, Port Arthur, Texas

September 12, 2007

Local woman survives strangling while serving in Peace Corps

Mary Meaux

Local grandmother Remedios Hernaez has been crying a lot lately.

The retired guidance counselor’s granddaughter, Darlene Hernaez, is a recent Peace Corps trainee who is busy teaching school in Mongolia. Last week the 22-year-old was strangled and robbed in the foreign country. A good Samaritan, who is actually a teacher at the school, came along soon afterwards and saved the young woman.

“She is the baby, she is so young,” Remedios Hernaez said while crying. “We want her to come home, to quit the Peace Corps.”

Darlene Hernaez was featured in a May Port Arthur News article as she prepared for a two year relocation to Mongolia. She said “it’s been a lifelong dream” to join the Peace Corps and added that while growing up she would look at Peace Corps volunteers as saving the world. She now knows she won’t change the world, but that she can make a difference, she said in the May article.

Darlene Hernaez summed up her reasons for wanting to join the Corps, saying she is “proud to be a Filipino and adopted by a wonderful country.”

“I was educated here and everyone shared those gifts so freely,” she explained in the May issue. “It’s not an option for me. I want to be a beacon. I’m inspired to learn about the Mongolian culture and open my eyes more. I’m definitely going to miss modern conveniences like toilet paper, but I’m an adventurous girl.”

The young woman was born in the Philippine Islands and moved to Port Arthur with her family when she was 3 years old. She is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin with a bachelor of science degree in corporate communication studies.

The grandmother said her spirits have been lifted by the prayers offered at her church and the prayers of others who also worry about the young woman.

“She’s wanting to give back to others what America has given to her,” the grandmother said. “But we don’t want her to sacrifice her life.”