Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John D. L. Petersen

January 5, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 5, 2015 – Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet is saddened to confirm the death of Peace Corps volunteer John D. L. Petersen. John, 24, passed away in a swimming accident while visiting northern Namibia on Dec. 31, 2014.

Peace Corps volunteer John D. L. Petersen

“John was passionate about helping others and dedicated to making the world a better place,” Hessler-Radelet said. “He was an exceptional Peace Corps volunteer of great integrity who poured his heart and soul into building relationships with his Namibian community so he could make a difference. We are devastated by his loss, and the thoughts and prayers of the entire Peace Corps community are with the Petersen family during this difficult time.”

A native of Westborough, Mass., John served as a small enterprise and entrepreneurship development volunteer in Namibia. He worked at the local Community Skills Development Center, where he developed a close relationship with his Namibian counterparts. Peace Corps staff in Namibia remember John as quiet, humble, always smiling, and ever polite and observant. They said John had an “insightfulness about his questions and a curiosity about everything around him.”

In his Peace Corps aspiration statement, John wrote, “I want a career where I know that my work is having a significant and positive impact on others’ lives.” He wrote of his goal “to work effectively with the host country partners and meet their needs,” and that “keeping all channels of communication open and keeping my mind open will help to ensure that I don’t miss a thing.”

John was dedicated to public service, serving as an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America, where he participated in community service projects and led younger scouts in outdoors training and backpacking trips. He also served as a disaster services volunteer with the American Red Cross of Massachusetts, helping to provide local residents with food, clothing and shelter following natural disasters.

John graduated magna cum laude from Marist College, where he earned a presidential scholarship and a place on the dean’s list. In addition to community service, he was passionate about woodworking, environmental conservation and photography.

He is survived by his older brother Mark and his parents, Sally and Robert Petersen.

The John D. L. Petersen Memorial Fund has been established to support approved Peace Corps Partnership Program projects in Namibia. Contributions can be made online at

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