February 2, 2004 - The Hawk Eye: Mallory Smith had spent five years in Honduras in the 1980s, two as a Peace Corps volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Honduras: Peace Corps Honduras: The Peace Corps in Honduras: February 2, 2004 - The Hawk Eye: Mallory Smith had spent five years in Honduras in the 1980s, two as a Peace Corps volunteer

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Mallory Smith had spent five years in Honduras in the 1980s, two as a Peace Corps volunteer

Mallory Smith had spent five years in Honduras in the 1980s, two as a Peace Corps volunteer

Living and learning


WAPELLO — In the fall of 1998, Mallory Smith was running a jewelry store in West Liberty — but her heart was in Honduras.

The Central American country was under assault that October from Hurricane Mitch. Homes toppled before 180–mile–per–hour winds. Towns disappeared beneath mud slides. More than 10,000 people died.

Smith had spent five years in Honduras in the 1980s, two as a Peace Corps volunteer. The country's new anguish set her to work. She hawked handmade angels from Central America at her store, dedicating all the money to the hurricane effort.

She then arranged for officials from the agricultural college in Honduras where she had once worked to purchase 100 chickens for each of three elementary schools. The chickens would supply eggs and meat, which the schools could either sell or use for food.

It was not relief, it was development. And for Smith, the first director of economic development in Louisa County, it was the best way to help.

"The thing about Peace Corps and about development work is it's more of an attitude you promote," Smith said Monday, the first day of national Peace Corps Week. "The next person builds on what you began."

That next person will arrive in less than a year. Smith is in Louisa County for an 11–month paid internship, the final hurdle to earning a master of business administration degree at Western Illinois University. She attends the university free of charge through the Peace Corps Fellows program.

Her arrival in January coincided with the formation of the Louisa Development Group, a collection of business and government leaders trying to drag the isolated county forward after years of stagnation.

Smith continues to live in West Liberty with her husband and three children, commuting daily to her office at the Louisa County Conservation Board headquarters. Her job, as she sees it, is to "set the processes" for development group operations.

"I would never be so presumptuous as to say we're going to do economic development this year," she said. "Building the foundation of the house is different than doing the finishing work. My focus will probably be organizational development: How does the board work? How does the committee work? How do we work with the community as a whole."

Louisa County supervisor Ken Purdy was a leader in the development group's formation. He described Smith as energetic, upbeat and "very knowledgeable about economic development."

"In her own words, she says she's not going to do anything for the county that doesn't raise income and increases the tax levy," Purdy said. "That's the right angle to start from, in my mind."

The real question for Louisa County is what businesses and industries are a good fit for the rural landscape. Smith and Purdy believe the future lies with medium–sized, satellite manufacturers supplying larger plants in the area. Both mentioned S&J Tubes Inc., which employs about 100 people making hoses for HON Industries in Muscatine.

The Louisa Development Group has raised about $15,000 for operations, the bulk through donations from area utility companies. Grant writers from Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission are applying for another $10,000.

But even if that grant comes through, the development group will need about $100,000 more over the next five years to stay afloat.

Despite her focus on foundation building, Smith knows she will have to show some results to keep the money flowing. Toward that end, she is concentrating on what she calls the "low–hanging fruit."

"It's the basic things," she said. "Like getting a phone number listed, or creating a Web site or a county brochure. I did a media guide for the non–profits."

And maybe, just maybe, some new jobs will spring up in the county during her tenure.

While she was in Honduras, Smith taught English to orphans. But she also taught them how to cook. She volunteered one day a week at the agriculture school and, in exchange, was allowed to take a horse to a neighboring orphanage for disabled children. Later, she oversaw guest services at the ag school program.

Since returning to the United States, Smith has run the jewelry store, taught cooking at New Pioneer Co–op in Iowa City and managed a fair trade store in the same town.

Why list such occupations? Because their diversity explains her approach to her new job. And to life.

"I don't mind trying things and failing," she said. "If you look at my resume, I like starting things. Part of that is, you go a little ways, you pause and re–evaluate, and then you redirect. That's not necessarily the job of a perfectionist."

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Story Source: The Hawk Eye

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



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