This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.
My personal website at http://net.jasonpearce.com goes online.
I visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/apply/index.cfm to begin my Peace Corps application process.
I meet with a Peace Corps recruiter in Arlington, Virginia. During our interview, the recruiter and I visit my personal website together, commenting on some of the trips and photos I had placed online surrounding my international traveling experiences. She also used my website to download my resume, which was required during the application process.
At no point during our interview did the recruiter mention any current for future conflicts that my website might have with the Peace Corps and its policies.
I created my personal Yahoo Groups listserve and online community at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jasonpearce/. I use this group to communicate with my friends and family.
I received my invitation to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana.
It should be noted that at the time I created my personal blog, there were already several thousand websites that were created by Peace Corps volunteers for purposes of sharing their experiences with the rest of the world. (see list of sites)
Furthermore, it should be noted that there are more than 300,000 websites that included the phrase "Peace Corps." (see list of sites)
February 27, 2002
I accepted my invitation to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana via email and then later by mail. This was the email indicating my acceptance:
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 2:55 PM
To: Sylvie Mortimer
Subject: Acceptance of Peace Corps Guyana Invitation
I am pleased to inform you that after careful consideration, I accept your offer to serve as an Information Technology community education promoter for the Guyana - Poverty Alleviation Program (GUY10). My Peace Corps Registration will begin on June 3 in Miami.
Please confirm that you have received my decision to accept this invitation. And again, thank you for offering me this opportunity.
(317) 490-7080 cell
And I got this in return:
From: Mortimer, Sylvie
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 2:59 PM
Subject: RE: Acceptance of Peace Corps Guyana Invitation
Got it-- great. Congrats!
April 15, 2002
I created the Peace Corps Guyana Yahoo Groups, listserve and online community at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/peacecorpsguyana/. I made a current volunteer a moderator of this group also at that time. Members of this group included current volunteers, past volunteers, and interested volunteers.
It should be noted that at the time I created the Peace Corps Guyana Yahoo Group, there were already several hundred groups that were established for volunteers of other countires. (see Yahoo Groups)
May 1, 2002
I received an email from the Peace Corps Guyana country desk in Washington DC. The email included an attached Word document. The document was the Welcome Packet/Book. The email gave no indication that the contents of the Welcome Packet/Book should not be shared with others via online, email, print, or otherwise.
May 3, 2002
I posted an HTML version of the Welcome Packet/Book on my site for my family to review.
May 11, 2002
I finished packing up the truck in Indianapolis and began my move back to Raleigh, North Carolina.
May 13, 2002
My inbox received the following email from Rita Jimenez, the country desk officer for the South American department of the Peace Corps. Having no computer, I had not yet read this email.
--- "Jimenez, Rita" wrote:
From: "Jimenez, Rita"
CC: "Frola, Kimberly","Myers, Amber", "Brown, Earl"
Date: Mon, 13 May 2002 16:30:10 -0400
Hope things are going well.
I recently had a chance to review your home page, and it is quite comprehensive. There are a couple of issues that I need to address related to the Peace Corps content of your page. First, please remove the Welcome Book from your page, since that document is an official Peace Corps document, which the Agency chooses to release to invitees only. Also, it is advisable to remove the official Peace Corps logo from your site, again for the similar reason that it is an official governmental logo that was utilized without permission. I would also encourage you to add a disclaimer to your website to make it clear that your site is a private website that does not reflect the policies or opinions of Peace Corps.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Country Desk Officer
South America Desk
1111 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20526
Since I was in the process of moving from Indiana to North Carolina, as well as packing for my upcoming trip to California and Hawaii, I did not read this email prior to departing.
May 14, 2002
Arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina. Spent the next few days unloading the truck and storing boxes.
May 17, 2002
Departed for California and Hawaii. During this time, I had little access to the Internet and thus was unable to receive or respond to Rita's May 13 email concerning the Welcome Packet/Book.
May 30, 2002
Returned from Hawaii, arriving to Raleigh at noon. Upon return, there were two voice mail messages asking me to call the Peace Corps office in DC right away. While I was fatigued from flying and desperately wanted to sleep, I made the call.
Rita Jimenez was pleasant and clearly stated the request she made via email on May 13. Feeling groggy from my travels, I said that I would try to remove the Welcome Packet/Book from my website before leaving for Guyana. But if I couldn't do so before departing, I said I would take care of it once I arrived to Guyana. She expressed a greater urgency, asking me to remove it that afternoon. She also said that she was going to have Earl Brown, the country director, call me from Guyana.
