By Charlie Leitner
For many, Chile is an unknown sliver of land located along the southern coast of South America. A place surrounded by giant pillars of rock and long stretches of lush beaches. Situated along the Pacific, Chile grabs the attention of those willing to travel to the far edge of the world. Chile’s heart, filled with immense culture and breathtaking frontiers, lies in its twisting peninsulas, its outlying islands and its people. Many have traveled to the South America’s western edge in hopes of finding adventures. They look for ways to get lost in another culture, whether it’s in food, music or the wilderness. In search of something more, many of us seek desperately, looking to fulfill their sense of global enlightenment.
Paul, born in West Haven Connecticut, holds an undergraduate degree in history from Duke University. Later, he would go on to receive his masters from the University of Denver. From there, He began his journey as a global citizen and purveyor of establishing connections across the world. Being a true victim of chance, Paul has maintained a belief that is inspiring to most. Eventually, he would take a trip to the Southern ABC countries of South America (Argentina, Bolivia and Chile) in hopes of starting an institute for language learning.
Before Chile, Paul was a member of the Peace Corps. He was sent to Finote Selam, a farming town in Ethiopia located near Lake Tania, the source of the Blue Nile. It was here Paul began his career of teaching and was opened up to the many conflicts occurring across the globe. During his two-year Peace Corps initiative, Finote Selam, a town predominantly made up of agricultural fields, went under siege. Farmers armed with Italian made rifles surrounded Finote Selam during the spring of 1975. Paul, along with another volunteer and the rest of those living in Finote Selam, would receive refuge after government soldiers led a defensive against the farmer’s rebellion. “I never found out why the farms didn’t attack Finote Selam when they were so close and had the town surrounded. But I’m sure you wouldn’t be reading this story if they had,” wrote Paul. Despite hearing harrowing rumors of capture and death to those said to be teaching ‘radical ideas,’ Paul’s character never wavered.
It takes most of us a lifetime to find what we’re looking for; it took Paul Fischer a trip to Chile. What he found upon first setting foot on the Chilean Patagonia in 1978 was a home. It was then when Paul first laid eyes on the Chilean landscape, and it was there where Paul would later decide his future in the country. After his arrival in Chile, Paul would spend the next five years establishing an English language institute. Designed to aid those looking to enter the global workforce as lawyers, doctors, and businesspeople, the Fischer English Institute continues to work today in very much the same capacity as originally intended.
Despite a recession in the eighties, Paul remained diligent, spending the next five years working at the American Embassy where he worked as a Contractor. With over two hundred companies looking to capitalize on Chile’s free trade movement, Paul helped organize and facilitate trade shows throughout the country. He assisted in establishing export trade plans which would, in turn, globalize Chile’s expanding economy. It was while working as a Contract that Paul met his wife, Maureen, who is pictured above standing next to Paul during one of their trade shows.
Eventually, Paul’s work for the Embassy came to an end as a massive wave of construction swept across the globe. The trade show business lost significant steam at the hands of large-scale malls and mass-market consumerism as a result of a now privatized industry. Even though his work as a businessman was formally over, Paul’s love for Chile had grown only stronger. He soon connected with United Planet and quickly immersed himself and continued to facilitate his passion for teaching. As a liaison, teacher and traveler, he has found that his ability to help increase awareness among students and volunteers would forever connect him to his South American home.
Since 2004, Paul has worked alongside United Planet as a Country Coordinator, ensuring that his participants understand the importance of acting and reacting. Of all his travels, it has been Chile that has soldered his purpose; to teach those who are willing to learn and become global citizens. For him, and as those who have studied under him have learned, being a victim of chance was his greatest success. His ability to go willingly with the flow has lead to a unique life filled with fulfillment and peace. It’s a continued process that has only grown the more Paul has experienced the world around him.
As a young adult only a few years out of school I was enamored by Paul’s willingness to accept fate. It’s not often that you meet someone who has dedicated his life to a cause with such passion and determination. When speaking with Paul via Skype I was impressed with his honesty and direction. He spoke highly of his volunteers and was quick to steer our conversation towards their work rather than his. Having only met Paul once before, it was nice to feel as if Paul and I were in the same room, sharing stories from his past and his vision for the future.