Evacuated Peace Corps volunteer forced to rethink future

NOW: Evacuated Peace Corps volunteer forced to rethink future

ELKHART, Ind. --- 12 hours. That is all the notice Indiana native, Emma Coates, received as she was living in Ukraine and forced to pack up her bags to move back to the U.S. as the COVID-19 pandemic started to grow.

The outbreak uprooted the recent college graduate’s life and everything she knew.

“Nothing could have prepared me for that,” Coates said.

Seven months ago, Coates packed up her bags and moved to Ukraine to join the Peace Corps.

But then—the coronavirus hit.

“I didn’t really see it coming,” Coates said.

There were only three positive cases of COVID-19, but Coates received an email detailing that her time in Ukraine was over. Coates had until the following day at 11 p.m. to get to the Capital before heading home to the U.S.

“We were all kind of confused why we were getting evacuated to come to the US where we knew there were more positive cases,” Coates said.

That is because Ukraine was shutting down all international travel.

“So that meant if one of us volunteers were to have a medical emergency that we needed to go back to the US and maybe get an operation for, it would be very difficult to secure a flight out of the country,” Coates said.

In just 12 hours, Emma packed her life back up into two suitcases and said goodbye to her apartment, her life in Ukraine and in her broken Ukrainian she had to also say goodbye to her friends.

“Somehow explain to these people that I was leaving the country and I didn’t know when I was going to come back,” Coates said.

Emma was a youth development volunteer, working closely with the youth over in Ukraine. All of that was gone in the blink of an eye.

Now, Coates is living in her parents’ basement without a U.S. phone number, car or a job and is just trying to figure out what to do next.

“They are prepared to start on the paperwork on day one to get all of us back in country and serving again,” Coates said.

The number of COVID-19 cases is just going to continue to rise and the danger is ever-present, according to Coates.

Coates is uncertain as to when or if she’ll be able to return to Ukraine if the outbreak continues to grow.

“There are no answers and time keeps ticking away,” Coates said. “And I have to move on with my life.”

The hardest part about being home for Coates is not being able to see her grandparents. She is hoping she will be able to wait out the recommended period of time to ensure she is not showing any signs of COVID-19 so that she can finally see her family again after being abroad for seven months.

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