Mr. Brown called and spoke with me for about 30 minutes. He addressed his concerns about my website and questioned my ability to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer. Most of his concerns revolved around the content of my Aspiration Statement. After my phone call with Mr. Brown, I went to bed. It was about 3:00 p.m.
May 31, 2002
I received two phone calls from the Peace Corps office. The first was made that morning. Since I was still sleeping, Amber Myers of the South America desk left a message on my machine saying it was urgent for me to call the Peace Corps office. I awoke just before lunch; in time to answer Amber's second call.
Amber was interested in having me remove the Welcome Packet/Book from my site; only she was more pressing. According to her, my Peace Corps invitation was in jeopardy if I didn't remove the content right away.
I searched through all my boxes, found the required software, installed it on a machine, and spent several hours updating pages and removing links. The Welcome Packet/Book was removed from my site by the end of the day.
I had also added this public disclaimer to the Monologue section of my site:
Reference herein to the Peace Corps by trade name, trademark, logo, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply Jason Pearce's endorsement, recommendation, or favoring. The views and opinions expressed herein by Jason Pearce do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Peace Corps, and shall not be used for advertising or endorsement purposes.
And to further limit the audience of my personal website, I restricted access from all ".gy" and ".gov" domains, for I didn't have any friends accessing my site from either domain. I also restricted access to traffic traveling along the "64.110." subnet address. This subnet address is the only commercially-available high-speed connection that Guyana has with the Internet.
June 3, 2002
I arrived in Miami for pre-service registration. I meet Amber Myers at the registration desk. She handed me my Peace Corps registration papers only after telling her that I was able to remove the Welcome Packet/Book from my site before departing.
June 4, 2002
I arrived in Guyana.
Sometime in early July, Peace Corps Guyana IT Specialist Sean Joe and Volunteer Coordinator Julie Morin joined the Peace Corps Guyana listserve, which is hosted by Yahoo Groups. This shows that Peace Corps Guyana staff were invited to join and were made aware of this online community.
July 6, 2002
I uploaded a ~4MB MP3 10-minute recording of me verbally summarizing the first month of training. The MP3 file was posted here in my personal online community and linked to from my Monologue. (see my community)
July 19, 2002
On this day, the six information technology volunteers had their second round of interviews with Peace Corps Guyana staff members Earl Brown and Terrance Simmons. It was during this interview that each of us were individually approached about their concerns with the Peace Corps Guyana Yahoo Groups located at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/peacecorpsguyana/.
They simply stated that they are aware of the site (referring to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/peacecorpsguyana/) and are concerned that trainees are responding to emails sent by prospective Peace Corps Guyana volunteers. They did not ask about my role with this group or request for any changes or action to be made. They said that they are looking into the matter and will be addressing their concerns with the entire group of 23 trainees.
Furthermore, it should be noted that I made no comments and gave no response to their concerns regarding the Peace Corps Guyana group. Mr. Brown and Mr. Simmons simply stated their concerns but asked no questions and did not indicate that they were seeking a response from me. I thanked them for their time and was dismissed.
By the end of the day, I had unsubscribed from this group.
It should be noted that during this meeting, neither Mr. Brown nor Mr. Simmons made mention of my personal website at http://net.jasonpearce.com or the use of online photos.
July 31, 2002
I added a commenting system to my Monologue, which gives my friends and family the ability to post comments about my weekly updates.
August 2, 2002
I uploaded a ~4MB MP3 10-minute recording of me verbally summarizing the second month of training. The MP3 file was posted here in my personal online community and linked to from my Monologue. (see my community)
I also summarized links to various online photos that were taken and posted by me, taken and posted by other trainees, and taken by other trainees but posted by me.
August 9, 2002
GUY 9 and GUY 10 volunteers attend the Security Conference at the Tower Hotel in Georgetown. During this meeting, Country Director Earl Brown distributes and reviews the Peace Corps Guyana Handbook. This handbook introduces new language and rules from those stated in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook from DC, which we received prior to becoming trainees.
August 12, 2002
Country Director Earl Brown calls a special meeting to meet with all 23 trainees at the end of the day. Nearly all senior staff members were present.
This was the first meeting that Mr. Brown addressed the entire group of trainees regarding the Peace Corps Guyana Yahoo Groups website at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/peacecorpsguyana/. He also expressed concerns about posting photos online, not having permission to post photos of pictured subjects, and how those photos were made available for sale.
It was also during this meeting that he first voiced concerns about my Monologue and MP3 files, although he did not mention me by name.
