The most common question I’m asked by folks back home is “what are you working on?” This is followed closely by “what do you do?”
While “you know, just saving the world” is the default tongue-in-cheek response, I’ll actually attempt to provide an answer. Be prepared, it’s rather boring.
First off, I’m assuming that most of you aren’t familiar with the three goals of Peace Corps. Let me enlighten you.
Goal one (in my own words, of course): sharing skills and knowledge with host country organizations to build capacity, etc., etc. and so on. Most people, when they ask me the question, are referring to this aspect of Peace Corps service. But there’s more.
Goals two and three have to do with sharing culture, both with Americans on the part of the host country and with host country nationals on the part of Americans, in order to foster mutual understanding and, hopefully, peaceful relations. That’s the save-the-world, hippie-dippy stuff a lot of people think of when they think of PC. The stuff some of you probably think is not worth spending your hard earned tax dollars on. (By the way, your cut of Peace Corps is, like, less than $4 per year. If you pay your taxes, that is.)
You’ll notice that this culture swap is two-thirds of what I’m supposed to be doing as a volunteer. And, yes, this blog counts as part of my work. At least I like to think so.
But back to goal one. Here are a few of the projects I have in the works:
- Help Bahir Dar University, specifically, my office (Information and Strategic Communication), start an English-language newspaper
- Teach beginner computer courses to female students in collaboration with Gender Club and ICT department
- Help plan and develop a new GeoSpatial Data center at BDU that will help find innovative solutions to development issues (Note: I’m a teeny tiny part of this one)
- In cooperation with other PCVs, create and implement a health-focused public service announcement competition at BDU
- Help plan and coordinate a Peace Corps/Ethiopia summer camp for girls in Bahir Dar
- English language improvement classes for secretarial staff at BDU
Here are some projects I plan to have in the works at some point:
- Project proposal writing workshops for Gender Club and Anti-HIV/AIDS Club at BDU
- Work with the US Embassy’s American Corner to create programming
Like many PCVs, I feel an overwhelming sense that I’m not really doing anything.
At this point, I have nothing tangible to show for my efforts, except a couple of proposals sent, some meeting notes and project plans written, and computer class handouts created.
But I’ve got a year and a half to get on the ball. Until then, I always have goals two and three. You know, just saving the world.