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WNY Peace Corps volunteer's time in Namibia cut short

"It's hard leaving a little piece of me back in Namibia"
Posted at 6:18 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 18:18:13-04

(WKBW) — On March 15, life as Margaret Wright knew it completely changed. It was the day she was told as a Peace Corps volunteer, she would need to evacuate her post in Namibia.

“It’s crazy to think that it was just very abruptly ended," Wright said. She continued, “I packed my whole life into two suitcases.”

Wright found out only hours after she learned the Namibian government closed schools due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Two days after learning the Peace Corps was suspending all operations and evacuating all volunteers, she joined thousands of other volunteers from some 60 countries to embark back to the United States. She was heartbroken and surprised.

“I believe that Namibia as a whole post didn’t really see it coming," she said.

Monday night, she returned home to Fredonia, but only after traveling more than 7,600 miles over 35 hours on 4 planes. When she landed in Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., Wright said it was surreal, adding very few people other than fellow volunteers were in the concourse.

“It was very surreal. The way we left America, was not really the America we were reentering," she said.

To her, this was also a full-circle moment since she landed at the same terminal she left months ago for Namibia, but it wasn't the way she wanted it to end.

“The people I met there, they weren’t like my family, they weren’t like my friends, they are my family, they are my friends.”

Namibia is a place Wright has called home for almost two years, self-described as a beautiful and vibrant country, rich in geography and culture bordering South Africa. She served as a volunteer teaching math and science to middle schoolers, while helping with secondary projects like building a school library.

In a Facetime interview, she shared her favorite moments from her time in Namibia from promoting literacy to traveling.

“That country and those people gave me so much and all I can do is share their story.“

Wright said this move impacts many more than just the volunteers, it impacts the thousands of partners in the communities they served.

"It’s the communities that invited us into their homes and their lives and their workplaces. They’re the ones who need the love and support, especially in a time like this," she said.

For now, she’s in quarantine as all volunteers were asked to do so. Although Wright is still trying to digest the whirlwind of the last two weeks, she has this message for her adopted family.

“Just keep in touch. We are an ocean away, but it doesn’t have to feel that way," Wright said. She continued, "Stay safe and keep living your life. We will meet again someday for sure, there’s no doubt about that.“