The New Yorker Videos

The Peace Corps Evacuates All Volunteers for the First Time in Its History

365体育现金The Peace Corps responds to the coronavirus outbreak with a global evacuation. A volunteer in Senegal documents her experience.

Released on 3/25/2020

Transcript

00:00
[bright chimes]
00:03
Hello, my name is Paula Ospina,
00:06
and I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal.
00:10
I have been here since May 2018,
00:13
and I was supposed to end my service next month, April 2020.
00:18
There was a message sent out that all the Peace Corps
00:22
volunteers are being medically evacuated
00:25
until further notice, and that they will reopen
00:29
once the coronavirus has stopped or things have slowed down.
00:33
We found out about the evacuation on Sunday,
00:37
and today it is Tuesday.
00:40
We were told to stay in our villages,
00:42
start packing our bags, and just be ready
00:44
to go whenever that time comes.
00:46
It is not the way I expected my service to end.
00:51
I know that I only had a month left.
00:53
Other volunteers are still going
00:55
through the training process.
00:57
Other volunteers have only been here for a year
01:01
and are just starting to get in the swing of things
01:04
and are starting to get work off the ground.
01:06
So it is a very hard time for a lot of volunteers.
01:17
[Falilou] Hey, Maria?
01:18
Hello, yes?
01:21
[Falilou] Yes, this is Falilou, the CED APCD.
01:23
Oh, hi, hi, how are you?
01:25
[Falilou] I am good, and you?
01:27
Good, currently in my hut.
01:30
[Falilou] Yes, so, I am calling you
01:33
to give you specific instructions
01:35
in regards to your evacuation.
01:37
Correct, yes.
01:39
[Falilou] So if you can get to the Hotel Hobbe
01:41
tomorrow, Wednesday, that is your consolidation point.
01:46
Mm-hm.
01:47
[Falilou] So don't leave anything behind,
01:49
and take all of your personal belongings.
01:51
Don't leave everything behind,
01:52
take all my personal belongings.
01:55
At what time are we leaving on Thursday to Thies?
01:58
[Falilou] Yes, you will be leaving on Thursday to Thies,
02:01
but I don't know when exactly.
02:03
Okay.
02:05
It is Wednesday, March 18th.
02:09
I'm waking up, finishing packing,
02:11
and then I'm gonna go outside and start saying goodbye
02:13
to my village and my family.
02:17
I should be heading out into Kolda
02:19
to be consolidated with other volunteers around noon.
02:24
[child laughs]
02:26
[speaking in foreign language]
02:30
Hey!
02:30
[speaking in foreign language]
02:35
[speaking in foreign language]
02:37
[both laugh]
02:39
[speaking in foreign language]
02:41
[speaking in foreign language]
02:47
[speaking in foreign language]
02:48
[speaking in foreign language]
02:50
[speaking in foreign language]
02:51
Ah. [laughs]
02:53
[speaking in foreign language]
02:56
[bus engine idles]
02:59
[Paula] We are going to our original capital
03:01
in Kolda, and then we will be heading
03:04
the next day on a bus to another
03:07
region called Thies, which is about 10 to 12 hours away.
03:10
[steady, percussive music]
03:18
Good Friday morning to everyone.
03:20
Today is a beautiful day, the sun is out,
03:25
and you are all going home today.
03:27
[Volunteers] No!
03:30
[sighs] Yep.
03:33
[Woman] We're going home today!
03:35
Everybody's going home today!
03:37
[Volunteer] Boo!
03:38
It has not been easy.
03:41
As you probably are aware, the situation globally
03:45
has gotten pretty difficult.
03:48
The situation here in Senegal is still
03:52
as not as difficult as it is in some places.
03:55
We're up to 38 in Senegal, the last that I heard.
03:59
We have many more than that in the United States,
04:02
but we have many more resources in the United States,
04:05
and so, Peace Corps has decided, in its wisdom,
04:09
to take you guys home, to let you go back to your families,
04:13
and to ride this thing out, and I hope that we will
04:18
see many of you back here in Senegal again.
04:21
Departure, wheels up, is going to be
04:24
this evening at 1900 hours, 7 p.m.
04:28
This is the last day of open airspace for Senegal,
04:33
and so, the airport is probably going to be
04:36
a little bit busy, and so we're going to do
04:40
our very best to get you through.
04:42
We've got a special flight.
04:43
We will get every single one of you on board.
04:47
You've had faith in us up until now, we will get you home.
04:50
Thank you.
04:51
[all applaud]
04:58
So originally, we were supposed
04:59
to be leaving Sunday, two days from now,
05:02
but now we are leaving today.
05:03
We have a lot to rush to, and a lot of admin,
05:07
medical stuff to get through, and packing,
05:09
and getting all 300-plus volunteers to the airport.
05:12
[tense music]
05:28
[speaking in foreign language]
05:30
[speaking in foreign language]
05:32
[indistinct conversations] [tense music]
05:49
[Woman On Speaker] This is the first board
05:50
of A3 to the United States.
05:52
All passengers are required to clear customs
05:54
and hand over your baggage to transfer desk
05:57
after clearing customs before proceeding
06:00
to [murmurs] Concourse, C and D gates.
06:03
Yay, welcome back!
06:04
[laughs] [she and others clap]
06:07
Welcome back, you're going to hotels now.
06:11
All right, welcome back, guys, yay! [claps]
06:22
We got here on Saturday, and my mother
06:25
actually picked us up, but she couldn't even hug us,
06:28
she couldn't say hello, it was just from a distance.
06:31
I didn't even feel like speaking or catching up with her,
06:34
because it didn't feel like I was home.
06:36
To me, it felt like an Uber ride,
06:37
even though it was my mother.
06:38
So I'm hoping that after I'm not quarantining,
06:42
in two weeks, I'm able to go home
06:44
and hug her and just share with her
06:46
what this crazy experience has been like.