Peace Corps volunteer and Blytheville native returns to U.S. due to COVID-19

Peace Corps volunteer and Blytheville native returns to U.S. due to COVID-19

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. (KAIT) - Due to COVID-19, Peace Corps volunteers, including a woman from Blytheville, had their service cut short.

Bethany Bell was 18 months into her service in Rwanda teaching English when the virus forced her back to the states.

Bell said she expected to be in Rwanda until at least October.

She said all of the students had already left her school due to COVID-19 and schools were closing down.

When they found out they had to leave, she said they had little time to say goodbye.

“It was about 48 hours that we had to go back to our houses and pack up and leave,” Bell said. “So, that left me very little time to actually talk to other teachers and my student, my neighbors."

She did not get to say goodbye to her nearly 500 students.

The trip back home was not easy either.

Bell said the hardest part was for the Peace Corps administration. They booked all the plane tickets out of Rwanda just to find out the next day the airport in the country’s capital of Kigali closed the night the group was to leave.

She said they ended up chartering a plane to Uganda then they flew to Malawi then Ethiopia before landing in Washington, D. C. From the nation’s capital they flew to Detroit before finally arriving in Memphis.

“It was altogether about five days of traveling," Bell said. "It was, as you can imagine, incredibly exhausting.”

When she returned to the U. S., she had to self-quarantine for 14 days.

She said there was a mandatory quarantine for all volunteers from around the world, in which about 7,300 volunteers were evacuated.

When asked if she will be able to return to Rwanda to finish her service, she said it is still up in the air.

“It will just be a matter of waiting to see when it’s safe to travel and how quickly they can reopen the site,” Bell said.

She said volunteers who want to return can apply for reinstatement, but there are no firm guidelines on the timeline for that.

Copyright 2020 KAIT. All rights reserved.