Peace Corps: Idealism shouldn’t be dangerous

Associated Press
Peace Corps volunteer Kate Puzey was murdered in Africa in 2009. The corps is responding to safety concerns.

Peace Corps volunteers in Honduras are coming home for good. The corps recently announced it could not guarantee the safety of its 158 recruits there because of violence related to drugs and organized crime. The news is disappointing in that the corps has performed important work in the poor Central American nation. But it does suggest that the corps is finally responding to complaints of systemic indifference to the security of those it sends abroad.

Founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the corps now has over 8,000 recruits in 77 countries. But more than 1,000 volunteers reported sexual assaults while in a host country from 2000 to 2009. In testimony before Congress last year, volunteers told of an organization that simply wanted to ignore the dangers these volunteers encounter, for fear of hurting relations with other governments.

The corps has also now determined that new recruits bound for Guatemala and El Salvador will go elsewhere. Last month, the Peace Corps withdrew 120 volunteers from Kazakhstan based on concerns about Islamist violence. These steps are warranted. While the mission of the corps is to promote international goodwill, the safety of young, eager Americans must be a priority as well.