Received an email from a Dayton Daily News reporter today who was asking questions about my Peace Corps experience. Here’s what she said
Subject: Peace Corps
To: [email protected]
From: “MeiLing Hopgood”
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2003 14:06:09 -0700
My name is Mei-Ling Hopgood and I’m a reporter with the Dayton Daily News and Cox Newspapers. We have been doing a story about Peace Corps and safety and security. I ran across your website, and info on your ET.
I was hoping to ask you a question: wondering if the Peace Corps had problems with your content based on your speaking candidly about safety? Or was it just the handbook and logo issue?
My email is [email protected], and my number is 202-887-8328.
Thanks for any help you can give,
While I never really had any saftey concerns, Georgetown was (and still is) a dangerous place. But as a Peace Corps volunteer, I never really felt like a target. At least not until I read this Friday April 17, 2003, story from Guyana’s Stabroek News.
Notorious wanted man involved in diplomat’s kidnap
At least five persons were involved in last Saturday’s kidnapping of US diplomat Stephen Lesniak and a notorious wanted man is believed to have been the mastermind and collected the ransom.
Sources say that at one stage Lesniak was paraded in front of some villagers in Buxton with a gun to his head. Since Lesniak’s kidnapping, a number of officials from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrived in the country and they are conducting investigations along with other US-based investigators. Lesniak is expected to leave the country shortly, sources say.
Two teenagers kidnapped the 35-year-old Lesniak last Saturday while he was playing golf at the Lusignan Golf Course on the East Coast Demerara. He was the first of two persons snatched that day. School of the Nations student Roy Bell, 16, was kidnapped some hours after Lesniak, but was killed and dumped on the East Coast Public Road on Monday night after his parents had paid a ransom.
Information reaching Stabroek News yesterday stated that five persons as well as a notorious wanted man were actually involved in Lesniak’s kidnapping. The diplomat was taken to Buxton where he was held in several places, including a church on Company Road. Sources told this newspaper, that Lesniak was moved at least three times while the police and military carried out cordon and search exercises.
Reports state also that the kidnapping was not a chance happening, since, according to sources, the kidnappers told Lesniak that they knew “only rich people does play golf”.
Ransom of an undisclosed amount was paid by friends of Lesniak to secure his release.
Since Lesniak’s and Bell’s kidnapping last Saturday, one other person was snatched on Monday; and on Tuesday, two men attempted to kidnap a young businesswoman. Also on Tuesday night, bandits terrorized a Coldingen family and contemplated taking a child hostage after they had taken all the family’s valuables.
The child was eventually left behind after the bandits reasoned that the family might not have anything more to give.
Here is the same story from the Guyana Chronicle, the other main newspaper in the country.
Following early morning kidnapping US diplomat released
A UNITED States Diplomat who was kidnapped from the Lusignan Golf Club early yesterday morning, was released last evening, sources told the Chronicle.
Thirty-seven-year-old Steve Lesniak, who is attached to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was snatched from the Club at about 9:10 hrs yesterday.
Lesniak, residents in the area said, was playing golf at the time of his abduction. The Tee Box is located about 300 metres from the Club House.
According to residents of Lusignan, the kidnappers emerged from the bushes east of the golf club course and held him up with their guns before taking him on foot through the bushes. They headed in the direction of Buxton. During the incident, Lesniak dropped his identification card and cellular phone
An employee of the golf club told the Chronicle that just after 09:00 hours he heard two boys who were working as caddies with Lesniak shouting: ï¿½Call police, they have kidnapped Steve.ï¿½
About five minutes after the alarm went up, patrols from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) arrived on the scene followed shortly afterwards by the police who immediately began combing the area in search of the victim and to possibly arrest the perpetrators.
The security forces were also using the GDF helicopter to scan the area in their efforts to locate Lesniak.
The Chronicle was reliably informed yesterday by diplomatic sources that a team of security officers from Washington was yesterday dispatched to Guyana to investigate the diplomatï¿½s kidnapping.
The Chronicle understands that five men were actually involved in the kidnap but two of them executed the actual abduction.
Lesniak played golf at Lusignan frequently and would normally be in the company of friends when playing, but at the time of his abduction, he was playing alone, apart from the caddies, an employee said.
Employees of the Club also spoke glowingly of Lesniak, relating that he is always pleasant, friendly and helpful.
Meanwhile, the victim of an earlier kidnapping on Friday, Deo Basdeo of Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara escaped from his abductors unhurt.
However, Basdeo and his family have since moved out from their home and are relocated at another residence for fear of the attackers striking again.
Prior to these and other recent stories about kidnappings, I never really felt I or the other volunteers were targets for such crimes. I was only worried about petty things like muggings and pick pocketers. Actually, I was more worried about getting sick or injured. Nonetheless, I still think about my friends there and their safety.