2008.12.20: December 20, 2008: Headlines: COS - Guatemala: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: When Katie Trask joined the Peace Corps, she was assigned to a small town in Guatemala, but she didn't know a word of Spanish

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: Newest Stories: 2008.12.20: December 20, 2008: Headlines: COS - Guatemala: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: When Katie Trask joined the Peace Corps, she was assigned to a small town in Guatemala, but she didn't know a word of Spanish

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When Katie Trask joined the Peace Corps, she was assigned to a small town in Guatemala, but she didn't know a word of Spanish

When Katie Trask joined the Peace Corps, she was assigned to a small town in Guatemala, but she didn't know a word of Spanish

But before they returned, they visited with friends for a few weeks in Costa Rica, where Adam grew up. Then they stopped at a resort in Mexico for a short vacation. While the couple was swimming in the Pacific Ocean, Katie went under. Adam couldn't get to her and swam in to alert the lifeguards. They pulled her body from the surf but weren't able to save her. Katie's parents were overwhelmed not only with grief, but the red tape and expense of getting their daughter's body back for burial. Katie's benefits with the Peace Corps had ended 30 days after she finished her service. She and Adam hadn't been able to afford extended coverage. Luckily, the Trasks got the support of many people in the community who raised the money they needed to get Katie home. At the funeral, Paddock spoke of his admiration for Katie, then afterward he told the Trasks he would be spearheading a fund to build a school in Katie's honor. Within a few months, the fund had reached $20,000, enough for two schools. Instead of pieces of metal nailed to poles, the children would have red brick buildings with real windows and doors and a kitchen. In August 2007, the Trasks and Adam returned to El Durazno to attend the dedication of the first school. All of the students were lined up, waiting for them to arrive, and Katie's family went down the row and hugged each one. "It was probably the most wonderful vacation you could ever have, but I don't think I've ever cried quite as much as I did when I was there," Pat said. "They talked about her, and how much they loved her and how great she was, and they showed pictures and videos, and it was really tough." A local band played music, and the children performed a native dance. "It really was a fitting tribute to Katie," Pat said. Katie's father Mike was impressed with both the beautiful ceremony and the attitude of the people. "I didn't hear one anti-American anything while I was there," he said. "The people in the Peace Corps really do generate good will toward the United States in the world."

When Katie Trask joined the Peace Corps, she was assigned to a small town in Guatemala, but she didn't know a word of Spanish

Legacy of St. Louis area Peace Corps volunteer lives on

By Susan Weich

POST-DISPATCH COLUMNIST SUSAN WEICH IS BASED IN ST. CHARLES

12/21/2008

When Katie Trask joined the Peace Corps, she was assigned to a small town in Guatemala, but she didn't know a word of Spanish.

She relied on her husband Adam Kralik, who was fluent and who volunteered alongside her. But when he wasn't around, she just winged it.

"When I went there for a visit, we were buying some slippers, and Katie made a mistake with her Spanish," said her mother Pat Trask of St. Charles. "She just threw her head back and laughed, and everybody laughed with her. It didn't bother her a bit, but that was Katie she was a fun person."

Her Spanish improved, of course, as she spent more time there, but it was her fearless attitude that endeared Katie to the people she was helping.


She taught English to the children, but she also gave them hope. Even though they were entrenched in poverty, with an education they could get good jobs and do meaningful work, she told them.
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Michael Paddock, a Wisconsin engineer who has been volunteering in Guatemala for nine years, knew the couple, and he realized that the work Katie was doing was having an impact.

"When we would travel around to different villages and communities, she would gravitate toward the children, and the children always would gravitate toward her," Paddock said. "It was a little bit surprising because a lot of times the kids are pretty shy."

Katie was able to bond with the villagers and relate to them on a personal level, sharing in their joys and sorrows.

"She had the unusual ability to become part of the community really quickly and therefore influence the people," he said.

When the couple's two-year stint in the Peace Corps was over in August 2006, they decided that as much as they loved Guatemala, it was time to get back to their home in Overland.

Katie, 25, and Adam, 28, had graduated from Northwest Missouri State University, but they wanted to go back to school. Adam wanted to get a master's degree in engineering, and Katie wanted to be a child psychologist.

But before they returned, they visited with friends for a few weeks in Costa Rica, where Adam grew up. Then they stopped at a resort in Mexico for a short vacation.

While the couple was swimming in the Pacific Ocean, Katie went under. Adam couldn't get to her and swam in to alert the lifeguards. They pulled her body from the surf but weren't able to save her.

Katie's parents were overwhelmed not only with grief, but the red tape and expense of getting their daughter's body back for burial.

Katie's benefits with the Peace Corps had ended 30 days after she finished her service. She and Adam hadn't been able to afford extended coverage.

Luckily, the Trasks got the support of many people in the community who raised the money they needed to get Katie home.

At the funeral, Paddock spoke of his admiration for Katie, then afterward he told the Trasks he would be spearheading a fund to build a school in Katie's honor.

Within a few months, the fund had reached $20,000, enough for two schools. Instead of pieces of metal nailed to poles, the children would have red brick buildings with real windows and doors and a kitchen.

In August 2007, the Trasks and Adam returned to El Durazno to attend the dedication of the first school.

All of the students were lined up, waiting for them to arrive, and Katie's family went down the row and hugged each one.

"It was probably the most wonderful vacation you could ever have, but I don't think I've ever cried quite as much as I did when I was there," Pat said.

"They talked about her, and how much they loved her and how great she was, and they showed pictures and videos, and it was really tough."

A local band played music, and the children performed a native dance.

"It really was a fitting tribute to Katie," Pat said.

Katie's father Mike was impressed with both the beautiful ceremony and the attitude of the people.

"I didn't hear one anti-American anything while I was there," he said. "The people in the Peace Corps really do generate good will toward the United States in the world."

That got Mike thinking about the compensation for people like his daughter and Adam. This summer he wrote to senators Christopher "Kit" Bond and Claire McCaskill, and suggested that benefits be extended longer than 30 days to give them adequate time to get back and get jobs. So far no action has been taken.

With Christmas around the corner, the Trasks find themselves especially missing their bubbly daughter. She loved the holiday season and got them all in the right frame of mind, they said.

"We baked, we bought gifts, we wrapped them, we watched movies, we listened to Christmas music," Pat said. "We laughed a lot."




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Story Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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