Called to service: A move to Honduras

A grandmother, a mother, and a daughter posing and taking a selfie.

For some people, “service” has a special meaning. That’s because they stepped up to offer their time and talents to organizations such as the Peace Corps abroad and AmeriCorps in the U.S. Such service involved setting aside their own agendas and careers and turning their lives over for the good of others for a year or two.

Each of these people joined for slightly different reasons, but all of them report that they were profoundly affected by the experience. What’s clear in talking with them is that the time spent in service to a greater good ended up changing the course of their lives as well.

Becky Myton, Mt. Lebanon Class of 1959, had degrees, including a Ph.D. in ecology and biology, when she joined the Peace Corps in 1972. She was sent to the capital of Honduras to establish a biology program at the national university in Tegucigalpa, which had a few biology students but no major.

She never left. After her two years in the Peace Corps were up, the university offered her a teaching position. By that time she had learned fluent Spanish, set up a small museum for specimens that were collected, and catalogued Honduras’ animal population.

“They didn’t know what they had,” she said, “so we had great fun exploring that. We took the students and went all over the country, looking at and writing up bats and snakes and jaguars and all these cool things I had never seen before.”

Now 80, she’s retired from teaching and still living in Honduras, although she visits Mt. Lebanon once a year to see her sister, Dr. Sally Myton, a retired veterinarian who still lives in the family home on Baywood Avenue.

She reported that she didn’t get paid much, so she had to live “with the Honduran people, who are great. It’s one of the good things about the Peace Corps. You live among the population and really get to know them, unlike diplomats who live in a compound, surrounded by other Americans.”

Along the way she has traveled and consulted for governmental and environmental organizations. “I was an advisor to the minister of the environment in the Honduran government during the time that all the environmental treaties were negotiated, so I got to work on that. If I hadn’t done the Peace Corps, I never would have had those opportunities. It opened a lot of doors for me.”

She also raised a daughter who now is an environmental engineer working with Coral Reef Alliance, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to conserving the Honduran coral reefs. Myton frequently travels to the island of Roatan to assist her daughter with her work and to take care of her 5-year-old granddaughter.

“When my daughter was growing up, I’d bring her to Mt. Lebanon for the summer to stay with my mother. I really love Mt. Lebanon. When I visit now, I see my sister, other relatives, and friends, and I shop Uptown. I always make my sister save Mt. Lebanon Magazine!”

When asked how the Peace Corps affected her life, Myton didn’t hesitate. “It’s been a great experience. If I had been working in the States, I would never have been able to do what I did here in Honduras. I would just have had a boring job probably. It truly changed my life.”