SOW: Carmel Alpha September 15, 2008
Student gains valuable lessons from task in Paraguay village
It was frustrating at first, but after a couple weeks, Carmel Alpha stopped sweating the small stuff.
The villagers to whom she volunteered her summer in Paraguay take things at a much slower, tranquil pace than Americans do, she said.
It was frustrating at first to have people constantly show up late for appointments, she said, but after returning to the United States, it was even more draining to pull herself out of the slow pace she had gotten used to.
“I really started to appreciate it,” Alpha said.
The Fruita Monument High School senior spent two months during the summer in a tiny village in central Paraguay building latrines and trash cans and holding general health and sanitation classes for the townspeople.
For Alpha, the experience tapped into her desire to live and work abroad after college, while indulging in her love of Spanish culture. By the end of her trip, Alpha said, the local children were calling her their “Barbie doll,” and the village families referred to her as “daughter.”
Despite her enthusiasm, Alpha said the abject poverty she suddenly found herself experiencing firsthand was difficult to deal with.
“Everything has to be built from the basics,” Alpha said. “Everyone was so nice and always wanted us over for dinner, but that one meal would be most of their food.”
Luxury in that Paraguay village amounted to living in a home with a finished floor and a working stove and eating more than just bread every day, Alpha said.
A far more common household could have as many as 17 children under a steel roof, she said, with a bathroom that is little more than a hole in the ground.
While staying in Paraguay, Alpha said she met the United States’ ambassador to the country, and she spurred
Alpha’s interest in pursuing international work as a career, but Alpha must finish high school first.
Alpha keeps her afternoons occupied in Fruita Monument’s auditorium as she and the rest of the cast of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged” put the final touches on the production.
“I got into drama on a whim,” she said. “Now it is basically a sport.”
The play, Alpha said, is a comedy about Shakespeare’s work, and the cast is only five people, so she will play a variety of characters.
Alpha also has worked her way up to co-managing editor of Fruita Monument’s student newspaper, The Catalyst, where she assists the paper’s reporters with story ideas and content development.
The paper will devote much of this semester to developing its Web site, which launched last year, Alpha said.
She said she likes journalism and writing, but math is much more interesting.
“It makes sense,” she said of math. “The rules never change.”
Parents: Bobbi and Sig Alpha.
Preferred college: University of Colorado-Boulder or Colorado State University.
Where she sees herself in five years: Starting a career abroad.
Favorite music: “Anything that’s fun to dance and makes me feel good,” she said.
Favorite TV show: “I don’t have enough time to have a favorite,” she said.
Hero: Her two older sisters, Kauai and Cambri, because they set good examples for her and always help her out.
She’s most proud of: The work she did in Paraguay this summer.