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Class Notes: Susan Scott-Vargas '93

February 2011 | by Susan Flansburg

As a foreign service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), she has also helped implement critical aid and relief programs in impoverished countries from Asia to Latin America. Although she travels all over the world, Scott-Vargas currently calls the Dominican Republic home. She spoke with Scene from Jamaica.

What kinds of things do you do?

I'm a regional contracting officer for USAID. We design sustainable programs to help alleviate poverty and bring health and education services, self-governance and development to poorer nations. USAID also offers humanitarian assistance where disasters have happened. For example, USAID helped provide relief last fall after a hurricane hit six Caribbean islands and a cholera outbreak killed hundreds of people. Providing relief in these situations is dangerous and unrelenting but critically important.

What have been some of your most rewarding experiences?

I volunteered as an international election day observer in the Mexican state of Chiapas in 2000. A very old woman came out of the voting booth on her cane, hobbled over to me and grinned, showing me her brand new voter's registration card. I asked her if she was told who to vote for. "Yes," she laughed. "But my vote was secret, and no one will ever know what I really did. All of us women voted the way we wanted!"

Another story comes from the farthest reaches of the Northwest Frontier in Pakistan. It can take doctors days to reach the remote villages, making childbirth especially dangerous. Studies show three out of 10 mothers and five out of six babies die there. We helped create a network of educated midwives to assist in childbirth. One day a young mother not more than 15 years old appeared at a USAID clinic with her small child and baby. The elder child said, "My mother says thank you for her present from the American people." The staff asked what she meant. She answered, "My little brother, he was the present." It dawned on them then that her mother was referring to the tagline that appears on the USAID logo that says, "From the American People."

What's in your future?

I plan to stay with USAID till the day I die or must retire. I am committed to doing social service and to living my values.

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