Elizabeth Bowers

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Elizabeth Rachel Bowers (April 5, 1979-March 6, 2002) was a child of light, an adventurer of the spirit, and a seeker after world peace and understanding. Beth was full of love, laughter, and light, living every moment to the fullest. Her death as the result of a bicycle accident in Zambia during her tenure as a Peace Corps volunteer marked the culmination of a vision of service and global awareness. The donation of her organs and tissues to 22 South Africans was the ultimate "giving back" of the full, rich life she led to those in desperate need. We celebrate the greatness of her spirit and know we will ever feel her moving through us. Her work in Zambia continues through the commitment of her fellow volunteers.

The Elizabeth Bowers Zambia Education Fund (EBZEF) is our attempt to sustain Beth's vision of peace and global understanding. Currently, 93 young Zambian women from Beth's village (Lumwana West in Northwestern Zambia) are going to Lumwana Basic School and Mwinilunga High School, which would not have been possible without scholarship aid. Now several of the girls are graduating from high school and are asking us to send them to college. EBZEF worked with Peace Corps Partnerships to construct a memorial library/community center in Lumwana West, and 20,000 lbs. of books were donated to start the community library. Our program is managed locally under contract with World Vision Zambia.

If you are interested in contributing, you can donate online at www.bethsgirls.org/contribute/ or you can send your donation to the following address:

Elizabeth Bowers Zambia Education Fund
P.O. Box 294
Salem, OR 97308-0294

All donations are tax deductible. EBZEF is a volunteer-run organization and administrative costs are paid by an individual donor. All other contributions are 100% committed to ‘Beth’s Girls’ and the community of Lumwana West. By supporting EBZEF, you are helping to sustain the momentum of Beth's vision. If you wish to consider becoming an organ donor, please call 1-800-355-SHARE for information.

A valedictorian of her Sprague High School graduating class, Beth was also co-captain of the cheerleaders, sang in the school chorus, and danced with the school dance team. She studied piano for many years, and took her black belt in Shito-Ryu karate after studying since she was six. She fly-fished with her father, Gerry, since she was a child, and attended every summer Ashland Shakespeare production with her mother, Linda, since she was ten. Beth and her older sister Jenny grew up as best friends in a pastoral setting just outside Salem, Oregon, with a white pony and peacocks as companions. Beth always believed that her pony was really a unicorn, even if no one else could see the horn. She saw it. As a 10 1/2 lb. baby, Beth came into the world ready to live as fully as possible. In fact, she punched the delivering doctor right in the nose!

Beth chose Earlham College in Indiana because of its excellent Japanese Studies program, because of its emphasis on peace and global studies, and because no one she knew was going there. While she missed the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Beth achieved altitude by taking up sky-diving. She also pursued her love of horses in the equestrian program. Her junior year abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, gave her the opportunity to build on her experience as a child during her parents' sabbatical leave in Kyoto at which time she studied sado (Japanese tea ceremony), shodo (calligraphy), ikebana (flower arranging), and jyu-ji-kenpo (an ancient Chinese martial art). Totally immersing herself in the culture, Beth focused her activities on her host family's neighborhood, continuing her study of karate at the local fitness center. She also pursued her love of snow-boarding by teaching at a children's snow-boarding camp during her vacation. Beth renewed her friendship with students from Tokyo International University of America with whom she had worked as an International Peer Counselor. Japan was, however, another industrialized nation.

Beth visited South East Asia while she was in Japan, and knew she had to have more exposure to underdeveloped nations to truly develop her global perspective. The Peace Corps was the perfect solution to her desire to "give back" out of her loving, privileged upbringing. No one she knew had ever been to Africa; it was her own private adventure. Since Beth grew up with a house full of aquaria and had fished with her father for many years, she was naturally drawn to the fish-farming program in remote Zambia. Some have said assignment to the outer reaches of Zambia (Northwest Province, Lumwana West) was one of the most difficult Peace Corps duties. But Beth, long accustomed to wilderness hiking, backpacking, and camping, took it in her stride. She loved the people of the village she worked with, was learning to speak their language (Lunda),and was awed by the beauty of the landscape she had only dreamed of.

As usual, Beth was living every moment fully, totally engaged in her vision of service. As her adventures increased in ever-widening global circles, we came to see her as a true warrior for peace. Though her body has left us, her spirit continues on the greatest and most glorious of all adventures. Those of us privileged to have known and been touched by Beth will be forever transformed by the warmth and light of her generous spirit. Let us celebrate the freeing of that great spirit and cherish the moments we had her in our lives.

Linda, Gerry and Jenny Bowers

You may contact Linda, Beth's mom, at lbowers@willamette.edu

Please also visit the Elizabeth Bowers Zambia Education Fund

If you are a friend or family member of this volunteer and would like to contribute a picture, a story, or something different, please send an email to webmaster@fpcv.org.

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