Ann Arborite Paula Dana
After school, she says, she was ready to do something "adventuresome." The Peace Corps, she says, "gobbled me up right away" when they saw that vet tech degree. "I had a go-with-the-flow attitude," she says. "I told them 'I'll go wherever you want me to go.'" So she was sent to a mud hut in the middle of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
There, she worked with cattle farmers to improve livestock practices--leaving from her hut by motorcycle on a Tuesday and returning on a Friday, visiting a circuit of villages in between. She taught feeding techniques, animal husbandry, and delivered meds for the cattle. To be "a young white woman from across the world" working with men in "the middle of nowhere" was life-changing. "The toughest job you'll ever love," she says, quoting a Peace Corps recruiting pitch. She loved it so much that she extended her commitment to work with hundreds of volunteers from five different tribes to build a hydro-powered mill--including "a mini-Panama canal" to deliver water--that processed corn, millet, and other grains for 10,000 villagers. "I hope it is still there in some capacity," she says, lamenting the violence and extreme poverty that now plague the area.
A year after returning home, Dana was drawn back to Africa, this time with a church group. She spent two years in Tanzania, aiding women in small animal husbandry practices. It was in Africa, she says, that she developed her life philosophy: adapt, innovate, and overcome. "It's going to be my next tattoo," she declares.