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Peace Corps Volunteers Leave East Timor


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 8, 2006 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez announced today that volunteers serving in East Timor have safely left the country as a result of the recent civil unrest and government instability.

In June of 2002, the first Peace Corps volunteers arrived in East Timor within a month of the country declaring its independence.

"It was a time of hope and celebration," Director Vasquez said. "Therefore, it is with much regret that volunteers had to be transitioned out of the country due to the recent violence."

The safety and security of Peace Corps volunteers is the highest priority. Peace Corps will continue to monitor the situation to determine if volunteers can safely return to East Timor and continue their work without security concerns.

In 2002, the first group of 19 volunteers was assigned to municipal development and health promotion activities. They were also the first international group to be trained in the local language, Tetum, and were placed at sites in rural towns and villages throughout the country. Since that time, 53 additional Peace Corps volunteers have served in East Timor in the areas of agriculture, business development, health and HIV/AIDS awareness and education.

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I'm invited to East Timor. Our group is leaving July 5th. I spoke with my PO earlier today, and we're still going. Half of the group already there will be returning home early; the other half will be given the option to stay or return home.

Everyone is currently in Thailand.

(I've been following the story all weekend on my blog. I'm quoting myself here so I don't have to retype. Sorry if this is a repeat.)

So here is what happened, in a nutshell:

The Peace Corps evacuated to err on the side of caution (good) because of the sketchy road situation that may have prevented volunteers from being quickly evacuated if that became necessary. Many reports say that the evacuations were "over cautious."

There were 46 PCVs in East Timor. When the State Department issued the travel warning, all non-essential government employees were evacuated. (This is basically anyone under the ambassador). Out of the 46 PCVs, 23 were scheduled to leave in July or September of this year. Those volunteers were told that they could be done (as if they had completed the 27 months). The second group of 23 (who I assume are TL-5) are going to be allowed to return and complete their service, either in June or July (with TL-6, us).

Wait...

They are still sending you there? Or did I read this wrong?

-R

Re: Wait...

I spoke with my PO yesterday afternoon, and he said that (assuming things continue to improve, which he thinks they will), our group is still going. He also told me that half of the volunteers already there would get the option of returning.

That said, today's news reports make it look worse than yesterday.

So, basically... I have been told I will still be going, and that our departure date hasn't changed. I personally am beginning to question the accuracy in such optimistic reports, but yesterday it was the official word (that I got, anyway).

I know. It's weird. Hopefully it is true though, I have been looking forward to East Timor! It sounds like an amazing place to be, minus the recent violence of course.
50th poster

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