TRIBUTE TO LARISA JAFFE, PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER
BY HONORABLE MICHAEL E. CAPUANO of Massachusetts
in the House of Representatives, Tuesday, November 13, 2001
Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the life and service of Larisa Jaffe, a Peace Corps volunteer, who lost her life in Zimbabwe in October of this year. Dr. Jaffe was a naturalized American citizen. She came to the United States from the former Soviet Union where she had earned a doctorate in geology. A woman of great intellectual energy, she taught at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California and at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. She became certified as an emergency medical technician and volunteered her services to Planned Parenthood and to hospices for the terminally ill. At the age of sixty-two, she arrived in Zimbabwe as a Peace Corps volunteer. She served in the city of Mutare as the Information Officer for CADEC, the Catholic Development Commission. She developed HIV/AIDS awareness and education materials and assisted the staff with computers and information technology. She devoted much of her time to the more than 2000 children orphaned by AIDS in the Mutare region. Tragically, her work ended with her death, a suspected homicide. Police took into custody as suspects two citizens of Zimbabwe. Dr. Jaffe’s daughter, Julia Ravinsky, lives in Massachusetts where a memorial service was conducted on October 26. Ms. Ravinsky spoke of her mother’s great love of adventure and her even greater love of humankind. She showed slides of her mother riding camels and elephants and mingling joyously with the peoples of three continents. I salute Julia’s bravery as well as her mother’s. Two Peace Corps officials eulogized Larisa Jaffe. Acting Deputy Director Lloyd O. Pierson presented an American and a Peace Corps flag
and a letter of condolence from President and Mrs. Bush. He spoke of the significance of the Peace Corps in these difficult times. I quote Mr. Pierson: “Larisa’s contributions to the Peace Corps and to our
country will never be forgotten. The tragic events of September 11 have shown more than ever the need for more individuals, like Larisa, committed and courageous, who are willing to answer the call to service and respond to the challenge of the Peace Corps mission.” I thank Mr. Pierson for traveling to Massachusetts to acknowledge Dr. Jaffe’s contribution and to comfort her family and friends.
Lois Hobson, Country Director of the Peace Corps for Zimbabwe, accompanied Dr. Jaffe’s remains on the sad journey home. I want to thank her personally for bringing Julia’s mother home. Director Hobson spoke of her friendship with Larisa Jaffe, of Larisa’s fearlessness, her openness, her refusal to find cultural differences obstacles to understanding and cooperation. I quote her remarks in part, “Mutare’s mountains impressed her deeply, often prompting her to tell others how comfortable she felt in Mutare, how much she loved the city and the people. When she was required to travel to Harare, she was always in a hurry to return to the beautiful city at the foot of the mountains. Industrious, creative, energetic, feisty, brave, courageous–this was Larisa. Stubborn, independent, mature, sometimes naive, determined, loving, kind. This too was Larisa. We all miss her.”Mr. Pierson is right that we need to remember Larisa Jaffe. She came to the United States as a refugee. She embraced our principles and our customs. She believed that all persons are created free and equal. She believed in volunteering. Like many of those who perished on September 11, she knew our country, her adopted country, to be a land of hope and opportunity, Her example will continue to inspire us.