Photos by Nick Castle
This Episode of the Posh Corps Podcast features the story of Nick Castle. Nick served in Peace Corps China. He died tragically from a serious illness. The details of Nick's death were covered extensively by the New York Times. Our story is about Nick's service in Peace Corps China. We hear from one of Nick's Peace Corps friends and Nick's family. We also discuss the lackluster response from the returned Peace Corps volunteer community following Nick's passing.
This was certainly one of the most challenging projects I've produced since launching the Posh Corps platform. All my research indicated that Nick Castle was not only a great Peace Corps volunteer, but also a great person. The more I read and learned about Nick, the more I felt compelled to help ensure that he was remembered as more than just a sad story in the New York Times.
Getting any Peace Corps volunteers from China 18 to share their memories of Nick turned out to be one of the most challenging aspects of this story. Some volunteers would not agree to a recorded interview, but they helped me better understand the trauma experienced by the group. Following Nick's death, the unity of China 18 was shattered. It was described to me as misplaced anger. Volunteers were angry that Peace Corps was not providing information about Nick's death, and this anger manifested within the group. Many volunteers are still holding onto this anger, even after completing Peace Corps service.
I'm very thankful to RPCV Alex Escobar. Though Alex had her own suspicions regarding my intentions, she felt duty bound to help tell the story of her friend. Thanks to Chris Castle, who helped us understand Nick's character, and his personal motivations. Thanks, most of all, to Nick's parents, Dave and Sue Castle, who sat with me for three hours, and helped me understand every tiny detail of their dealings with Peace Corps. I'm also thankful to those anonymous Peace Corps employees who directed me to the reports compiled by the Office of the Inspector General. Even some Peace Corps employees recognize the need for reform.
I reached out to many Peace Corps staff members, encouraging them to go on the record. Unfortunately, they turned me down, but during our correspondence they asked if I was "pro-Peace Corps." I told them that I am neither pro-Peace Corps nor anti-Peace Corps. I believe Peace Corps is absolutely necessary, particularly for a country like the United States. We need more of our citizens to understand life outside our American bubble. Just as Peace Corps is necessary for a better US, criticism is necessary for a better Peace Corps. I believe all returned Peace Corps volunteers have been derelict in our critical scrutiny of Peace Corps policy.
Peace Corps advocacy groups, like the National Peace Corps Association, are out in force right now. They're visiting their senators and representatives and advocating for more Peace Corps funding. However, if we truly want a better Peace Corps, we cannot simply demand more money, we must demand action on Peace Corps policy reform.
I hope that the story of Nick Castle will help volunteers understand that it is okay to be critical of agency performance. It is okay to demand a better Peace Corps. Even those who identify as pro-Peace Corps should be supporting Sue Castle, and demanding reform, loudly and without apology.
Produced and recorded by Alan Toth and Lauren Schwartzman. With vocal performance by David Morley. Additional recordings by Nick Castle.
Music: "Just and Improv" from the album Hang by Laura Inserra. Used under a license provided by iLicense Music (ilicensemusic.com)
Interviews with Dave Castle, Sue Castle, Chris Castle, Alexandra Escobar, and one anonymous China 18 Peace Corps volunteer.
Peace Corps OIG Report: Investigative Review of the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of a Volunteer in Peace Corps/China.
January 23, 2015 Peace Corps’ Response to OIG Investigative Review I - 13 - 020
Peace Corps OIG Report: Final Evaluation Report: Impacts of the Five - Year Rule on Operations of the Peace Corps ( IG - 12 - 05 - E )
"The New York Times Article" Trail of Medical Missteps in a Peace Corps Death, By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Agency Response to New York Times Article
Op-Ed: Peace Corps service is a risk worth taking, by NPCA Advisory Council Member Gordon Radley
Nick Castle's Blog
Alexandra Escobar's Blog
Addendum regarding Peace Corps China Volunteer ME 13-0037