Warsaw Woman Teaches In Peace Corps In Panama



Erin Orcutt has spent the past two years in Panama, Central America, as a Peace Corps volunteer, using her skills to teach residents farming techniques.

Orcutt, 24, a 2001 Warsaw Community High School graduate, joined the Peace Corps in May 2006.

A 2006 Purdue University graduate, she received an animal science degree and joined the Peace Corps two days after her college graduation.

She said she learned about the Peace Corps through job fairs and Web sites in college.

She had to undergo an extensive medical background check, 10 weeks of training and was required to pass a Spanish language exam to be a Peace Corps volunteer.


"I joined the Peace Corps because I didn't feel I had a large enough perception of the world, and it was important to me to see how people live and work in another country," Orcutt said.

Orcutt visited her mother Anita in Warsaw Dec. 20 and returned to Panama Thursday. She will end her service in the Peace Corps and return to Warsaw in July.

She serves as a sustainable agriculture systems volunteer for the agricultural division in the Peace Corps in Panama.

Orcutt assists cattle producers in improving their pasture management systems and with home chicken and home garden projects.

"Panama was a virgin rain forest 20 years ago that had not been touched, but now people from other provinces have moved there," Orcutt said.

She said the main route of transportation is by horse. There is a bus that drives her to Panama City, five hours to the east of the town of 300 people where she lives.

Orcutt receives a living stipend. She has no electricity, and lives in a shack made of wood with a thatched roof.

"Joining the Peace Corps, I expected to help people, but I have found I have been taught just as much by others who live in Panama," Orcutt said.


With Orcutt's return to Panama Thursday, she will work on a project planting pasteur grasses and plants to establish protein in the soil. She will work with six cattle producers and their families to teach them to to collect, plant and care for hardwood trees. She will teach them how to plant and care for improved pasture grasses and leguminous plants. She also will help plant trees to prevent water and wind erosion.

Orcutt will get married to a man she met in Panama and return in Warsaw in July.

Orcutt is needing financial assistance to go toward purchasing chemicals, fuels, fencing and pasture seeds for the project. People who wish to contribute financially toward the project Orcutt will be working on can visit www.peacecorps.gov/contribute project #525-088