As the indigenous people of Paraguay say, “Ndaipori apuro, ojapuraba omanombama.” Loosely translated, this beautiful phrase means, “There is no hurry, all the people in a hurry have died already.” This admonition to slow down—which is often easier said than done—is something Calvin LeSueur has come to live by. LeSueur, a Master’s International graduate student in applied economics with the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, has been serving in Paraguay with the Peace Corps for more than a year. He’s using the skills and knowledge he gained from his first year of graduate study to help enrich the lives of the individuals he has been fortunate enough to serve.
“Having that expert insight and knowledgeable feedback from a returned Peace Corps volunteer (RPCV) on my work was very helpful in my academic, as well as my real-world experience in the field,” said LeSueur, referencing Beverly Beyer, the Stevenson Center’s associate director and RPCV (Bulgaria, 1997–1999). With Program Coordinator James Porter, who is also an RPCV (Micronesia, 2009–2011), the Stevenson Center brings together a community of like-minded students, faculty, and staff. LeSueur studied alongside both RPCV’s and students coming from AmeriCorps programs like City Year. “My cohort was an amazing group of people, and many will be lifelong friends,” LeSueur said.
As an agricultural extensionist in Eastern Paraguay, LeSueur is determined to improve food security and agricultural practices in his home site by the lago del rio yguazu—a local reservoir situated in Alto Parana that is home to many natural resources and hydroelectric generation sites. By drawing on his diverse background in ecological restoration, biodynamic farming, and economic development, LeSueur hopes to bring economic stability back to a region where 40 percent of the population relies on subsistence agriculture.
“I feel very lucky to be on such a beautiful site with such an accessible lake nearby,” said LeSueur about the awe-inspiring view of the prolific reservoir. “In an otherwise landlocked country with very few lakes, I have a comparatively useful site. My home is just under two miles from a major highway—Ruta 7—which goes between the capital in Asunción and Ciudad del Este, another major city in Eastern Paraguay.”
LeSueur has found that leading by example is what creates sustainable community development, which has helped him become a legitimate member of the community in such a short time since he arrived on-site in December 2014. His ability to seamlessly connect with others stems from his upbringing in a service-driven and somewhat quirky family.
“My mom has always been involved in Rotary Clubs, which gave our family the opportunity to host an exchange student from Brazil when I was in high school,” LeSueur said. “My dad is ‘adventurous,’ so I grew up eating weird foods and learning the ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone, which is something I believe has helped me in life thus far.”
The Stevenson Center, through various interdisciplinary graduate programs and engagement projects, has been pivotal in LeSueur’s journey thus far. Other students who are currently serving or have recently returned from Peace Corps include Courtney Johnson (Mozambique), Robyn Savacool (Moldova), Matthew Tomlin (Senegal), David Warren (Macedonia), and Rachelle Wilson (Morocco).