Burke Brownfeld '00: Protector of the Peace Corps
Even as a teenager, Burke Brownfield wanted to keep people safe. “I decided my goal was to become a police officer,” he says. “I liked the idea that I would be the person coming to save the screaming woman, the person to go towards the danger when everyone else was running away.” Today, Burke works for the Peace Corps as the Regional Safety and Security Officer for South America and the Caribbean. Based in Lima, Peru, he regularly travels to eight different countries overseeing volunteer safety, sampling the world’s best coffee and learning about his own country by visiting those of others.
Driving force: Helping people.
Most exciting project: Getting the Peace Corps program in Colombia started. The first group of volunteers arrived in Colombia in September 2010. I trained the volunteers in personal safety, wrote policies, trained new staff members, and worked closely with the Colombian National Police and the U.S. Embassy to build relationships and identify safe places for volunteers to work.
Trickiest challenge: Supporting volunteers who are victims of crime. We see volunteers fall victim to crimes such as rape. It can be challenging to navigate the different criminal justice systems and to make sure that the volunteer feels supported when he or she is so far from home.
Secret to safety: Acceptance and integration into the community. When a volunteer is truly integrated, community members often look out for the well being of the volunteer, teach the volunteer about local customs or norms and care for the volunteer as if he or she is really a member of the community.
Why he never became a Peace Corps volunteer: I always loved volunteering, but I was really interested in becoming a police officer. So I struck a balance by spending my vacation time as a volunteer with the Sisters of Mercy in Guyana and my professional time as a police officer in Alexandria, Virginia.
Teen cop: At age 15 I found a volunteer opportunity at the Alexandria Police Department. Then I joined the police explorers and began to spend as much free time as possible hanging around the station. I would volunteer every summer, and in the evenings I would do ride-alongs with the officers from the evening shift and midnight shift. I’m sure that many of the officers were confused about why this chubby, pimply kid kept showing up at the station in his free time!
Generosity of spirit: For my senior project at Potomac, I did a volunteer internship with the police department. Partially as a result of that project, I went on to become a police officer. I always felt like community service was a true priority at the School.
A quote he likes: “What do they know of England, who only England know?” —Rudyard Kipling
Bizarre foods: Travelling around South America and the Caribbean has certainly exposed me to some interesting delicacies, like fried guinea pig and cow hearts.
Staying buzzed: One of my favorite little side interests is trying some of the best coffee in the world.
Where his heart is: I would love to return to the Alexandria area at some point and bring some of these skills and experiences back home. One of my goals, which is consistent with the goals of the Peace Corps, is to share my experiences with people in the United States.
"For my senior project at Potomac, I did a volunteer internship with the police department. Partially as a result of that project, I went on to become a police officer. I always felt like community service was a true priority at the School."—burke brownfeld '00, regional safety and security officer for the peace corps