The following is a guest post by Right Pundits commenter, LisaB, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer. It is dedicated to Catherine Puzey, a Peace Corps Volunteer from Georgia, who was murdered in Benin – a small country in Western Africa on March 14, 2009.

Catherine Puzey

Catherine Puzey, Peace Corps Volunteer Forever

What were you doing when you were 24 years old? Do you remember? I do. As most of you know I was in the Peace Corps, “the toughest job you will ever love”. The world was a bigger place back then, and we were out living in it. We were living life “footloose and fancy free” and having the time of our lives out in the “real world”.

Specifically, I remember being kinda sorta lost, in an unfamiliar part of an unfamiliar city as evening approached. My destination was on the other side of a slum, a shanty-town. I remember thinking to myself, “what are the chances that if I walk into this place, I will walk out the other side alive?” Then I reproached myself for that is not the Peace Corps way. These people were poor not evil. Sooooooo, I screwed up my courage and went in, the only white woman for miles, in one of the poorest neighborhoods on earth, looking like Banana Republic threw up on me … you play the hand you are dealt. Strangely, they noticed me. I guess I didn’t blend.

Now if you have ever been to Asia, poor Asia, not urban China or India, you know what these shanty towns are like. Coal fires, no running water, people huddled together in tiny ramshackle buildings, … hopefully with some out houses around, and not many foreign visitors in the evening. Meeting an American, especially one who can speak your language, at least conversationally, is rare indeed. You probably also know that most young Asian women do not walk alone especially at night, “it just is not done”. I soon had been provided several escorts to see me through to the other side.

I no longer remember what my destination was that day, but I still remember my journey through the city and the people I met there. I have since come to realize that it is the journeys in life as much as the destinations that are important. Perhaps even more important.

Unfortunately, another journey has recently been cut short by violence. I found out last night that Catherine Puzey, 24, a Peace Corps Volunteer, was found murdered on her porch in the remote, rural village of Badjoudè, Benin last month. Kate had been in Benin since 2007, teaching English in the village school. She joins the list of 274 fallen PCV’s who died in service to our country.

Volunteers serve alone, it is the nature of the job. The people in the country get a chance to see a side of Americans rarely presented; not as an ugly American tourist or as a military service member in uniform, but as a young person trying to help. The power of the Peace Corps is the power of human interaction between people of different cultures. It is the shared journeys we make with others that build understanding and world peace.

Catherine Puzey’s life was cut short, but what a life she had. Please visit her blog and photo albums and learn what an extraordinary journey life can be.

Kate Puzey
Peace Corps Volunteer Forever