Peace Corps Press Release:
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 23, 2009
Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph ChowPeace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams is saddened to announce the death of Peace Corps volunteer Joseph Chow in Tanzania. Joseph died in a rock climbing accident near the village of Mbuji in the Ruvuma region in the southern part of Tanzania.
"Joseph was active, creative and charming. He was always ready to lend a helping hand, to work and play, and to contribute to his community. His sudden passing is terribly painful for the entire Peace Corps family, including Joseph’s students, whose lives were changed by Joseph’s passion for teaching," said Director Williams. "Our thoughts go out to his family and friends around the world."
Joseph, 23, a native of Scarsdale, New York, had been serving as an education volunteer in the Ndanda Secondary School. He was scheduled to complete his Peace Corps service in November 2009.
After graduating from Amherst College in 2007, Joseph was invited to serve in Peace Corps/Kenya as a math and science teacher and arrived for his pre-service training in September 2007. He was sworn in as a volunteer in November and placed in the village of Ndalat to teach chemistry and physics at St. Clement Secondary School. Following the suspension of the Peace Corps/Kenya program in early 2008, Joseph volunteered to transfer to Tanzania to continue his service as an education volunteer. In February 2008, he began teaching college preparatory chemistry at Ndanda Secondary School in the Mtwara region of southern Tanzania.
Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Chow teaching in TanzaniaJoseph always put his students first. Although he was assigned to teach advanced chemistry as his only subject, Joseph recognized his students’ desire to study math and physics. Because few teachers taught those subjects, Joseph added advanced physics and math to his teaching schedule.
Raising HIV/AIDS awareness was another project that benefited from Joseph’s work ethic and commitment to his community. Joseph started an after-school health club with his students, organized community HIV testing and counseling, and developed both a 5 km race and a community theater program that raised HIV/AIDS awareness in his area. The events were successful and brought more than 400 students from several regional schools together.
In his 2007 Peace Corps aspiration statement, Joseph wrote that one of the reasons he decided to serve with Peace Corps was because he had never spent a long period of time in a different culture. He hoped to meet the challenges of teaching in a classroom in Africa and understood that the work he faced would be much more difficult than any work he had previously accomplished.
Joseph not only adapted to his new surroundings, he flourished.
His Father's Eulogy
When Joseph died, everything was black.I now know that you can die of a broken heart.We could not sleep, we could not eat or drink. I always wondered when I went to someone’s funeral or wake ,whether I made a difference.
I can tell you now that you, our family and friends helped us to live.
On the behalf of the Chow Family, I want to thank everyone for their incredible support.
Thank you so very much.
Our son Joseph
Initially, even though he worked so hard, he had no success.He was always the youngest, smallest in his class.
As parents, we send our kids out into the world.We cannot be with them.We can only hope that they make friends and succeed.
When he went to Fordham Prep a magical transformation into a wonderful, caring, athletic, beautiful young man began. That growth continued at Amherst.He had such fantastic friends.We were so happy.Joseph worked so hard.He was called “Speedy Joe” by the Amherst swim team, because he was the slowest on the team.
He lived every minute of his life.
He really was the “Little Engine that Could.”
Joseph took all of what his family, friends, teachers and coacheshad to give, internalized it and passed it forward.
When we heard that he was going to Africa with the Peace Corps, we were really worried.We were worried he would stick out.
We worried that he would be mugged, kidnapped, or robbed,andthat he would not succeed and integrate intohis community.
Joseph told us not to worry.That the Peace Corps told him that all you had to do was make friends and that they would keep him safe.
He was confident that would happen.
When we met with Andrea, we were able to see videos, pictures and remembrance book from Tanzania.He had lots of friends.He had succeeded.
With the death of Joseph, there has been lots of grief and sorrow.
Donna and I want you to release your grief and sorrow.We will hold onto that.It is a parent’s burden and prerogative to do so.
Instead, we want you to celebrate his memory.
If his memory helps you do better, if it helps you live life more fully, if in the dark, his memory gives you a little light, or helps your flame burn a little brighter,if you take this and pass it to your friends and family, then a little piece of Joe will live on.
If Joe were listening now I can just see how he would react.
He would smile that big smile of his.Then he would do his high pitched giggle.Then he would break out in his loud laugh.
Then he would raise his hands in mock exasperation and go AARGH!!
Then he would lean forward and with great gusto he would say to me.“Dad, That was CRAP!”
Before Father O’konsky gives the final prayer, I would like us all to clap for Joe.The Applause will help send his spirit up to heaven.
If you are a friend or family member of this volunteer and would like to contribute a picture, a story, or something different, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.