Lydia Dambekalns has recently joined our team as our Curriculum Development Peace Corps Response volunteer. Peace Corps Response offers support to local and international organizations who need assistance in specialty areas. In this case, we really lucked out! Lydia is a fantastic addition to our team!
CIAMO Report: Where are you from in the States?
Lydia: I am originally from Virginia, we still have a family farm in the Shenandoah Valley. I went to College at William and Mary and then went directly into the Peace Corps in the early 1980s, first Benin for a few months, and then when the program fell through I was transferred to Kenya where I worked with Rural Women's Development and animal husbandry projects. I came back to the states where I worked as a regional recruiter for the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington DC, and then decided to go to graduate school at Penn State where I earned a doctorate in Curriculum Studies and Art Education. I'd always wanted to live out in the Rocky Mountains, so I applied for and got the professor job at the University of Wyoming where I have been ever since 1996. I love everything about Wyoming except the long cold winters. I have a ranch there in Laramie with a partner where we raise and ride horses (mostly Arabians). I have also worked with women's literacy projects in Nepal and did a Fulbright at the University of Latvia on my last sabbatical in 2004-05. My personal interests include travel, art making, animals of all sorts, dance, and reading.
CIAMO Report: How did you get into the creative arts:
Lydia: I started drawing with my older half-siter. My parents met ballroom dancing in Washington DC, so that was always a part of my childhood. I learned piano from my dad. As a kid I always liked to make things out of other things, so I ended up double majoring in Studio Art and English in college. I have been involved with all different types of art, but now I like to focus on Fiber Arts the most.
CIAMO Report: What inspired you to apply to be a Peace Corps Response Volunteer?
Lydia: By luck I happened to look on the listing of opportunities and I saw this one which seemed too good to be true and a real match of my skills. Best of all, I am on academic sabbatical from my university for a year, so I really could come here. I have longed to get back to West Africa and thus it is so wonderful to have support from Peace Corps. I would love to learn about all the local arts customs here in the coming months, as well as give back any curriculum support that i can to the education community here.
CIAMO Report: What are you first impressions of CIAMO?
Lydia: Incredible energy! I cannot believe that someone like Sarah Dupont had a vision and was actually able to put all the pieces together and make it a reality. I really like the mix of talent and perspectives between African and PC instructors here. I am quite concerned that this place be able to continue in the future, so my goal is to see how much we can document this year in order to aid the directors/instructors in the future. John Mark and Sarah got things off to a great beginning, so extending their efforts is really important. Especially impressive is the use of technology. I also hope to see us expand out into the community in other schools, but there is SO very much to do here that it is hard not to become "scattered". I personally would like to figure out some way to do teacher training before I leave.