2007.03.02: March 2, 2007: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Small Business: Las Cruces Sun-News: Peace Corps Volunteer David Martinez arrived in Bolivia in August 2004 with the goal of promoting small business development

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : Peace Corps Bolivia: New Stories: 2007.03.02: March 2, 2007: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Small Business: Las Cruces Sun-News: Peace Corps Volunteer David Martinez arrived in Bolivia in August 2004 with the goal of promoting small business development

By Admin1 (admin) (ppp-70-249-83-39.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - 70.249.83.39) on Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 12:24 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer David Martinez arrived in Bolivia in August 2004 with the goal of promoting small business development

Peace Corps Volunteer David Martinez arrived in Bolivia in August 2004 with the goal of promoting small business development

After months of work and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, he secured $8,500 from the federal government a large sum to the impoverished community. Martinez said the money soon caught the attention of the town's mayor, who wanted to re-appropriate it toward a racquetball court for himself and friends. Martinez threw a wrench in the mayor's plans, however, by gaining support from other councilors to keep the funds for the landfill. At one point, a group of residents approached Martinez, asking him to lead a coup, unseat the mayor and take the position himself. Martinez declined. "I told them ... I'd be kicked out of the Peace Corps ... (and), I felt they needed to take their destiny in their own hands," he said. The villagers eventually decided not to oust the mayor. Martinez said their request was "humbling," however, because it showed they'd come to trust him. Martinez said the experience sparked a new career path public administration. "I want to be able to give them an answer" to questions about how to improve government, he said. "I feel my strengths and passions lie with being a public servant because that, in the end, is what it's about service."

Peace Corps Volunteer David Martinez arrived in Bolivia in August 2004 with the goal of promoting small business development

Peace Corps proves an eye-opening experience for Mayfield graduate

By Diana M. Alba Sun-News reporter

Article Launched: 03/02/2007 01:00:00 AM MST

LAS CRUCES Fending off a greedy town mayor and inspiring villagers toward a coup wasn't in the job description when Mayfield High School alum David Martinez signed up for a stint in the Peace Corps.

But they're two tales of many the 24-year-old brought home to Las Cruces last December when he returned after two years of service.

Monday marked the start of National Peace Corps Week, meant to highlight the volunteer program.

Martinez arrived in Bolivia in August 2004 with the goal of promoting small business development. However, after six months in the 400-person village of Chuquisaca, it soon became apparent he'd make little headway toward the goal. He shifted gears, working instead toward a different but much-needed village project: a sanitary landfill.

"The old system was basically a dump site. It was just an area they got used to dumping the trash at," he said. "It was right on the edge of a cliff, so when the wind came, it would blow the garbage into the river. That river was their source of drinking water."

In addition to causing drinking-water problems, he said, the garbage polluted crops, which stunted production. Yet another worry was that children played in the dump, which contained medical waste and other hazards.

Martinez, who holds a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Arizona, had no civil engineering experience but soon learned much about construction landfills. After months of work and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, he secured $8,500 from the federal government a large sum to the impoverished community.

Martinez said the money soon caught the attention of the town's mayor, who wanted to re-appropriate it toward a racquetball court for himself and friends. Martinez threw a wrench in the mayor's plans, however, by gaining support from other councilors to keep the funds for the landfill.

At one point, a group of residents approached Martinez, asking him to lead a coup, unseat the mayor and take the position himself. Martinez declined.

"I told them ... I'd be kicked out of the Peace Corps ... (and), I felt they needed to take their destiny in their own hands," he said.

The villagers eventually decided not to oust the mayor. Martinez said their request was "humbling," however, because it showed they'd come to trust him.

Martinez said the experience sparked a new career path public administration.

"I want to be able to give them an answer" to questions about how to improve government, he said. "I feel my strengths and passions lie with being a public servant because that, in the end, is what it's about service."

Martinez's work resulted in a new landfill, which became operational last September. Though not high-tech, he said, it's got a 20-year lifespan and basic safeguards that will prevent the problems of the old dump. He also helped set up curricula for computer education in his town.

Martinez is one of 304 Las Crucens who have served in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961, said Peace Corps spokeswoman Casey Tolson. Nine Las Crucens are currently serving, she said.

In total, 187,000 Americans have participated in the program, meant to promote understanding between nations and provide expertise to developing countries, according to a Peace Corps facts sheet. Volunteers specialize in education, health and agriculture, among other fields.

A list of former volunteers locally includes Karen Perez, chairwoman of the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners, and Phil King, water engineer for the Elephant Butte Irrigation District. Las Crucen Chelsea Eastman, a 2004 graduate of New Mexico State University, recently returned from a two-year stint in Guinea, Africa.

Alamogordo resident and NMSU alum Ronny Diaz, 50, spent 1979-81 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica and Guatemala.

"It really changed my life," he said. "It gave me an opportunity to see how other people in under-developed parts of the world lived. It made me appreciate what we here in the United States have and what we have created as a country."

Diaz promoted soil conservation techniques among farmers. He also met his wife, a native of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where he worked. The two have been married for nearly 25 years.

Diaz became fluent in Spanish and "Walked away with many more benefits than I left," he said.

"One thing we're tying to do is to ... inform the community of the importance of the role of Peace Corps and the wonderful opportunities it offers ... to go to other countries to learn language and culture," said Diaz of Peace Corps Week.

Martinez, who's applying to graduate school at several prestigious universities, agreed his Peace Corps stint was enjoyable, though not easy.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and probably the most rewarding thing I'll ever do," he said.

Diana M. Alba can be reached at dalba@lcsun-news.com



Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: March, 2007; Peace Corps Bolivia; Directory of Bolivia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Bolivia RPCVs; Small Business





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Story Source: Las Cruces Sun-News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bolivia; Small Business

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