One In A Million... a million people live, work and play in upstate New York's Catskills region. These are their life stories... in their own words.
Series produced by Kent Garrett
Photo editing and website design by Ed Kirstein
Peg DiBenedetto: Service and Travel
Peg DiBenedetto Transcript:
During the month of January in any given year, you’ll probably find Peg DiBenedetto in Guatemala working on a project to help rural villagers.
This is her story in her own words:
I was born here.
Q – Really?
Yeah. I’m a native in that on my father’s side I go back several generations. My ancestors were the Griffins of Griffin Corners before it was Fleischmanns, so I had a great-great-grandfather who owned the lake that used to be Lake Switzerland, where they took the ice off in the wintertime and people would swim in the summertime. They were into banking, and there was a lawyer in the family. There was a postmaster. So anyway, they were pretty prominent in the area.
Q – What was it like kind of growing up?
It was great. I was very fortunate growing up because my dad at that point when I was born was a farmer, and I was the youngest. Being the youngest child on a farm, I didn’t have to work very much. My older brothers were working with my dad out in the fields, and my sister had to do household chores with my mom; but I basically got to play on the farm, so for me it was the cows and the horses and riding on tractors with my dad and just playing out in the fields and wading in the streams.
So it was a very wonderful outdoors upbringing for me, and what I really enjoy now is that my children and grandchildren have grown up playing on the same stone walls that I grew up playing on because my husband and I built a house in one of the cow pastures that my brother and I used to take the cows to.
Q – What’s your passion now; I mean, what sort of drives you at this stage of your life? What makes you tick?
I think I have couple of passions. First must be the grandchildren. My newest grandchild was born a month ago, and so my husband and I spend a lot of time playing with the older two grandchildren. They’re just amazing, and we’re enjoying it in a way that we never knew we would. So I think that’s the first passion that I have.
The other passion that I have is travel, I guess. I try to do as many trips as I can to different parts of the world just because there’s a lot of the world to see and I don’t want to miss any of it. Wildlife, I’m really enjoying where I live. I get to experience a lot of birds and animals, and I think that that’s just important in my life.
Q – Tell me about Guatemala. I mean, what’s that all about?
My trips to Guatemala began simply because there was a cheap airfare to Guatemala one year after I had met someone at a wedding who said, “Well, my brother runs a wildlife rehabilitation center in Guatemala, and they can always use volunteers.” I put the two of those things together and decided to just do a trip as a volunteer to Guatemala out of the blue, and I did that. I took down some veterinary supplies and volunteered working with some monkeys and birds.
Because of that I met someone in Guatemala who is an American woman who’s very savvy as far as the country and Antigua, where she lives, and needs around the community. We started a conversation about projects that need to be done, and I think ever since then I’ve pretty much done an annual trip to Guatemala to do a service job. So that’s basically how Guatemala adventure got started for me, and I just try to spread that around to as many people as I can, taking on trips down to do some service projects.
Q – What’s in it for you? I mean, what is the kick?
Yeah, the kick for me is what it becomes for, I think, any volunteer, and that is you’re helping people do something that they can’t do by themselves, possibly for monetary reasons or possibly for physical reasons. The whole core of volunteering is that you’re doing something for someone else. However, in reality, what you’re doing is kind of selfish because you get a tremendous satisfaction from that, and that is the motivation to keep doing it, I think.
So that’s what it’s all about for me. Plus, I get to go to a country where I love the food. I get to meet new people all the time. I find that the Guatemalans are so friendly and just joyful people who I love more and more every time I go down there, and there’s the sense of adventure. So I combine all those things into a service trip, and it does it all for me.
Q – Twenty years from now, what do you want to be doing? Where do you think you’ll be 20-25 years from now?
Twenty-five years from now I think my husband and I will probably be traveling around the country in an RV, which we just bought. But after I retire from my job I think there’s a good chance that what we’ll be doing is driving to national parks and volunteering as naturalists, and we will be at the northern parks in the summertime. Then in the wintertime we’ll drive south and volunteer at the southern parks, and we’ll just take our home with us wherever we go. Right now it’s a motorhome run on gasoline, but I think he may have future plans to convert that to a diesel engine, in which case we can either run it on grease or biodiesel. So, hopefully, we’ll be able to afford to do that.