By Martha Keays
Core Expectation # 3:
Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service
Dear Volunteers and Staff of Peace Corps Colombia,
Above all else, the number one priority of Peace Corps is the safety and security of Volunteers and, as such, our focus is to ensure that all of you as PCVs have the ability to serve safely in Colombia. To do so effectively, we constantly assess and monitor the context here, taking into consideration the health infrastructure, transportation options, natural disasters, health risks and any other threats specific to this part of the country. As you are all aware, we recently had to shift a number of you from your assigned schools and host families to new sites and homes. These decisions were made based on the present security backdrop as well as recently released crime statistics. PC/Colombia’s increasing number of robberies in urban areas demonstrates that managing your personal security is particularly challenging to Volunteers serving in our three main cities.
The human side of these decisions entailed moving a number of you from your sites. I want to thank all of you for playing your part in weathering this recent turbulence and managing the unexpected over these last weeks. To those PCVs who had to pull up roots and who are now in the process of landing and getting settled into a new site, I have nothing but utter respect and admiration for you. For the CII – 6’ers, I thank you for your flexibility and willingness to take things in stride and start over after having just landed. And to the CII – 5’ers, I salute your courage to say goodbye to dear ones in your communities and leave projects in midstream. Your resilience in mustering up the energy and will to reintegrate yourselves all over again is nothing short of amazing. All of you truly embody the spirit of Peace Corps in terms of your understanding, resourcefulness and ‘can do’ attitude.
To the staff of Peace Corps Colombia, let me express my gratitude for your herculean efforts to make this shift happen as quickly as possible, given the circumstances. Many of you forfeited your holiday time with your own families to identify host families and search for appropriate housing. Others reached out to counterparts and partners in both old and new sites in order to communicate our decisions as best as possible. To all of you – Volunteers and staff – who supported PCVs in their moves and transitions by providing an extra place to crash, logistical support, a warm shoulder, or just a few reassuring words, I thank you for pulling together as a team.
We believe that Volunteers who were located in potentially vulnerable areas have either moved or are in the process of doing so. Of course, we recognize that security is not static and that things will evolve and can change in the future. But for now, we are heading in the right direction.
They say that an unexpected event or crisis brings out both the best and the worst in people, and what I have seen over the past month has been a real source of pride for me as a member of the PC/Colombia team. It is times like these that we call upon our powers of resilience and adaptability – two words that are worth reflecting upon. In that reflection, I cannot help but think that we have much to learn from our very own Colombian friends and colleagues who have had to be resilient and adapt throughout historical struggles and natural hardship over the years.
I just want to close by saying that we have a lot to be thankful for this year – all of us. We have the most privileged opportunity in the world – that of serving others and, at the same time, growing and stretching ourselves in ways we could not imagine. I want to thank each and every one of you for what you do every day, contributing to Colombia’s present and its future.
Sending you my very best wishes for 2015 –
[ri-zil-yuhns, –zil-ee-uhns] noun
- the power or ability to return to the original form after being compressed or stretched; elasticity.
- ability to recover readily from adversity; buoyancy.
- power or capacity to adapt
- ability to adjust oneself readily to different conditions