From Cuddy Valley to Casablanca

  • “Follow your dreams,” Alisa McDonald advises as she departs with the Peace Corps forNorth Africa.

    Image 1 of 3
    “Follow your dreams,” Alisa McDonald advises as she departs with the Peace Corps forNorth Africa.

  • Alisa McDonald packed her bags and said goodbye to family cats Miles and Felix as she left for the Peace Corps.

    Image 2 of 3
    Alisa McDonald packed her bags and said goodbye to family cats Miles and Felix as she left for the Peace Corps.

  • Alisa McDonald packed her bags and said goodbye to her family as she left for the Peace Corps.

    Image 3 of 3
    Alisa McDonald packed her bags and said goodbye to her family as she left for the Peace Corps.

Alisa McDonald Lives her Dream

By Sara Woerter

Outside the snow drifted quietly on the ground while a wind roared through the tops of the trees in Cuddy Valley. Inside the quiet two-story log home, Alisa McDonald, 27 sat in her room, packing her suitcase Saturday, Feb. 27.

The home was filled with lovely mountain scents and the warmth of a burning fireplace. She glanced out the window. Gently, she placed a vibrant purple blanket inside her suitcase and closed the lid. As she looked up, her bright blue eyes glistened with adventure and mystery.

McDonald is a local mountain girl who welcomes life-changing opportunities. On March 1, she departed for Morocco to begin pre-service training as a health education volunteer with the Peace Corps. She will serve two years in the North African country while living with a host family.

“They want me to do health education through a clinic there. I will be addressing individuals and communities directly on baby’s health and working to organize community clinic events,” she said.

Her parents, Donna and Jim McDonald, have lived in the Mountain Communities since 1996. Alisa, from 12 to 19 years of age, enjoyed the beauty of the mountain and the sense of harmony in the Cuddy Valley home she is leaving, with its two cats, a dog and two mules.

Alisa says she enjoys being surrounded by nature and loves to hike, backpack and camp. She went to Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, a Catholic school, then attended two years at College of the Canyons (studying biotechnology). She transferred to the University of Southern California, where she earned her degree in philosophy. Her best friend growing up was Anna Johnson, she says, who lived down the road in Pinon Pines. “I’m gonna miss her. It’s hard just thinking about all of the opportunities I’m going to miss with friends and family.”

McDonald admits to being a little nervous about challenges of the cultural and language barriers she will face in Morocco, which speaks French and Berber languages. She “hopes to make a difference and do a good job. When I leave, I hope to have accomplished the things I was meant to do.”

After her assignment, Alisa hopes to stay in the field of public health. “I like the idea of maybe making programs for better health care,” she said.

Her service will last until May 2012, but she hopes to be home this Christmas to share her stories with friends and family. She believes she will get 20 vacation days a year.

“The Peace Corps is a great opportunity,” she said. “If people have a chance, maybe they should pursue the Peace Corps, too,” she suggested, adding, “If you have [a] goal or dream, you should pursue it ‘til the end.”

This is part of the March 05, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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