Message from Mali
From our sister group in New Mexico
Dear Fellow New Mexico RPCVs.
First let me thank Alan for forwarding my earlier message to you all and let me now bring you up to date.
Yesterday I attended an exit conference at the PC training center just outside of Bamako where the 185 Mali PCVs are assembled and await evacuation. In reaction to the recent coup, the escalating separatist war in the north, and the economic sanctions imposed on Mali by the West Africa economic union (ECOWAS), Peace Corps has decided to suspend its Mali program and all 185 of the current volunteers are being sent home. Though this hopefully will not be the end of Peace Corps in Mali and it will be able to start back up once the current situation is resolved, but given how long that process may take it is unlikely that any but a few of these current volunteers will be returning.
Needless to say this was an emotional moment for all involved: the volunteers, the PC staff and the few local counterparts who were able to attend. Last week, at the time of the consolidation of volunteers into the regional centers, no one believed that a general evacuation was imminent so many of the volunteers just quickly packed a bag thinking they would be returning to their sites in a few days. But that was not to be the case and today much of the discussion at the exit conference was about how to get farewell messages to the people the volunteers lived and worked with for so many months and in many cases years. The feelings of remorse, grief and confusion filled the air at the conference.
As one who was among the early groups of PCVs to work in Mali (for me it was 1973 to 1975) and to now witness this suspension and evacuation: I too feel many of these same emotions. It seems like just yesterday Rebecca and I were hosting the party to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Peace Corps in Mali and the most recent batch of volunteers were finishing their language training being sworn in as volunteers. And now everything is at a standstill.
And I too am being evacuated—the MCC has also suspended its program here and the family members of all embassy and USAID staff are now scheduled to depart by next Wednesday. Unfortunately Rebecca must remain to continue to manage the transition of the USAID program to a more humanitarian assistance focus. I should be back in New Mexico by the end of next week.
Let us all hope this situation in Mali is resolved soon.
By the way—Emily sends her regards to you all and asked me to convey her thanks for all the support the NMPCA has given her over this past year. She will be sending you a personal note when she gets settled.
And Rebecca and I also want to thank you all for your thoughts and support during this time.
Hope to see you soon.
Mali PCV 73-75