May 12, 2004
Dear Ms. Mack,
It's hard to believe that it has been seven years since Jeremiah died. Most of what I remember of Jeremiah are the same things, it seems, that most people remember about Jeremiah: the times he made me laugh, his funny way of twisting his accent, the crazy things he did, and, of course, his kindness. However, Jeremiah also made a real impact on my life and the course that it would take.
When I was in Niger, I had a tough first couple of months at site. I was sick for most of the time and lost more than forty pounds in 5 weeks. Of course, I also had to deal with uncomfortable position of being a foreigner for the first time and all the other things that came along with being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger.
I was lucky, though. Jeremiah was at our hostel doing some work on our maison-sans-bois when I was thinking about leaving. Not only did he make me laugh while I was miserable, he also was able to convince me to stick it out.
The decision to stay has certainly affected my life. Since my time in Niger, I have had an opportunity to work with poor women in Ecuador to create a micro credit union, with people devastated by Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, and now with entrepreneurs in the former Soviet Union. None of that would have happened without Jeremiah's influence in my life.
Jeremiah lived his life with presence and force. Your work in establishing a scholarship in his name and the wonderful website to fallen Peace Corps Volunteers are great tribute to the man he was. Please live with the certainty, as I do, that other great things are occurring, unknown to us and unmarked by his name, which would not have happened if Jeremiah never were. The energy he released still ripples through, affecting people all around the world.
From: Stephen Hoyt
Sent: March 14, 2004
Subject: Thank you
Dear Donna and Chelsea,
I was very pleased to have a friend from my local RPCV group send me a note about the website to me. A year ago last November I was fortunate enough to be able to go back to Niger for three weeks with the Friends of Niger. It was a great experience to see so many Nigerien friends and meet the new volunteers and see all that they are doing. It was a little strange that all of these new volunteers never knew of us, although it was easy to see how much they were like us.
One day while there, I was poking though the new library at the PC bureau. I took out a photo album, and there he was! Smiling and joking as always. It really overwhelmed me emotionally in a way it hadn’t since meeting you, Donna and his father, at the funeral. Afterward I saw Souleymane and we talked about Jeremiah. I realize now that although there’s no collective memory among volunteers there now about those of us who are gone, that there is always the memory that stays with our Nigerien friends. Nigeriens won’t often speak about someone who is passed away and usually won’t say their name. But Jeremiah was such an infectiously fun and kind guy, that he lives very clearly in peoples’ memories.
I’m so glad that you are doing this. Your generosity is a very important gift to the thousands of RPCVs and families out there – it honors us all. In fact, it was good to see recognized another fallen PCV who I knew, Jeff Orton. I’m also very glad that it puts me in contact with you, since I have wanted for some time to let you know that I still think of Jeremiah and miss him. Often I’ll see someone who is just a hilarious clown and be reminded of him. I had always hoped that someday I’d find Andy Chapin and we’d sit down together and write to you about our memories of sharing my house for three months of training and joking around with masons on projects. I’m sure Jeremiah could have told the stories the best. I was always impressed by his up-front openness and kindness to me and everyone else. He also worked very hard and got a lot done, but remember too that the greatest and longest-lasting contribution we could make as volunteers to Niger was through our positive relationships with people there. It's what makes peace, I think, and Jeremiah did it with a vengeance.
I’ve been the president of my local RPCV group for a couple of years now, and we have members that served from the 60’s all the way to today. We’ll make a link from our website (www.rpcv-neny.org) and I’ll mention it to our members. I wondered if you are aware of the Archival Project (contact Bob Klein at email@example.com) which is intended to document and save the experiences of PCVs in the Kennedy Library? You can send them letters and taped interviews along with other information. Perhaps the Kennedy Library is a good place for a memorial so it can be put together with those memories?
My very best to you both and thank you,
Steve Hoyt (Niger '94-'96 MSB volunteer)