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Wellesley College junior helps out in Panama

Posted by Tom Coakley  July 27, 2009 09:00 AM

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By Cindy Cantrell
Globe Correspondent
Wellesley College junior Annie Smith regularly returns to her native Panama during school breaks to visit her mother. Instead of a traditional summer vacation, however, she recently participated in a six-week mission to reduce poverty and malnourishment among indigenous people in northern Panama.

Smith, who is majoring in biological sciences, received grant funding for her ‘‘Give a Man a Fish, Teach a Man to Fish...Or Provide Aquaculture?’’ project through the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace program.

The Projects for Peace initiative is supported by Davis, a Wellesley College alumna and trustee emerita, who established the program with a $1 million donation on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007.

Smith worked with agricultural engineers in four flood-damaged, community-learning farms run by the Ngobe-Bugle indigenous people. The group constructed fish ponds, restored shelters, built chicken coops, planted crops, and erected composting latrines.

‘‘I saw how difficult it is to dig an entire fish pond using only shovels, hoes, and wheelbarrows,’’ Smith wrote in an e-mail. She also picked up some of the indigenous dialect from her host family, adjusted to sleeping in a hammock, and learned how to make a meal of foraged roots and rice.

To learn more about Smith’s project, e-mail her at rsmith@wellesley.edu.

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