peace Corps.

      The website, Returned Peace Corps COVID-19 Evacuation Support [Com acts as a support for these evacuees to connect with the RPCV community. It is really good for those of us who are RPCVs and may be able to offer help.
      It was begun just about 10 days ago by an RPCV and has more than 6000 members. It is very difficult to access.
      They are screening to make sure that members are legitimate RPCVs. I think the best way to access the website is to be on Facebook, yourself, and go to the Facebook page and then enter the above title in the search box,

      It will probably bring up a list of all kinds of COVID-f9 pages, Scroll down until you find a posting from the group and click on that posting. It should bring you to the group’s facebook page and you will be asked to identify yourself by name, country and years of service. I hope it works.

  • I have a question for Laurette Bennhold-Samaan: Are you saying that COS’d Volunteers are eiigible for unemployment benefits?

    • This is from Peace Corps: FAQs
      Am I eligible for unemployment as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer?

      Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are not eligible for unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor has ruled that individuals enrolled in the Peace Corps are Volunteers who perform services under terms and conditions that do not rise to the legal relationship of employer and employee and, therefore, are not considered in employment covered under Title II of the Emergency Jobs and Unemployment Assistance Act of 1974, Public Law 93-567.88, Stat. 1845.

  • To all of the messages:

    A few days ago, I emailed Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and his AA Melissa DeRosa, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania (RPCV/India) the suggestion to reach out to the 7,367 as many of them have the skill sets needed by these, and other states. Director Jody Olsen, RPCV/Colombia, should see the connection and give them a call. The RPCV networks should be actively pumping this obvious connection: identify the 7,367 by skill sets, locations, willingness to ‘get going’.

    At this writing, no responses to me from the governors.

    Jack Riehl
    RPCV Honduras 67/69
    Group VIII

  • IN KIND versus KIND ALONE: “And Solon says the heart us merciless./ But renders justice, that it will survive.” — from “FOR MAGISTRATES” by Josephine Miles from her COLLECTED POEMS 1930-1983 on page 253. Those are the last 2 of the final 9 lines of that poem, and not only that one poem (which is a SEVEN page poem, until published there then “uncollected”). I will now type these whole final 9 lines that end the “FOR MAGISTRATES” poem and that as well ends the whole 261 book of COLLECTED POEMS 1930-1983 published in 1983 by the University of Illinois Press,Urbana and Chicago,ISBN 0-252-010175-5

    “I have heard of the Warren Court and the Burger Court
    And the indeed small claims court, where sometimes
    Justice is done, and the world court. Lawlessness resolutes
    Clanning from Wales and urban Africa
    Come to be king and come then to the bar
    Where suffering reigns, providence has its play,
    The mirrored bar where Hammurabi dwells,
    And Solon says the heart is merciless.
    But renders justice, that it will survive.”

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