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Sierra Leone

  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    In Lu’s toolbox for his new role: diplomacy, advocacy, assistance, and learning from the past. see more

    In the toolbox for Donald Lu in his new role in South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department: diplomacy, advocacy, assistance, and learning from the past.


    Photo by RFE/L


    By NPCA Staff


    In September, Donald Lu (Sierra Leone 1988–90) was confirmed as assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. He’s the first diplomat to hold that post in four years — it sat vacant during the previous administration — and the first ever to arrive with significant experience in Central Asia.

    Lu had been serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic since 2018. His new portfolio includes that nation as well as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Key topics for the bureau range from a large-scale Indo-Pacific vision to air quality.

    Lu has been ambassador to the Republic of Albania, charge d’affaires at the embassy in Azerbaijan, and deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Central Asian and South Caucasus Affairs. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, he helped to restore hand-dug water wells and taught health education and latrine construction. During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, he served as deputy coordinator for Ebola response in the State Department. Languages he speaks and reads include Albanian, Russian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, West African Krio, Hindi, and Urdu.

  • Steven Saum posted an article
    Recognition for members of the Peace Corps community see more

    Honors from the University of California, the Republic of Mali, Dartmouth College, and Bucknell University


    By NPCA Staff







    Maureen Orth | Colombia 1964–66

    Maureen Orth received a 2021 Campanile Excellence in Achievement Award from the Cal Alumni Association, in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley Foundation, for pushing boundaries whenever possible. She is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, and founder of the Marina Orth Foundation, which supports education in Colombia.



    Melvin Foote | Ethiopia 1973–75

    Melvin Foote received special recognition from the president of Mali this year: He is to be honored with the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mali — the Knight of the Order of Mali, for a foreign national. Foote is the founder and CEO of the Constituency for Africa. As Mali’s ambassador to the U.S. wrote to Foote: “Your significant and long-standing contributions of time, energy, and leadership to promote relations between the Republic of Mali and the United States of America have been recognized and appreciated.”


    Peter Kilmarx | Democratic Republic of the Congo 1984–86

    Peter Kilmarx was recognized with the 2021 Daniel Webster Award for Distinguished Public Service by the Dartmouth Club of Washington, D.C., for his work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health Service, and Peace Corps. Kilmarx serves as deputy director at Fogarty
    International Center at the National Institutes of Health. 



    Ruth Kauffman | Sierra Leone 1985–87

    Ruth Kauffman received Bucknell University’s 2020 Service to Humanity Award in recognition of her 30-year career in international women’s health and midwifery. She has served in eight countries through Doctors Without Borders. In 2016, she partnered with colleagues to open a cross-border birth center providing services to women in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. “Ensuring that women in diverse communities have equitable access to safe, natural birth is essential to improving reproductive health worldwide,” she says. 



  • Orrin Luc posted an article
    It’s heartbreaking for communities and Volunteers alike when they need to be evacuated. see more

    Marcy Pursell

    Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali (2011–12) | Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Mali (2015) and Sierra Leone (2016)


    As told to Emi Krishnamurthy


    Photo: “Saying goodbye again is not the easiest thing in the world,” writes Marcy Pursell. “The man on the left, Hassan, was born on the night of my arrival. The man on the right, Bashiro, is my amazing neighbor, Hassan's father and my host father.” Photo by Marcy Pursell



    After graduating college in 2011, I went to Bambougou, Mali, for a two-year Peace Corps service as an education and literacy specialist. Around 11 months in, there was a coup, and we were evacuated. I was heartbroken. 

    When I returned to the U.S., I worked with AmeriCorps for a year, with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. I was still serving, but this time in the States. After I earned my master’s degree, the Peace Corps was reopening in Mali with Peace Corps Response. 

    With Response, you hit the ground running; things move at a faster pace. The first time I went, I looked for others to guide me. The second time, I was that person for others — a little older, a little wiser. I arrived in Zanzoni, Mali, in February. 


    girls pumping water in Mali

    Girls pumping water in Mali, where Marcy Pursell returned to serve as a Response Volunteer. Photo by Marcy Pursell


    My counterpart and host mother, Awa Coulibaly, was older and had grandchildren; she made me one of her daughters. She walked me home every day to make sure I got there safe and sound. Her family became my family, and I truly felt part of the community. In November, I learned we were being evacuated — again. I was devastated. Telling Awa was even harder. In my experience, Malians don’t really cry and don’t like it when you cry, but I was a mess. The morning I left, Awa came to say goodbye. She was quiet, trying not to show her emotions.

    I still wasn’t done with the Peace Corps. They were sending Response Volunteers back to Sierra Leone, after Ebola. So I went, to finally complete my service. Working at the Peace Corps, which I did for four years, was my dream job. The mission is so simple — build world peace and friendship—but so good. Now I work for USAID on Power Africa, an initiative to get energy and electricity to communities. When families don’t have a solar panel or a lightbulb, kids can’t do homework. These things we take for granted here mean so much to people in other places. Getting electricity to a community means one person — focused on learning English because they want to be something when they grow up — can achieve their dream.


    Last year, thousands of Volunteers were evacuated because of the pandemic. When that happened, my heart broke. I’ve been there — twice.


    Last year, thousands of Volunteers were evacuated because of the pandemic. When that happened, my heart broke. I’ve been there — twice. People plan and put their lives on hold. One day, when things settle down, we’ll be able to go back and continue that relationship of world peace and friendship. There’s always going to be so much room and need for that to grow.


    This is part of a series of stories from Crisis Corps and Peace Corps Response Volunteers and staff who have served in the past 25 years.

     September 10, 2021