July 17, 2003 - Fairfax Times Community: Ecuador RPCVs Donald and Pat Clausen retire, plan to work with poor in Central America

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Peace Corps Ecuador : The Peace Corps in Ecuador: July 17, 2003 - Fairfax Times Community: Ecuador RPCVs Donald and Pat Clausen retire, plan to work with poor in Central America

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Ecuador RPCVs Donald and Pat Clausen retire, plan to work with poor in Central America

Ecuador RPCVs Donald and Pat Clausen retire, plan to work with poor in Central America

Former Annandale principal headed for goodwill mission to Central America
By Frank Mustac

One would think that after 35 years as an educator, recently retired Annandale High School Principal Donald Clausen would be content to retreat to some balmy destination, collect a pension and just take it easy.

Clausen, a recipient of a national honor in 2002 called the MetLife Foundation Bridge Builders award, and his wife, Pat, are making arrangements to travel to the warmer climes of Central America, but not to retire.

Instead, the couple, who first met in 1967 as Peace Corps volunteers in Ecuador, is planning to live and work for an extended period of time with some of the poor and disadvantaged people of Central America.

"We'll probably sell our house," Clausen said. "We haven't decided on that yet."

Clausen, who has already taken a number of delegation trips to the region, accompanied the human rights organization Witness for Peace in 1990 as an election observer in Nicaragua. In 1994, he again acted as an observer with the same organization, this time in El Salvador.

"I get more out of it than I can possibly give," said Clausen, 60, about his visits to Latin America.

"You gain a great deal of inspiration from these people who should not have any faith or hope for their future, but they do," he said. "They're just hard-working folks."

In Nicaragua, Clausen recalled a powerful and moving encounter with a group of female political advocates.

"Women have emerged as a strong force in Nicaragua, replacing the men who are [dead and] gone," he said. "They are all women who lost their husbands and families in civil war."

The women told him they could not forget the atrocities that took place, but that they were willing to forgive and determined to work, persevere and not give up on society.

The delegation trips Clausen has taken in the past were associated with faith-based organizations. Clausen insists, however, that he and his wife, who is a nurse practitioner, are not evangelists.

Having already narrowed down their choices to two or three faith-based groups for their upcoming trip, Clausen said he and Pat plan to volunteer in the area of health care.

While in Central America, Clausen has often found himself explaining to inhabitants the difference between the U.S. government and the American people.

"Our government is not always looked upon in the best light in Central America," he said.

The United States seems to always come to the rescue in events like Hurricane Mitch, which severely damaged much of Honduras and parts of El Salvador and Nicaragua in 1998, Clausen said.

"Once we get done, [however], we walk away," Clausen said. "I don't think, as a country, we've learned our lesson of staying out or being involved in a positive way."

With unemployment hovering around 60 percent in both El Salvador and Nicaragua, Clausen hopes the U.S. government will send more economic aid and less military assistance to those countries and the rest of the region.

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Story Source: Fairfax Times Community

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecudaor; Service; Older Volunteers



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