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Peace Corps volunteer wanted to do good, pursue adventure
20 April 2007

Manila, Philippines: The last entry in Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell's weblog or blog said she was "buhay pa," a Filipino phrase for "still alive."

The 13 January posting, which detailed her experiences surviving a massive typhoon, explained that she quickly adopted the phrase soon after arriving in the country two years ago, calling it the most familiar response when Filipinos are asked how they are doing.

On Wednesday, soldiers found her body in a shallow grave in the northern Philippines, where she had been hiking solo.

Campbell's family has said the daughter of a former U.S. Marine captain was an "alert and careful traveler," not easily duped by people with "malevolent intent."

"She knows how to look out for herself. Julia Campbell is not an easy target," the family said in a profile they put together during the 10-day search for her.

A former long-distance runner, the 40-year-old Campbell had worked as freelance journalist for The New York Times, Fox.com, CourtTV.com, People magazine and Star magazine. In December, she contributed a story for CNN after supertyphoon Durian devastated Albay province, where she was working as an English teacher.

Her family said she was a certified yoga instructor who loved to sample different cultures — traveling extensively throughout Europe, Morocco, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam — and a caring person who would give away her last cent to anyone in need, working as Red Cross volunteer after 9/11.

"These qualities and the many others she embodies led her to embrace her most recent career choice to join the Peace Corps," her family said.

In a May 27, 2005, blog entry — two weeks before she was officially sworn in as a volunteer — Campbell anticipated the "beginning of my journey here" where she will "no longer have the comfort of fellow Americans within reach."

"I will be left to my own devices in a strange place with people and a culture I barely know. Though it is both terrifying and exciting, I look forward to finally starting what I came here to do: to immerse myself in a foreign culture, speak the language and try to do some good in the world," she wrote. "Let the games begin."

Campbell earned an English degree from James Madison University and was accepted into the Wagner's Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy program at New York University. She had intended to begin postgraduate studies this fall.

She taught English at the Divine World College in Legazpi city in Albay province, southeast of Manila, during the second term, beginning in October 2006.

Her immediate superior, Assistant Dean Nora Gallano of the school's College of Liberal Arts, called her a kind, generous, friendly person who was dedicated to her work.

"Everybody likes her," she said.

Campbell earlier worked at Donsol High School in nearby Sorosogon province, where she helped restock its library by mobilizing friends and relatives in a campaign she called "A Book and A Buck."

She also helped launch an ecology awareness campaign and build an Eco Center in Donsol, which has been attracting tourists to watch the whale sharks that visit the fishing town in December-June.

Last November, she weathered supertyphoon Durian, one of the strongest storms to hit the country in recent years. It killed more than 1,000 people as it slammed into Legazpi and sent tons of debris cascading down the slopes of the Mayon volcano.

"For a few minutes there, as the flood waters rushed inside my little apartment on Marquez Street, I wondered, 'Is this the way it's going to be?' I'll drown right here inside my tiny apartment far away from my family and friends?" she wrote in her January blog.

She said her neighborhood was hit by a flash flood "carrying cars, refrigerators and rooftops before our eyes. But we, of course, were the lucky ones."

Afterward, Campbell and other Peace Corps volunteers helped residents of Padang village, which was wiped out. They became "celebrities to the hundreds of kids there," she said.

In December, she helped organize Christmas gifts for the children, giving away flip-flops, T-shirts, toys and some household gifts that friends and family donated.

"We all had a lot of fun and it was good to see the kids laugh again," she said.