Interview with Karen Fligger, April 13, 2022
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryKaren Fligger served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (Environmental Education) in Nicaragua from 1998-2000. Born and raised in western Pennsylvania, Karen completed her BS degree in Biology and Environmental Studies at George Washington University in Washington, DC. In college, she devoted many hours to volunteering, especially with special needs kids. Karen joined the Peace Corps to learn Spanish, to live overseas, and to volunteer in her career field. During three months of language and technical training in Nicaragua, Karen lived with a local family. Karen was then assigned to Diriamba, Nicaragua, a city of 30,000 people located south of Managua. Karen found housing there with a Nicaraguan family who became “like my own family.” Karen used a variety of ways to engage. She worked with a counterpart at MARENA (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources). She trained local teachers to deliver environmental lessons aligned to the science curriculum for fourth-sixth graders. She assisted the Director of the Museo Ecológico de Trópico Seco (Ecological Museum for the Dry Rainforest) in implementing a grant to train Nicaraguan teachers in environmental education. From her Peace Corps experience, Karen developed a great admiration for the Nicaraguan people’s pride, kindness, and resilience. Karen’s Peace Corps experience continues to influence her professionally and personally. She completed an MS in Natural Resources Planning at the University of Vermont and has made her career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she is a Senior Environmental Specialist. She remains connected to her Nicaraguan “family” as well as to former colleagues in Diriamba. Karen and her family have welcomed members of her Nicaraguan community to their Washington, DC home, and she returns to Nicaragua for special occasions.
Interview KeywordPeace Corps (U.S.) Nicaragua (Country of service) 1998-2000 (Date of service) Peace Corps Volunteer Job: Environmental Education Western Pennsylvania (birthplace) special needs kids developmental disabilities Best Buddies (volunteer program for people with developmental disabilities) medical clearance (part of Peace Corps selection process) Latin America and the Caribbean (region of the world Volunteer requested) Sandanistas (members of Sandinista National Liberation Front, a revolutionary Nicaraguan group that ruled Nicaragua from 1979-1990) Iran Contras (Anti-Sandinista rebels) Miami, FL (Volunteer’s Peace Corps group rendezvous site) Granada (Nicaraguan city and site of Volunteer orientation) Managua (Capital of Nicaragua) las pueblitas (small towns outside of Managua known for a special artisan craft site of Volunteer’s language and technical training) Spanish (Language) Rojita (favorite red soda in Nicaragua) Diriamba (the city in Nicaragua where Volunteer was assigned) Pan American Highway (2-lane highway) counterparts (Volunteer’s Nicaraguan work partners) MARENA (an acronym for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources) where Volunteer worked) viveros (tree nurseries) single stipend (Peace Corps’ uniform allowance for Volunteer housing, etc. regardless of site location) Museo Ecológico de Trópico Seco (Ecological Museum for the Dry Rainforest) Güegüense (Diriamba’s famous folklore dance) Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, and Guatemala (countries where Volunteer traveled while in Nicaragua) gata (Spanish for “cat” and nickname for Volunteer because she has green eyes)
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Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
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Fligger, Karen Interview by Kathleen Kathy Beckman. 13 Apr. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Fligger, K. (2022, April 13). Interview by K. K. Beckman. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Fligger, Karen, interview by Kathleen Kathy Beckman. April 13, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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