Former Volunteers Gather to Mark the Anniversary of Smallpox Eradication
By Erica Burman on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010
Whether they volunteered overseas in this millennium or decades ago, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) manage to find each other everywhere! This time, scattered throughout a crowd of 150 guests, were six RPCVs who came to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox at the Public Health Museum in Tewksbury, MA on May 17.
Katie Reilly (Honduras 1999-2001) organized and reported on the event, noting that she invited RPCVs Jill Vickers and Jane Stebbins Flower — part of an all-female group that worked to vaccinate against smallpox in Afghanistan from 1969-1971 — to speak. The two shared their experiences and showed a film called “Once in Afghanistan,” produced by Dirt Road Documentaries, which highlights their group’s work in the late 1960s.
The healthcare field proved a popular career path for RPCVs, as demonstrated by Reilly and event speaker Mark LaPointe (Guinea 1963-1965). Reilly is a public health nurse who works for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and previously worked at Peace Corps headquarters for three years after returning from Honduras. LaPointe works for the Centers for Disease Control after spending time at the World Health Organization in Mali and Bangladesh working on smallpox eradication efforts in the early to mid-1970s, Reilly says.
The event provided RPCVs with the opportunity to celebrate “a great milestone in public health, the eradication of smallpox, which included the work of a very dedicated group of Peace Corps Volunteers,” says Reilly. It wasn’t until Reilly announced she was taking a picture of former Volunteers that she realized how many RPCVs were present. “It is great to know that the work of the Peace Corps lives on, both with currently serving volunteers and RPCVs making their mark on the world,” she says.