Filed under: Paraguay
Emily Balog, our beloved Peace Corps Volunteer, tragically passed away in a car accident on Sunday, November 27th. Tonight, after only 2 days, the Peace Corps and Emily’s training group, G-33, put on the most incredible memorial service I have ever seen. The tribute to Emily’s life totally did her justice. There were christmas lights everywhere under a giant white tent, a mural depicting Emily’s life with pictures of her in the Peace Corps, with her family and her boyfriend Santiago (who was driving the car and is currently in critical condition at the hospital). There were candles and a guest book that everyone signed to send home to her parents. Every person attending received a mango tree in honor of Emily to plant in their communities. A white dove was released into the air to signify Emily’s departure.
Our Deputy Director got up to speak, and then our Associate Peace Corps Director in the Community Economic Development Sector, who both delivered heart-wrenching speeches. A letter by the director of the Peace Corps Aaron Williams was read. Then a video played with everyone from Emily’s G-33 talking about how they first met her and how much they loved her. Finally, there was a period where guests could come up to speak about her. Stories ranged from memories that made the audience both laugh and cry. Santiago’s sister got up to speak. And finally, there was a huge spread full of Emily’s favorite foods, which were a mixture of Southern comfort and Paraguayan dishes. Meanwhile, the entire ceremony was taped for Emily’s family back home.
I have been learning a lot about death in my Peace Corps service. From my friend Becky Schaffer, who passed away in August, to now our dear Emily- it is devastating that both of them suffered tragic accidents at such a young age. Both passionate, creative, intelligent, world-changing people. It is no doubt that Emily made an impact here. I feel so fortunate to have known her, even if for such a short period of time. And I feel incredibly honored to have been here tonight to celebrate her life with such amazing people.
I am really proud of Peace Corps Paraguay for being so incredible and caring about Emily’s passing. We truly have a very special post- I think anyone would be extremely lucky to be a Peace Corps Volunteer here. In the light of this tragic event, where other Volunteers or Applicants may look at this accident and be afraid to join or to stay in the Peace Corps, I must say that I don’t feel this way. Tonight, I feel more proud to be a Peace Corps Volunteer than I have ever felt. Being surrounded in a room with 300 people who loved and cared for Emily- with staff and with Volunteers who came from all over Paraguay, some traveling 11 hours, some that didn’t even know her, yet still came to be together- it was an extremely unifying moment for me. We are all in this together, and we all care about each other, and that is something that will always stay with me.
Please keep Santiago, Emily’s boyfriend, in your thoughts. From what I’ve heard, he is an incredible person. We are all hoping that he will wake from his coma soon.
If you would like to read more about Emily’s work in the Peace Corps, click here.
If you would like to read a local Paraguayan newspaper (in Spanish) about how much Emily impacted Paraguay, click here.
We love you Emily. Here’s to you.
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