ABC News reported Thursday that a female Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Benin was found dead outside her home early in the morning on March 12.
Kate Puzey was 24 years old, and had joined Peace Corps in July 2007. She was from Cumming, GA, north of Atlanta. You can read the blog she kept, and notes people are posting for her.
Here is a thoughtful account from a fellow Benin sojourner Xeni Jardin.
According to a Peace Corps statement issued March 13:
Peace Corps Acting Director Olsen said, “Kate was an exemplary member of the Peace Corps family whose dedicated work as a secondary English teacher in a rural public school in Badjoude, Benin, contributed greatly to the lives of the Beninese citizens. Kate’s life and work spoke volumes about the kind of dedication she had to her service as a Volunteer, and the U.S. Peace Corps is greatly saddened by her loss. Our condolences go out to her family and loved ones at this time.”
According to Robert Wood at a March 12th U.S. State Department press briefing, it’s not clear whether she suffered a natural death. Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou are coordinating with local police authorities, who are currently conducting the investigation and will make a final pronouncement on Kate’s cause of death.
March 12th, the State Department issued this statement:
The State Department was saddened by the news of the death of a Peace Corps Volunteer stationed in Benin, West Africa. Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington has notified the volunteer’s next of kin. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou has dispatched the Regional Security Officer and other personnel to the village where the volunteer was stationed, located several hours away from the capital. The Government of Benin has expressed condolences to the U.S. government and pledged full cooperation and support in this matter.
The State Department expresses our deepest condolences to the family of the volunteer and the Peace Corps.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Kate Puzey’s family, and the Volunteers she served with in Peace Corps. I am so sorry. Kate died in service to her country and we should all be grateful for her service.
Kate was one of 100 Volunteers serving in Benin. In the Peace Corps’s 40-year history in Benin, 1,631 Peace Corps Volunteers have served. Current assignments involve responding to four of Benin’s development priorities: improved quality of life for the rural population, expanded educational opportunities for the masses, increased food production, and reforestation.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Lois Puzey said her daughter’s body will be accompanied back to Georgia in a few days by a Peace Corps official. Services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Alpharetta’s Sanctuary at Birmingham United Methodist Church.” Read the article from March 15th the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Kate Puzey Memorial Fund has been established to help causes Puzey believed in. Donations can be sent to: c/o Smith, Gambrell, and Russel, LLP, Suite 3100, 1230 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta, GA 30309-3592.
Here is a slideshow with photos of Kate, family and friends from WSBTV News. The National Peace Corps Association’s Peace Corps Polyglot blog has more information as well.
Did you know Kate? Serve with her? I invite you to leave a comment here.
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I met Kate almost one year ago when I was in Benin visiting my best friend who is a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer with her. She was just a ray of sunshine and so welcoming. I had been to Africa before, but she was so willing to teach me what she new and answer questions I had about Peace Corps life. For only having spent a little time with her, she made an incredible impression and I am glad to have known her. I know now she is in a better place, but it is such a horrible way to go out of this world. My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family at this tragic time and I hope they are able to find peace and happiness in this process, knowing that Kate touched the lives of many people and was truly making a difference in this world.
Kate was in my 8th Grade Language Arts class in Okinawa, Japan. She was a special, transcendent person even then, destined for greatness.
I grieve for her mother, Lois. I held my daughter in church this morning, and I just couldn’t stop thinking of their close relationship. I can only say to her that Kate touched more lives in 24 years than most people do in a hundred.
Thanks for posting your thoughts and memories about Kate Puzey. There are so many “statements” out there about her death, I really want people to think about who she was in LIFE. I really appreciate your both taking the time to do that. I am so, so sad for her family and loved ones.
I didn’t know Kate personally, but i’ve been so captivated by her passion, love, visceral connection with humanity. I can’t stop reading her blog. Our thoughts and prayers from California.
I met Kate through one of her best friends, Melissa while she attended classes during her undergraduate program at William & Mary and I am so saddened by the tragic news. Its a huge loss for everyone around her and all that new her.
Kate had this way of making you feel so special every time she spoke with you. I can’t believe she is already gone.
Condolences from Virginia Beach.
By the way, you can access her blog at http://beinginbenin.blogspot.com
I served in Ouake, Benin (which is a couple of miles up the road from Badjoude) from 1998-2000. When I heard what had happened I could not believe that it was in Benin, much less the place I called home for two years.
I first want to say that my heart is broken for Ms. Puzey’s family. By all accounts, she was a fantastic young woman, and I am sorry that they have to deal with this tragedy. I can’t begin to imagine how they must feel, and I am deeply sorry for their loss.
I also think it’s important to remember the grieving community she leaves behind. It was the actions of one who committed this tragedy, and now an entire village will be persecuted for it. There is no doubt that the people in Badjoude loved her and everything she did for them. Do not underestimate embarrassment and shame they must feel knowing that the world is watching. Her village will mourn her forever.
There are no words that would convey the emty sad feeling I have after reading Kate’s blog. The exuberance and upbeat nature come through loud and clear. She reminds me of our Lizzy who just completed her stint in Benin. I am deeply sympathetic to her family and friends. It is a tragedy…a great loss. The only thing I can say in condolence is I am absolutely sure that her life was deeply and passionately enjoyed by herself. her spirit was already complete if not matured.
je regret beuacoup la mort de Kate. Elle amait le Benin et ses gents .
She is a small big heroe of this new world that we want
thanks Kate good bye in Paradise
“La maison de la Joie a Ouidah”
I went to junior high in Okinawa, Japan with Kate and her mom was one of my teachers. The Kate that everyone sees in the photos truly is the Kate that I remember: strong, full of life, patient, and ambitious. Kate was one of the few people that I can look back on and know that she had a gift. I am so saddened at the loss of such a bright girl and even more shocked that I actually knew Kate. I hope that all who read this can grasp the enormous loss that those who knew her feel. On the same account, Kate’s death is not in vain. She served those that did not have the resources that many Westerners take for granted. She truly was an Angel that touched so many more lives than I think she realized. Her legacy will live on through those who hear her story and those who were fortunate enough to meet her.
Like Marisa, I was also there in Benin in 1998…but left after only a brief stay. Is there any follow-up to this tragic event? What actually happened? And what is the official version?
What is the follow-up on this tragedy? What actually happened? And what is the official version of events? Thanks.