August 13, 2002
Country Director Earl Brown calls five of the trainees in for a meeting to discuss online content. I was one of those called. Claudius Prince, APCD Training, was the other staff member present.
During this meeting I was specifically asked about my role in the establishment and use of websites, images, and monologues (audio and written). I fully cooperated, carefully explaining all involvement that I had regarding the Peace Corps Guyana Yahoo Groups, my personal website and monologue, online photos, and my personal Yahoo Group.
While much of the meeting had good dialogue, Mr. Brown abruptly ended the meeting by saying "Jason, I don't think you are hearing me. This meeting is over." I responded, "Earl, I'm trying to hear you. I want to hear you. So let's keep discussing this and not end our meeting this way." Mr. Brown said, "I don't think that you want to hear me. This meeting is over."
Additional trainees met with Mr. Brown and Mr. Prince this same day. One of those trainees also maintains a personal website. According to that trainee, when he sought to make the existence of his website known, Mr. Brown was not interested in recording his website's address. The trainee had to offer the address of his website three times before Mr. Brown would make note of it.
It should be further noted that some trainees and I made Mr. Brown aware that GUY9 and GUY8 volunteers also maintain personal websites and personal online photo albums, many of which were visited by GUY10 trainees prior to our arrival. Mr. Brown showed no interest in this information, never met with GUY9 or GUY8 volunteers to discuss his concerns with them, and never spoke with or sought advice from current Information Technology volunteers about how to handle online content.
August 14, 2002
I temporarily blocked all access to my Monologue, I deleted all photos of Peace Corps Guyana staff from my personal Ofoto.com photo albums, and I restricted access to my personal Yahoo Group via username and password.
That evening, I approached Country Director Earl Brown and asked to meet with him to further discuss my website and online activity. Mr. Brown said call the office in the morning to set up a meeting.
August 15, 2002
I called the office and set up a meeting with Mr. Brown for 3:30 p.m. Attendees for the meeting included Peace Corps Guyana staff members Earl Brown, Terrance Simmons, Claudius Prince, and Sean Joe.
The purpose of the meeting was for me to share with Mr. Brown all of the steps that I took on August 14 to secure my personal content from people beyond my circle of friends and family. After explaining all of the steps, we had further discussion about my online content.
The meeting ended with Mr. Brown saying that he will not be swearing me in with the other 22 trainees on Friday, August 16. He then provided me a memo stating why he will not be swearing me in and the conditions that I must satisfy if I am to convince him otherwise. (see memo)
After presenting me with this memo, Mr. Brown said that he wanted to see me again at 10:30 a.m. the following morning.
August 16, 2002
I meet with Earl Brown at 10:30 a.m. and presented him a memo in reply. (see memo)
Mr. Brown asked me to email him a digital copy of the memo, which I did shortly after our meeting. He also said that he was going to consult the DC office regarding the contents of my memo and that he would attempt to decide by 4:00 p.m. whether or not I was going to be sworn in that afternoon or not. But unless I hear from him otherwise, I would remain a trainee.
Shortly before 4:00 p.m., Mr. Brown asked the 23 trainees to gather so that he may say a few words. It was then that he announced to all of us at the same time that I will not be sworn in with the rest of the group. Naturally, many of my colleagues were upset with the news and offered their support by voicing their concerns regarding his decision.
I was not sworn in.
August 17, 2002
Earl Brown distributes a memo to current volunteers regarding the use of personal websites and online photo albums. This memo was never provided to me. (see memo)
August 19, 2002
Earl Brown calls my counterpart Dr. Patrick Williams of the World Wildlife Fund - Guyana to the Peace Corps office. Mr. Brown tells me that the purpose of the meeting was the inform Patrick Williams that I was not sworn in as a volunteer and the reasons regarding that decision. I did not meet with Mr. Brown or Patrick Williams that day.
August 20, 2002
In the morning, I stop by the World Wildlife Fund to meet with Dr. Patrick Williams. I tell him that while I am sure he knows that I have not been sworn in yet, I remain very interested in working with the WWF. Patrick says that they are eager to have my assistance but must wait for Mr. Brown's approval. I was unaware that the WWF had already withdrawn their invitation to have me serve. (see withdrawal)
I return to the Peace Corps office and am informed that Mr. Brown would like to meet with me at 3:00 p.m. Mr. Brown was not present at 3:00 p.m. and rescheduled our meeting for 8:00 a.m. the following day.
