The death of 24-year-old Kate Puzey earlier this month in Benin is a reminder of the risks abroad, former Peace Corps members living in the area say.
Puzey, whose parents are Harry and Lois Puzey of Forsyth County, was found dead March 12 outside her home in the village of Badjoude, where she taught English. Friends and family were gathering today in Alpharetta to celebrate her life.
Lois Puzey teaches social studies at Little Mill Middle School, while her husband is a substitute teacher for the local school system.
A 2006 graduate of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Kate Puzey joined the Peace Corps in July 2007 and was scheduled to return home this summer.
JP Banks of Gainesville said the Peace Corps trained his group extensively on keeping safe in the field before he traveled to Uzbekistan in March 2000.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, cut his term of service short, but Banks said he never felt his life was in danger. At that point, there had been two deaths in the history of the corps.
"I never really was worried about my own safety," Banks said.
But Lindsey Parramore-Oliver said she was robbed three times - once at gunpoint - during her service from 2004-06 in Peru. She said volunteers can't escape the possibility of danger.
"It's not without risk, for sure," said Parramore-Oliver, who also lives in Gainesville. "Because, basically, you're placed in a community, a country, that's not your own."
But in the wake of Puzey's slaying, Banks and fellow former Peace Corps veterans fear others may be deterred from service.
He discussed Puzey's death with former volunteer Angel Randolph, who also lives in Gainesville. Randolph worked to create a support network for teen mothers in the eastern Caribbean from 1995-97.
Randolph said she was touched by news of Puzey's death, adding there has been a lot of discussion between former Peace Corps volunteers since the news broke last week.
"I feel a connection to it, because [Peace Corps] was such an important part of my life ... anytime anything happens, I feel connected to it, even though I don't know her personally," Randolph said.
Scott Marquardt felt a strong connection to Puzey's death.
The Detroit native, who served in Benin in the mid-1990s, said he read news stories about her death and then checked out her blog. There he learned that not only did they serve in the same country, they also had both attended the University of Montpelier in France.
"I sort of feel like I know her now," he said.
Marquardt hopes Puzey's death is "an isolated incident," one that won't sway future volunteers.
"I don't think it should give anyone pause," he said. "The world is always in need, and what Peace Corps stems from is that need."