April 18, 2003 - Albany Democrat-Herald: Czech native Pavla Zakova-Laney serves in US Peace Corps in Cameroon

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Czech Republic: The Peace Corps in the Czech Republic: April 18, 2003 - Albany Democrat-Herald: Czech native Pavla Zakova-Laney serves in US Peace Corps in Cameroon

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, April 18, 2003 - 5:53 pm: Edit Post

Czech native Pavla Zakova-Laney serves in US Peace Corps in Cameroon

Czech native Pavla Zakova-Laney serves in US Peace Corps in Cameroon

Czech native pursues a new course

Albany resident, who helps children in Africa, to teach LBCC Czech, dance classes

Albany Democrat-Herald

Pavla Zakova-Laney moved to Oregon in November 1999. She brought with her a love of ballroom dancing, a passion for educating the children of Cameroon, Africa, and a fluency in Czech, her native language.

This winter at Linn-Benton Community College, Zakova-Laney will teach Czech for Travelers, International Ballroom Dancing and Quickstep. These three classes will help sustain her as she raises money for the non-profit organization, Educare Africa, which she started after serving in the Peace Corps as a teacher.

Zakova-Laney lived the first 33 years of her life in the Czech Republic. Her interest in ballroom dancing started in high school.

"In Europe, it is an old tradition that in the second year of high school, every student takes ballroom dancing," she says. "It was not only to learn how to dance, but for etiquette."

Flourishing in the experience, Zakova-Laney got a job at a ballroom dancing school and began to dance competitively after high school. For 15 years, she traveled to other socialist countries to participate in international ballroom competitions. She danced with a large troupe that performed 11 different ballroom dances. Zakova-Laney says she loved them all, and won many awards.

"I was very blessed because I had a very good dance partner," she says.

When she moved to the United States, Zakova-Laney spent 10 years on the East Coast learning English and getting a college degree.

She joined the Peace Corps because she had always wanted to be involved in that kind of work. Stationed in Cameroon, Africa, as a teacher, she experienced something she never had before.

"I wanted to help where I could be of use," Zakova-Laney says. "Cameroon was heaven for me. They appreciate everything so much. I had never before experienced such unconditional love and joy."

However, Zakova-Laney returned from Cameroon determined to do more to help the children. She says that while the children are eager to learn, there is little money for school supplies, food, or rent and the schoolhouses have no electricity or running water.

Educare Africa's purpose is to raise money for school supplies and textbooks for children like those Zakova-Laney taught. Being president, executive director and full-time volunteer for the organization is rewarding for Zakova-Laney, but the fledgling organization has room for expansion. In the works are plans for a newsletter and Web site, and an assistant position with the organization.

(Donations to the organization can be made to Educare Africa, 950 Airport Road S.E., No. 102, Albany, Ore. 97321.)

Zakova-Laney has turned to teaching to help defray expenses incurred in her volunteer pursuits. That move has also made it possible to get back into ballroom dancing.

"I love it because it's good exercise, and a good way to meet people," she says.

Zakova-Laney wasn't even aware at first that she could also teach people to speak Czech.

"It did not occur to me that people might be interested in learning Czech," Zakova-Laney says. "But people have begun to visit the Czech Republic more and more."

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Story Source: Albany Democrat-Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Czech Republic; Cameroon; Dancing



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