August 21, 2002
At 8:00 a.m., Earl Brown informs me that he met with the World Wildlife Fund on Monday and that since that meeting, the World Wildlife Fund has rescinded their offer to have me serve as a volunteer.
Mr. Brown tells me that he will meet with Terrance Simmons later that day to determine if there are any available Information Technology sites for me. If not, Mr. Brown said that I would have a non-disciplinary interruption of service and would be sent home.
I ask Mr. Brown permission if I could actively assist them in finding a replacement site, for I already knew that the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana in Georgetown was seeking my services as a secondary project. He asked for a name and their contact information and said that he would look into it.
Mr. Brown then said that he wanted me to move out of my host family's home by 3:00 p.m. that day. My host family was in Grove, about 45 minutes outside of Georgetown. By giving me this task, I had little time to actively search for a backup site. I told Mr. Brown that my host family and I had arranged for me to move out on Thursday. Despite this arrangement, Mr. Brown insisted that I move that afternoon.
At the conclusion of our meeting, I called the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana to inform them of my situation, to let them know that they should expect a call from Mr. Brown, and to confirm that they still wanted my services. Indera Anget, THAG's executive director, was excited about the opportunity and would speak with Mr. Brown later that day.
From 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I was either in Grove packing or in transit. During that time I placed one call to Indera Anget of THAG. During this call we further discussed her interest, my skills, and why my services were suddenly available.
On the way back from Grove, Matthew (one of Peace Corps drivers) received a phone call asking me to proceed directly to the Peace Corps office for a meeting with Mr. Brown.
During this meeting, Mr. Brown informed me that while he spoke with Indera Anget of THAG, he didn't think that there would be enough work at her office for me to do for the next two years. He also said that it takes a lot of time to develop sites, and that when site development is rushed, things often don't work out.
Mr. Brown further stated that he had received an email from Terrance Simmons confirming that there are no suitable Information Technology sites in Guyana for me. For this reason, Mr. Brown said that he plans on giving me an early termination via the interrupted service clause. (see Simmons' email)
He then said that this is the best that he can do, saying "At least it is not Administrative Separation," and that Interrupted Service Separation gives me more options and does not look as bad on my record. Mr. Brown asked me to come in to the office early on Thursday to handle all of the paperwork and check out medically. His plans were to have me separated by Friday.
After this meeting, driver Matthew took me to my hotel. I shortly returned to the Peace Corps office to make phone calls and use the computers. Unfortunately, Internet access was not available.
I did, however, speak with Indera Anget of THAG. She said that she spoke with Mr. Brown and expressed her desire to utilize my web development skills. Mr. Brown told her that he was planning on closing my service on Thursday, August 22, and sending me home by Friday, August 23. She said that she wanted to arrange a meeting with me on Thursday to further discuss our options. She said Mr. Brown agreed.
August 22, 2002
I arrived to the Peace Corps office to meet with Earl Brown at 9:00 a.m. Mr. Brown gives me instructions regarding whom I need to meet with and the tasks that I need to complete before the end of the day.
Mr. Brown also said that Indera Anget of THAG called again to set up a meeting with me to discuss the possibility of having me develop their website. Mr. Brown said that I had permission to meet with her, but only after I had completed all of the Early Termination paperwork and tasks that he has ordered me to do. This gave me no opportunity to develop a replacement site.
At the conclusion of our meeting, I immediately begin my day of meetings and tasks, including: medical checkout, administrative checkout, health inspection at the hospital, closing bank account, visit to the post office, and much more.
At 4:00 p.m., I had finally finished all of my Close of Service tasks and had a final meeting with Mr. Brown. The purpose of the meeting was to serve as a closing interview to discuss what I had learned from the events that led to my early termination.
During this meeting, Earl Brown again commented that a non-disciplinary early termination (i.e. Interruption of Service), was the best he could do in light of the circumstances. He said that he really should have administratively separated me due to my personal website, and particularly due to my audio files. He gave me a memo that I was required to sign. (see memo)
He then commented that I shouldn't think that his decision to terminate my service early was personal, and wished me well. Mr. Brown did not offer me a phone call home to notify my friends and family of my return.
This same day, volunteers received a memo from Mr. Brown in their mailboxes regarding my departure. I was not given a copy of this memo. (see memo)
August 23, 2002
I departed Guyana in the morning and arrived to Raleigh, North Carolina, in the evening.
August 27, 2002
I called the Peace Corps Office of Placement at (800) 424-8580, ext. 1830 to be considered for re-enrollment. I did not speak with anyone directly, but left a message asking to be called back.
