Chesterfield Peace Corps volunteer shares COVID-19 experience: ‘It’s been ups and downs’

Local News

(WRIC) — Katie McAndrew, who joined the Peace Corps in February 2018, serrved in Zambia, Africa, where she taught conservation farming and agroforestry as well as HIV and malaria protection. Unfortunately, she had to abruptly evacuate in March due to growing coronavirus concerns.

“I had a day and a half to say goodbye to everyone,” said McAndrew, who graduated from VCU in 2016. “It was pretty rough, I didn’t get to make an announcement to my community.”

She says the journey back home to America was uncomfortable. She was on a packed bus for 15 hours to get the airport, her temperature was taken at one of the three airports she stopped at, and she was in crowded areas without any protective gear.

“Social distancing was not possible,” she said.

“I got picked up by my sister because both of my parents are high risk. And try not to be close to her, touch anything, sanitized everything right after I left. And when I got, everyone stayed 10 feet away from me. First time seeing my parents in two years because I unfortunately I didn’t get to visit the states then I went into my quarantine camper to do my quarantine in so I didn’t have to stay in a single room.”

Katie McAndrew

McAndrew is now living in a RV outside her Chesterfield home while she quarantines for 14 days.

“It’s been hard,” she told 8News. “It’s been ups and downs. Suddenly coming back to the United States, suddenly leaving everything, and then coming back to a United States that I don’t recognize, not having the ability to access as directly, my network of support has been pretty difficult.”

Volunteers returning to the United States are now facing a crippled economy that has seen a massive surge in unemployment. According to the Department of Labor, Peace Corps volunteers are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

“There’s over 7,000 volunteers and I think we’re very resilient people, but it’s a mistake to drop 7,000 excited, young people into this situation with no support.”

McAndrew says she is lucky her parents can support her with a place to live. In the meantime, she is holding out on searching for a job as a precaution to protect her loved ones.

“If you take employment, you are possibly exposing yourself to coronavirus and so one of my biggest fears is bringing it home to my parents should I go out and seek employment.”

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