“I’m heartbroken, crying and would miss Botswana terribly”, volunteer Hallie Powell writes from Africa as Peace Corps evacuates Americans worldwide over coronavirus

Chief White House Correspondent for | + posts

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Hallie Powell, a resident of Washington D.C. whose family is from Pennsylvania, traveled to Botswana two years ago in 2018 to volunteer for the Peace Corps and was almost done with her two and half year service there when the coronavirus pandemic began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

On Monday, after she was informed Peace Corps had decided to suspend all operations and evacuate all American volunteers worldwide to protect them from COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, Hallie Powell took to Facebook to express sadness over her inability to complete her full time in Botswana.

Hallie Powell and mom Mary Powell
Hallie Powell and mom Mary Powell

“I am absolutely heartbroken to not be able to finish my full time here in Botswana. I have been crying since 4am when I saw the post (I was up stressing about this exact situation).

“I will miss Botswana terribly. The last 20 months have forever changed my life. I gained new family, new friends, and a new point of view. I will be back to visit as soon as I am able.

“Words can’t express the emotions that are plaguing me right now while I’m packing up and saying goodbye. I’m excited to see my family back at home, but a part of me will be here in Kanye.

“I won’t post again until I am home in the States, but I will let you know when I’m back in good ol’ Pennsylvania,: she wrote on her Facebook page.

Some Peace Corps volunteers in Botswana
Hallie Powell and some Peace Corps volunteers in Botswana

On Sunday, Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen said in an open letter to Volunteers Peace Corps operations globally had been suspended and all volunteers would be evacuated.

“Dear Volunteers,

“I know this is a very stressful time for you and your families, your host communities and the staff at your post.

“As you know, we recently evacuated Volunteers from China and Mongolia due to the COVID-19 outbreak and related travel constraints and school closings. Further evacuations are now under way at several posts. Unfortunately, it has become clear in the last 48 hours that numerous posts must follow suit.

“It is against this backdrop that I have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend all Peace Corps operations globally and evacuate all of our Volunteers. As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries.

“Evacuations are difficult, emotionally draining experiences for everyone involved. We are here for you, and we will do all that we can to keep you informed and up to date on the latest developments. Ensuring your health, safety and security is the highest priority of the Peace Corps. I want to stress that Headquarters remains open under its own Continuity of Operations Plan, and agency personnel are working 24/7 to support you and our staff overseas.

“I also want to assure you and our host country partners that these evacuations represent the temporary suspension of Volunteer activities. We are not closing posts, and we will be ready to return to normal operations when conditions permit. Importantly, our host country staff will remain in their current positions. They play a critical role in every element of the Peace Corps mission, especially in a time of crisis.

“Look for more information from your Country Director in the hours ahead. I deeply appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through these logistically challenging operations.

“My thoughts are with you, and I am incredibly grateful for your service.

“Sincerely,

“Jody K. Olsen”

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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