A 25-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer from Atlanta, Ga., died on Saturday, April 28 after falling ill during her service in Ghana, according to a Peace Corps press release.
Danielle Dunlap was just six months away from finishing her two-year commitment as a health volunteer. The exact nature of her illness was not revealed in the press release.
“Dani was a widely respected and ambitious Peace Corps volunteer who was an exceptional role model for the youth in Jukwa Krobo,” Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said in the release. “The entire Peace Corps family is grieving over this tragic loss. During this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Dani’s loved ones and her community both here and in Ghana.”
“Dani” arrived in Ghana in June of 2011 along with a group of other volunteers for two months of intensive training for her two-year Peace Corps assignment. She and 69 other trainees were sworn in as volunteers in on August 30 of that year at the residence of the U.S. to Ghana as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Peace Corps in Ghana. The focus of Dani’s community outreach activities included nutrition, HIV/AIDS and malaria awareness, and sanitation.
Peace Corps staff in Ghana said Dani’s “boundless energy and enthusiasm endeared her to her community in Ghana, and that she was proud of her role as a volunteer trainer, helping to mentor newly arrived volunteers in the projects to which she was so devoted.”
Born in Germany, Dani’s love for all things international began long before her days as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She studied abroad in South Korea and Haiti, where she learned Korean and Spanish. She attended Brown University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience in 2010. As a student, she was active in planning and hosting events for prospective minority students as a minority recruitment intern. She was also a swim instructor for students with asthma.
Dani’s passion for being a world citizen was especially apparent in a first-person account of the tragic earthquake in Haiti in 2010. In Today at Brown, she wrote that Haiti was her home away from Brown, as her mother was serving as a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince at the time. Dani described how her last night in Haiti was met by one of the most devastating natural disasters in history and how she wasn’t able to help.
“As a pre-med student, I found it excruciating to watch panicked, injured people and not be able to comfort and assist them,” she wrote. “We had no medical supplies, not even a Band-aid or water.”
Though the priority was for Dani and her mother to leave the country safely, her heart was with the people of Haiti.
My mother and I were able to leave Haiti that evening. As we headed to the airport, I looked up at the beautiful mountains. I was going back to Brown to finish my senior year. I would have three meals a day, running water, and electricity. But what about the Haitian people? We soon found out: An outpouring of help was on the way for them.
We boarded a massive Coast Guard plane that carried about 70 people. The propellers produced so much gust and hot air, we had to walk at a specific angle to get on, and it was hard to breathe due to the heat. The plane took us to the Dominican Republic for the night, and then we all went our separate ways – in our case, to Atlanta. What happened in Haiti this winter will be etched in our souls, our minds, and our hearts.
“Etched in our souls, our minds, and our hearts,” are likely the words those closest to Dani will think when they reflect on her short but incredible life on this earth.