PCV Evacuation Around the World
A complete Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) evacuation effort is going on around the world due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this year, Peace Corps had already evacuated PCVs from China and Mongolia. But that was when the high percentage of those infected were in China. But now, people in more than 120 countries around the world have tested positive for COVID-19.
On March 15th 2020, Jody Olsen, Peace Corps Director, decided to evacuate all PCVs from every PC service country. According to the Peace Corps Director, the suspension of all operations globally is temporary. And, PCVs are expected to return to normal operations when conditions permit.
PCVs Returning Home Under a Cloud of Uncertainty
RPCV Health Crusade supports this decision to keep PCVs are safe. The COVID-19 outbreak could get worse before it gets contained. And, it is important to evacuate while PCVs are still able to leave their host countries and enter the USA.
The USA has already implemented travel rules that limits travel from certain countries. While those rules do not currently preclude US citizens and legal residents from returning to the USA, traveling right now is a very stressful event in itself. For PCVs, the level of uncertainty, the frenzy of a PCV evacuation, and the reverse culture shock could greatly add to that stress level.
Depending on the PCV service country, the PCVs may only have a day or two to pack a couple of suitcases and report to their designated evacuation site. In some service sites, it could take that long just to travel to a designated location. The PCVs are supposed to return to their previous location in the USA. PCVs were informed that the evacuation will be a minimum of 2 weeks. But it could be longer. So it will be a day-by-day wait after that.
Questions About Peace Corps Support
But what happens during the evacuation period? Will Peace Corps ensure everyone has a place to stay while waiting to return to country? Can Peace Corps provide (or cover the cost of) counseling services to help with the mental strain and stress of this PCV evacuation? Will Peace Corps transport PCVs to a location where they may have a support system instead of the city they left from? Will Peace Corps provide PCVs with a living allowance to cover their costs while waiting to return to their service country?
And, what happens to the PCVs who test positive for COVID-19? Does Peace Corps have quarantine protocols in place for PCVs who stay with friends and family in high-risk groups?
UPDATE March 18, 2020: Peace Corps has created a page to address the questions regarding the suspension of PCV activities. It appears that this evacuation may be treated as a Close-of-Service instead of a suspension.
What Do PCVs Need During This PCV Evacuation?
Unfortunately, every PCV may not have a place available to come “home” to. Some PCVs may have given up their apartment or rented out their house. And, they may not have an open supply of family and friends readily available to take them in. Or, they may be returning to a home with elderly family members or others in a high risk category.
Some may not have the financial resources to afford short-term housing. And others may not even have the financial resources to go day to day in limbo waiting for a decision to return. Since many businesses have shut their doors or minimized operations to weather the storm, it is nearly impossible to find a short-term temporary job.
And, some PCVs need to talk to someone else who understands Peace Corps service and the uncertainty of it all. A shoulder to lean on and a sympathetic ear can do wonders for someone going through this period of confusion. Friends and family may want to be there but can they truly understand? And, does every PCV have a support system around them who will try?
Some PCVs have already been reaching out for help to local and country-specific RPCV groups for help.
Can the RPCV Community Help During the PCV Evacuation?
RPCVs are a part of an amazing community that looks out for each other. So, we are hoping that the RPCV groups can step up and offer ways to help PCVs get through this difficult time. In fact, the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association (CAPCA) has rallied their network to identify available temporary housing options. As soon as the request went out, the offers and ideas came pouring in.
RPCV Health Crusade encourages everyone to follow the healthy habits and avoid contracting or transmitting COVID-19 or the flu. Be sure to review the CDC’s prevention guidelines to minimize risk to yourself or others. Just because you feel well or your symptoms are minor, you could still transmit the bug to those with weaker immune systems.
Our new Resource Library also lists a variety of free resources including ways to receive alerts to outbreaks and other health news. And if you have any suggestions to share with other PCVs/RPCVs, let us know.
Be sure to stay safe and be vigilant in looking out for yourself. And, please help keep an eye out for one another.