I received many emails and letters from current Peace Corps volunteers stating their sadness for my departure. (see letters)
I also received many emails and letters from friends and family back in the states. (see letters)
September 3, 2002
Having received no response from the Peace Corps, I gave the Office of Placement another call. This time I was able to speak with Sylvie Mortimer [Office of Placement, Business Desk]. Sylvie was the placement officer who extended me my invitation in February 2002.
Sylvie was unaware that I had returned. She wanted to know the reasons for my return. I told her that I was given an Early Termination/Interrupted Service per MS 284, 5.0. Stating:
"The host country (or other cooperating agency to which the volunteer is assigned) requests that the volunteer be removed from service for reasons that would not consist grounds for administrative separation."
She said that she would have to do some research about my case; talk to Earl Brown, the Guyana country director; and talk to Rita Jimenez, the country desk officer, South America Desk. I told her I understood.
I then asked about the timeline and how long it might take for me to receive a new assignment, if one was granted. She said that she has only two IT assignments available in the winter and both require a fluency in Spanish. Other than that, it wouldn't be until the Spring 2003.
September 4, 2002
Sylvie Mortimer left me a voicemail saying that she spoke with Mr. Brown and Ms. Jimenez and has determined that according to Peace Corps policy, I have to wait one year before reapplying. (see voicemail)
September 5, 2002
I return my no-fee passport to the Peace Corps within 14 days of my return to the USA, per their requirements.
I also ask for them to send me a copy of my Volunteer Description of Service (DOS) Statement, the official Peace Corps record of service for former Volunteers. (see letter)
I then send an email to Sylvie Mortimer in response to her September voicemail. I state that as an Early Termination/Interrupted Service Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I may seek reinstatement or re-enrollment to Peace Corps service or may seek transfer to another country without having to submit a new application. (see email)
September 10, 2002
I received an email from one of my laywer friends noting a case that is relevant to mine. The Wood v. Ruppe case involves the termination of a Peace Corp volunteer who was expressing political views related to the US military intervention in Grenada. (see case)
I also received some legal advice regarding how I should handle my Peace Corps appeal. (see advice)
September 26, 2002
I still had not received a reply from the Peace Corps regarding my request for reinstatement or re-enrollment. I emailed Business placement officers Brian Payne and Sarah Erdman requesting an update. (see email)
October 10, 2002
Still having heard no reply regarding my reinstatment request, I sent another email to Brian Payne and Sarah Erdman requesting an update. (see email)
Sarah Erdman responds later that same day, saying that the General Counsel says that my Interrupted Service status prevents me from reinstatement in Guyana and that I would have to re-enroll. (see email)
This rulling contradicts Peace Corps Manual: MS 284, 5.1 and pages 87 - 88 of the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook, which read:
Peace Corps Manual: MS 284, 5.1
A V/T who has been separated with interrupted service status may seek reinstatement or re-enrollment to Peace Corps service or may seek transfer to another country, provided the Country Director endorses the V/T's request. These conditions and procedures are outlined in MS 282.
Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook: Pages 87 - 88
Under some circumstances, an RPCV may re-enroll for another term without having to submit a new application. Re-enrollment is possible if:
- Within the past two years, the RPCV completed service (COS) or has his/her service terminated early for medical reasons or due to exceptional circumstances beyond his or her control; and
- The RPCV has particular skills or experience requested by host countries which are not sufficiently available from current applications.
Re-enrollment is handled directly by the Office of Placement. An RPCV who wishes to be considered for re-enrollment should contact the Office of Placement at 800-424-8580, ext. 1830. Beyond two years from COS, the RPCV must submit a new application through a Regional Recruitment Office.
October 15, 2002
Wanting to know why the General Counsel denied my request for reinstatement, I sent the following email to Sarah Erdman. (see email)
October 16, 2002
Sarah Erdman clarifies my options, saying re-enrollment is my only option. Regarding reinstament, the reason I cannot be reinstated back in Guyana is because "it was impossible to find an assignment for you there." (see email)
If I am to appeal the Guyana country director's decision to terminate my service early, there are a few documents that I should first review. MS 282 covers the conditions and procedures for reinstatement or re-enrollment, MS 284 discusses early termination of service, and the contact information for the regional director is needed for me to submit my appeal. (see email)
October 28, 2002
To help build my case, I mailed letters to the Peace Corps office formally requesting copies of all information they have on me. (see letters)
The Peace Corps has yet to respond to my request for copies of their manual -- a request I made almost two weeks ago. I submitted another request. (see email)
Sarah responds later that day with the requested materials attached. (see email)