Peace Corps Volunteer Sara Lane '01 Coordinates Sustainable Practices in Malawi

After growing up on a dairy farm in Caswell County, Sara Lane ‘01 now finds herself nearly 8,000 miles away from home in eastern Africa. Along the way, Lane completed degrees in agricultural business management and agricultural extension as a Park Scholar at NC State. She went on to pursue a master’s degree in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Lane later worked as a producer with CNN until she decided to trade her office in New York for more modest surroundings in rural Malawi.

Sara Lane teaches residents in her village how to make candles from beeswax.

Lane is working on sustainable forestry and agriculture projects alongside individuals living in villages near the Ntchisi Forest Reserve. In the process, she is preserving Malawi’s environment by helping community members find ways of supporting themselves without cutting down trees or poaching animals.

“My work includes assisting people with finding ways to increase their income and improve their quality of life through starting small businesses, improving agricultural techniques, and raising health and education levels,” says Lane. “Basically, I find what the community needs, and help them achieve it.”

Her projects include working with a women’s group to start business ventures, collaborating with a number of villages to plant trees in their communities, teaching English through English clubs to help give villagers a more competitive edge for jobs outside the village, and educating people about better ways of agricultural production.

Lane helps students develop their public speaking skills.

In her spare time, Lane is chair of Peace Corps Malawi’s Volunteer Advisory Committee. In this role, she works to address volunteer concerns and liaises with the Peace Corps office regarding policy decisions. She is also coordinating Peace Corps Malawi’s 50th anniversary celebrations and managing a committee which is responsible for producing a commemorative coffee table book, creating a CD featuring music from around the country, hosting an official celebratory event for Malawian dignitaries and the Peace Corps community, and conducting a comprehensive media campaign.

Prior to her departure for Africa, Lane enjoyed a successful career in journalism. As the David Kaplan Memorial Fellow with ABC News, she worked on 20/20, Nightline, and Sam Donaldson: Live in America, and notes that the most exciting part of the experience involved producing nightly stories for World News Tonight during the first weeks of the war in Iraq.

Lane then moved to CNN and worked with the Money Unit, Investigative Unit, and National Desk. She produced breaking news and daily stories, including coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the mortgage meltdown crisis, the Bernie Madoff scandal, and the miracle plane landing on the Hudson River. Lane found herself increasingly interested in international development work, however, and decided to do something she would feel was more meaningful. Her adventurous spirit and desire to further explore development work, coupled with an interest in the Peace Corps dating back to her childhood, led her to submit an application to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

“Before I left for Peace Corps, many of my colleagues at CNN said they wished they could do the same – my theory is, anyone can do anything they choose, they just have to be willing to take the leap,” says Lane. “I’d rather take a calculated risk with the hope of finding what will make me feel fulfilled and happy, than stand comfortably on the sidelines, afraid to try for something better.”

Lane outside her home in Malawi.

Reflecting on her experience at NC State, Lane credits the Park Scholarships program with instilling in her a love of service. “Through the Park program, I was inspired by what other Park Scholars were doing for their community, and by the projects we initiated, including Service Raleigh,” says Lane. “Without the influence of the Park Scholarships, I wouldn’t have developed the passion to work in my community, and I probably wouldn’t have joined the Peace Corps – overall, the Park experience gave me the inspiration to dream big.”