Peace Corps Press Release:
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 8, 2004 – Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez announced today with deep sadness the death of Melissa Mosvick, a 24-year old Peace Corps volunteer serving in Morocco. Melissa died as a result of a public bus accident on Saturday, November 6, 2004, in the town of Ouarzazate in Morocco.
“The death of Melissa Mosvick is a terrible loss for the Peace Corps family,” Director Gaddi Vasquez said. “Melissa went above and beyond to share her knowledge and skills with women’s groups, artisans and people in her community. Her hard work and leadership were admired by the people of Ouarzazate and will continue to thrive in the lives that she touched.”
Melissa began her service in the Peace Corps on September 11, 2003. A U.S. resident of Apple Valley, Minn., and a graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, she was living in the southern Moroccan town of Ouarzazate, known as the gateway to the Sahara. As a Small Business Development volunteer, she taught English and computer skills to the artisans at a training center.
But, Melissa went beyond her initial project and community assignment to assist others. This year, she expanded her small business work and began assisting an association for the handicapped in Ouarzazate. She taught glass painting to artisans, who then were able to sell their items for profit. Melissa’s work was recognized and very much appreciated in the Ouarzazate community, as her supervisor and counterpart heralded positive feedback about Melissa’s work to Peace Corps Program Manager Bouchra El Achkar.
Committed to the Peace Corps mission, Melissa recently helped 20 Small Business Trainees transition in Morocco, as she facilitated several cross-cultural training sessions about her experiences. Melissa’s leadership this summer in the village of Tazarine to train another women’s association group in the use of computers helped pave the way for the development of a work site for future Peace Corps Volunteers to make a difference.
Melissa is survived by her parents, a sister, and several other relatives. Peace Corps Morocco is planning a memorial service in her honor for volunteers and staff.
On Saturday, the Governor of Ouarzazate contacted the Peace Corps staff to offer his deepest condolences.
“The Peace Corps family is deeply saddened by Melissa’s death. She embodied the best traditions of Peace Corps Volunteers, and her life and work will be deeply missed by all who knew and worked with her,” said Director Vasquez. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. In memory of Melissa Mosvick, the Peace Corps flag will be flown at half-staff on the day of her memorial service.”
Honoring a Peace Apostle
Chuck Haga, Star Tribune
May 29, 2005
Barbara and Mark Mosvick of Apple Valley will honor and remember their older daughter this Memorial Day as a fallen American hero.
Melissa Mosvick enlisted to go overseas in 2003 to fight terrorism — not as a soldier but as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching disabled women in Morocco how to use computers to make their lives better.
Her early e-mails home were giddy with discovery and anticipation.
“I think I made the right decision to come here instead of staying in Minnesota,” she told her parents on Sept. 15, 2003. “Something just seems really right about being here so far, and I think it will be a really good experience for me.”
Melissa, 24, was in her 15th month as a Peace Corps volunteer in the North African nation when she was killed in a traffic accident there last November. A truck collided with the public bus she was riding.
Her parents had just bought tickets for her to fly home for Christmas. In her journal, sent to her family with other personal effects, she had marked the day of departure with enthusiasm — “Go home!!” — but Mark Mosvick knew his daughter would be antsy to get back to work.
“She grew up accepting, tolerant of others,” he said. “She was always a good listener, and she was absorbing the culture over there like a sponge. She had her moments when she was sad or homesick, but she wanted to do good work for the less fortunate.
“She was there as an ambassador of peace. She wanted to be of service to her country.”
Since President John Kennedy launched the Peace Corps 44 years ago, 254 volunteers have died overseas, said Jennifer Borgen, a Peace Corps spokeswoman.
Accidents have claimed the largest share, about 70 percent, and the vast majority of deaths occurred in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, she said.
There were two deaths in 2004, including Mosvick, and one this year.
The casualty list represents a tiny fraction of the 178,000 volunteers and trainees who have signed up for two-year stints in 138 countries since 1961.
But those are statistics, “and I don’t want her to be any kind of number,” Mark Mosvick said of his daughter.
She was buried at Acacia Park Cemetery in Mendota Heights. Barbara Mosvick has ordered fresh flowers for the grave on Memorial Day, but she, Mark and Melissa’s younger sister, Kristin, tend to visit separately.
“It’s almost too hard, being there together,” Mark Mosvick said.
“But there’s a pinwheel there we all like,” Kristin said, smiling. “When it moves, it’s like she’s talking to us.”
Working with women –
Melissa was fluent in French and rapidly learning Arabic, her mother said, and she had traveled to the storied cities of Fez and Casablanca and provided friends and relatives with running e-commentary on all she saw and experienced.
“She was teaching computer skills to women but didn’t feel she was doing enough,” Barbara Mosvick said. “So she came up with a business project where the women painted designs on tea glasses and sold them. Melissa applied for a grant to get them started and organized the whole thing.”
Some of the women she had worked with sent the Mosvicks a set of tea glasses after Melissa’s death. Each glass is painted with her name in English and Arabic.
Kristin said she was reluctant to see her sister leave.
“I was going to college and I wanted her here to motivate me,” she said.
“But I told her I wanted her to be happy, and she was. She was becoming more happy by helping others and by learning how she could do without material things.”
Melissa wrote humorously about getting water and electricity hooked up in her apartment and other struggles with a strange new bureaucracy.
“It took her three days to set up a bank account, but it really didn’t seem to bother her,” Barbara Mosvick said. “She told me she was learning patience. She seemed much more calm.”
Melissa lived in Ouarzazate, “the door of the desert” and a crossroads between Marrakech and Agadir. “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed nearby.
She called it Oz.
“The city is absolutely gorgeous,” she wrote on Nov. 11, 2002. “It was rebuilt by the French not too long ago so everything seems new and clean.
“The population is 40,000, so it’s small enough to get around but big enough where I can escape if I want to. It’s in a dry area near mountains and there are oases nearby with lots of palm trees. Very beautiful. I think I will be really happy here.”
Chuck Haga is at firstname.lastname@example.org.