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Father: American killed in Afghanistan worked to help poor

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The American killed in this week’s Taliban attack at an Afghanistan guest house was dedicated to helping the poor, especially women, in less-developed nations, her father said Friday.

Paula Kantor, 46, worked all over the world and had stopped in Kabul this week as she traveled from Cairo to Islamabad, said her father, Anthony Kantor, of Winston-Salem. Authorities said she was staying at the Park Palace Hotel when it was stormed by Taliban gunmen late Wednesday, sparking a siege that left 14 people, including nine foreigners, dead.

A scientist, gender and development specialist, Kantor was in Kabul to work on a project involving wheat production with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico.

“She spent all of her working life overseas, working in various countries,” Anthony Kantor said in a telephone interview. “Her focus was on improving the economics, particularly for women. She did a lot of with groups that were doing scientific studies, like this one that would improve wheat, trying to get them to round out the programs, to be sure to bring the people side of things into it.”

Kantor joined the center in February as a senior scientist. The group’s director of socio-economics, Olaf Erenstein, said Knator was committed, energetic and talented.

“She inspired everyone she worked with – and it’s so sad that her life and career were prematurely ended,” he said in a statement on the group’s website.

She had worked as director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit from 2008 to 2010. That group’s director, Nader Nadery, said on the organization’s website Friday that Kantor “gave her life … to make sure millions of people, especially women, get a chance at a better life.”

She previously was based in Malaysia working for group called WorldFish.

When in high school, Paula Kantor was a typical teenager who enjoyed name-brand clothes and the television show “Dynasty,” her father said.

She began changing in college, first at the University of Pennsylvania, where she got her undergraduate degree, and she was most influenced by her graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A professor there convinced Kantor to work in India, which exposed her to the extreme poverty, he said.

“She went to college and came back with a different view point toward helping people and not into materialism so much,” Anthony Kantor said.

Her parents saw her in January, when she came home for about two weeks to get her visa for Pakistan, and again in February, when she visited in between overseas stays.

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Online:

http://www.areu.org.af/BlogDetails.aspx?BlogId=966983472

http://www.cimmyt.org/en/what-we-do/wheat-research/item/cimmyt-remembers-vital-legacy-of-gender-specialist-paula-kantor-2

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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