Interview SummaryLaura Goldman served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (Health, Nutrition, and Community Technology programs) in Ecuador from 1973 – 1978. She was born in the Bronx, NY and at age 11 her family moved to Maryland in the suburban D.C. area. Dedicated local volunteers, Laura’s parents were role models for "tikkun olam," the Jewish mandate to help repair the world. As a rising high school senior, Laura was chosen for an exchange program in the state of Hidalgo in Mexico. This was the first of Laura’s many cross-cultural adventures and experiences. After graduating in 1968 with a BA degree from the University of Maryland, Laura taught high school Spanish. On one summer break, she traveled to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to visit friends at a cholera research project. When she found an around-the-world ticket that was only a few dollars more, Laura added stops in Europe and Asia to her itinerary. After that travel adventure, Laura decided to leave her teaching position and took a temporary job with The Experiment in International Living, leading a group of high school students to Mexico for study and family stays. While there, Laura met a group of Peace Corps trainees (the only time training took place in Mexico), and a year later visited one of the volunteers in Ecuador at the start of her loosely planned trip through South America. (They are still friends as well as neighbors!) Inspired by the people, traditions, and beauty of the northern Andes and the work of Peace Corps volunteers she met, Laura joined Peace Corps Ecuador while in country and began working with women in gardening and artisan goods projects. Then a new opportunity arose: a village-based methane gas/nutrition/health project to use family cows to produce gas for cooking and as garden fertilizer. Laura didn’t hesitate and began working with and learning from the women, an involvement that brought home the importance of listening to people, especially when affected by proposed changes. For example, before being used to transport methane gas to homes, pipes had to be pressure tested with water. Once project participants realized the flowing water meant they wouldn’t have to haul buckets from a distance, piped-in methane gas lost high priority. Everyone wanted water in their homes (a luxury), and together we decided methane gas would be used for cooking in a communal area near the digester where cows were pastured during the day. Laura also served as an informal community health worker in the largely Quechua-speaking village. Although the village was known widely for midwives and bone healers, people often asked for advice about medical issues, such as infections, fevers, and childhood illnesses, and expressed a deep lack of trust in “modern” health care and an almost universal belief that hospitals are where people go to die. A life-changing experience happened when Laura accompanied a woman and her severely dehydrated infant to the local hospital after the mother was finally convinced that the child needed immediate help. After waiting for hours in the hospital corridor, Laura saw first-hand the disrespectful way indigenous people were treated, even though many mestizo families in town counted on and consulted traditional expertise. Fortunately, the baby survived. Laura began collecting and cataloging a wealth of health-related knowledge in the community, focusing on the binary concepts of hot and cold, wet and dry, essential aspects of maintaining balance for good health, treating illness and injury, and governing behavior in life states, such as pregnancy and birth. After completing her Peace Corps service and field research, Laura returned to the U.S. and earned a Master of Arts in Medical Anthropology from Goddard College, based on her community work and book-length thesis Perspectives of Balance: A Study of Health Traditions in Ilumán, Ecuador. In 1979, Laura accepted a job as a program developer and instructor for a Peace Corps training program in Appropriate Technology at the Farallones Institute Rural Center in Occidental, California. She also worked internationally as a consultant in community health and resilience for Peace Corps and non-governmental organizations. Laura served on the faculty of World College West as a health counselor and World Study director, and after years of teaching, is now retired from the Community Health Worker Certificate Program at Santa Rosa Junior College. With over 30 years of service, Laura is now an emerita Board member of West County Health Centers. She is on the Occidental Community Council and a designated neighborhood leader in the community-wide, action-oriented organization, FireSafe Occidental, and also a volunteer for Food for Thought, a local food bank. Laura is also a member of Sebastopol World Friends, which sponsors Sister City projects in Ukraine and Japan, with the motto: “World peace, one friend at a time”. She hosts Laura’s Living Room on KOWS community radio, a weekly show of music, interviews and local news, streaming worldwide at www.kowsfm.com. Since 1986, Laura and her husband have owned and operated Solar Works, Sonoma County’s longest–established solar contracting business. When not volunteering or traveling to Puerto Rico and other favorite places, Laura enjoys gardening, hiking, practicing tai chi, and enjoying the beauty of their home in rural paradise. Laura’s life is a reflection of deeply held values, nurtured by Peace Corps service and the mandate she grew up with to help repair the world. With amazement and pleasure, Laura celebrates long-lasting friendships forged within the community of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.