Profile: Dana Carson and Ed Chew
Some Peace Corps Volunteers live and work in the same community. Nestled in the rural central mountain region of Nicaragua, Dana Carson and Ed Chew are teaching people about soil conservation. Planting live barriers with trees and different grasses prevents soil erosion along the steep hillsides, where local villagers plant crops of coffee, and banana and plantain trees. "These efforts have helped to stabilize their traditional crops. In addition, we are introducing new produce such as tomato, onion, and cabbage. Because people tend to eat these vegetables with meals, farmers have been receptive to these new elements," says Dana.
Helping farmers has been rewarding and challenging, as Ed discovered early in his service. "When I first arrived, a woman approached me with a rotted watermelon and said, 'What plague destroyed my watermelon?' I quickly learned that people either have little faith that you can help them, or they think you are an expert." Both Ed and Dana confess to not knowing every answer, but they are committed to helping farmers find the answers they need.
During training, Dana and Ed worked with Nicaraguan agronomists six days a week and developed a support network of experts they can call upon when they discover a challenging agricultural issue. They have also arranged to receive refresher training twice a month, as well as circulate an agriculture magazine where they can share techniques and tips with other agricultural workers. "We like to share ideas," says Ed, "and often someone has already discovered a solution to the problem you are currently working on."
Both Dana and Ed have learned to adapt to this subsistence farming community. "You get to know everybody, one person at a time," says Dana. "It's a slow process, but soon you are everybody's daughter, niece, or sister." Peace Corps Volunteers often feel as though they are an integral part of their community, and Dana and Ed are no exception. "We only hope we can feel this sense of community when we return to the States."
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