January 8, 2004 - American-Republican: Peace Corps Volunteer Norah Dunn shares experiences of living, working in Guatemala

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: The Peace Corps in Guatemala: January 8, 2004 - American-Republican: Peace Corps Volunteer Norah Dunn shares experiences of living, working in Guatemala

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Peace Corps Volunteer Norah Dunn shares experiences of living, working in Guatemala

Peace Corps Volunteer Norah Dunn shares experiences of living, working in Guatemala

Peace Corps career path
Pomperaug grad shares experiences of living, working in Guatemala

Thursday, January 08, 2004

By Kevin Tampone
© 2004 Republican-American

SOUTHBURY Guatemalan children had never seen anyone quite like Norah Dunn when she first arrived there with the Peace Corps in January 2003.

"One little girl asked if I was an angel because I was so white," said Dunn, who tends to stick out in Guatemala thanks to her fair skin, blond hair and the fact that she stands about a foot taller than almost everyone else. "The first day I was there, the children would all run up and touch me to see if I was real and then just run away again."

Dunn, who graduated from Pomperaug High School in 1997, returned to her alma mater Wednesday to talk with students about her experiences. She goes back to Guatemala on Saturday for the second leg of her two-year stay.

Guatemala is a Central American nation sandwiched in with Mexico,

Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Its more than 12 million people include those of Spanish and native descent.

Dunn lives in a small village called San Andres Itzapa, which is at the base of a volcano. She works at schools in even smaller mountain villages. Some are on the side of the volcano, which occasionally billows smoke during the school day.

She lives on about $200 a month, which is what an average Guatemalan teacher makes. She spends most of her time teaching health classes in a place where most people never advance beyond third grade.

Many Guatemalans have a poor diet, which results in numerous health problems.

In the United States, "we learn it's important to do things like wash our hands before we eat and brush our teeth," Dunn said. "Most of my students haven't learned those things. Most of my students have parasites in their bellies or skin problems."

The conditions Dunn described surprised some of the students who she spoke to.

"It's so sad that even a simple thing like brushing your teeth doesn't happen for some kids," said Pomperaug student Stacy Davis of Middlebury. "It makes you want to go out and help and teach them."

But there's plenty in Guatemala that's beautiful, too, Dunn said.

During her talk, she wore a brightly colored, hand-woven skirt and top worn the country's native women. It can take up to three months to knit just the top, called a huipil.

Dunn also raved about the quality of the produce, especially a mango she once bought that was the size of a football.

"It sounds like a place with a lot of problems, but also a lot of cool stuff," said student Mark Rickman of Southbury. "I guess it shows you there's probably something good in just about every country out there."

Fostering that type of understanding is one of the main goals of the Peace Corps, Dunn said.

"Maybe if there were Peace Corps volunteers in Iraq years and years ago, maybe then they would understand us better and we would understand them better," she said. "Maybe then, we would have had a little more negotiation with them, but that's just my opinion."

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Story Source: American-Republican

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



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