Global Tributes Celebrate the Life of Peace Corps Benin Volunteer Catherine "Kate" Puzey
March 25, 2009Washington, D.C., March 25, 2009 - The Puzey family of Cumming, Ga., the Peace Corps and the Beninese government have been hosting events to celebrate the life and work of Catherine "Kate" Puzey. Kate, 24, was found outside her home on March 12 in the village where she worked as an English teacher. There is an ongoing homicide investigation.
The response to Kate's death has been extraordinary. The Peace Corps community, Volunteers in Benin, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from Georgia and around the U.S have contacted and supported the Puzey family. Kate wrote in her Peace Corps Aspiration Statement in July 2007, "My international background has instilled in me a responsibility to act as a world citizen and I see the Peace Corps as my opportunity to take such action." Kate's love of service and community was shared by all who knew her. She will be greatly missed.
Kate's funeral was held in Georgia on Saturday March 21 at the Birmingham United Methodist Church. President Barack Obama and the president of Benin, Dr. Boni Yayi, offered condolences to the Puzey family. Peace Corps/Benin Country Director Sheryl Cowan accompanied Kate's remains back to her family in Georgia and joined other Peace Corps and U.S. government officials, including acting Director Jody Olsen, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and acting Regional Director for Africa Lynn Foden at the services.
During the service, entries from Kate's blog were read to share Kate's experiences and depth of respect and hope she had for the people of Benin.
The government of Benin hosted a memorial service in Cotonou on March 25. Dr. Olsen sent remarks to be read to the gathering by Peace Corps country director Sheryl Cowan. This was the second memorial service held for Kate in the country of Benin. Last week, the Peace Corps held a service for the Peace Corps' extended family. A Peace Corps Special Services Officer is currently in Benin to provide counseling and support to Volunteers and Staff.
Yesterday on the floor of the United States Senate, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and RPCV Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) spoke about Kate's commitment to service and her exemplary contribution to mission of the Peace Corps.
Additionally, the regional Peace Corps office in Atlanta is in the process of organizing a memorial for Kate.
Understandably, there has been a lot of speculation about and interest in the facts surrounding Kate's death. The investigation is ongoing; however, it appears to be an isolated incident. The Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Beninese government are collaborating on this investigation. Crimes committed against Peace Corps Volunteers overseas fall under the legal jurisdiction of the government of the country in which the crime was committed.
Families of Volunteers may contact the Peace Corps' Office of Special Services with any questions or concerns. The Office of Special Services maintains a 24-hour, seven days a week duty system. The telephone number during standard office hours is 1-800-424-8580, Extension 1470; the after-hours number is 202-692-1470. The Office of Special Services can also be contacted via email at [email protected].
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