June 21, 1999 - Juneau Empire: Peace Corps worker Elizabeth Cuadra returns from Nepal

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: June 21, 1999 - Juneau Empire: Peace Corps worker Elizabeth Cuadra returns from Nepal

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Peace Corps worker Elizabeth Cuadra returns from Nepal

Peace Corps worker Elizabeth Cuadra returns from Nepal

Elizabeth Cuadra
Peace Corps worker returns from Nepal


A Juneau master gardener satisfied an urge for world travel and found a use for her skills helping farmers in the Kingdom of Nepal.

Elizabeth Cuadra recently returned from two years and three months as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, a mostly mountainous country between India and China. She worked with the Nepal government as a horticultural extension worker.

``It was a good experience for me, and I certainly did learn more than I taught,'' Cuadra said.

She said she gained ``a tremendous amount of confidence'' in herself. She was able to come into an unfamiliar country, learn what the people's needs and wants were, and find out how to get the resources to help them, she said.

But it wasn't just an exchange of agricultural knowledge. Cuadra came away impressed with Nepalese culture, a more relaxed pace of life and their love for children.

``Only once in all the time I was there did I ever hear a child acting up and being obnoxious,'' she said.

A Nepalese farmer prepares the yarn to go onto a loom for a course in handicrafts.
Children she met on the footpaths called her auntie. Her landlady in Dhankuta watched over her like a mother. And the farmers welcomed her, she said.

``I was always happiest when I was out in the field with the farmers doing the direct interaction,'' Cuadra said.

The Peace Corps matches volunteers' skills with the recipient country's needs. Now retired, Cuadra learned that her careers as an engineer and attorney weren't a match.

But Cuadra had taught English as a second language and she had a long history of growing vegetables. She grew up on a Kansas farm and is a certified master gardener.

``I enjoy nature,'' Cuadra said. ``I enjoy flowers. I love watching things grow.''

Some of what she learned in her Juneau garden was useful in Nepal. But she also studied Nepalese agriculture ``like crazy.''

Many Nepal farmers grow food for subsistence on farms of a couple of acres and sell what little is left over in local markets, Cuadra said. Few farms are mechanized. Farmers rely on water buffalo as plows and intense human labor from both sexes.

Cuadra, often trekking by foot to farms in the hills, helped farmers find better ways to grow vegetables in the off-season, so they could sell their products when markets weren't flooded with produce.

Among other projects, Cuadra showed farmers how to use leguminous plants such as beans to replace nitrogen in the soil. She helped organize a project to train farm women to make shoulder bags from wool yarns, so they'd have a source of cash besides selling trees for firewood.

Cuadra integrated education and agriculture in her projects, said John C. Ladley, an associate Peace Corps director of natural resources in Kathmandu, Nepal.

She taught English conversation classes in a village school and connected those students through a pen-pal program to a sixth-grade class in Sitka.

``I think both groups of kids got a tremendous eye-opening about another part of the world,'' Cuadra said.

The Nepal and Sitka students exchanged letters, photographs, drawings and gifts, said Lynne Chassin-Kelly, a teacher at Blatchley Middle School. ``It was such a positive, wonderful, worldly experience for everyone involved.''

The Peace Corps has about 6,700 volunteers and trainees. Seven percent are more than 50 years old, and about half of those are more than 60.

``I know there are a lot of retired people who want to get in deeper and learn about the problem and maybe try to help a little along the way,'' Cuadra said.

Interested people can call 1-800-424-8580 or look at the Web site at www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.

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Story Source: Juneau Empire

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal



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