Thursday, September 19, 2013

The End

It has been entirely too long since I have last posted something on here. Year two has flown by and I find myself at the beginning of my "cos", or closing of service. A lot has happened in the past few months and for better or for worst, I find myself feeling both satisfied with my service up to today as well as ready to go home.

A Review:

1. My largest project, The Youth Conference, went off brilliantly and I am thankful for the donations from people back home as well as the number of other volunteers that leant me their support. Thank you again (see previous post). With this finished I can finally relax and "coast" through my last few weeks in country.

2. I'm writing this post while sitting on a beach...next to an old british castle...in Ghana. Stunning, if not magnificent! The people are amazing, the landscape is beautiful, the historical relevance is undeniable, and surfing... is a lot harder than it looks. I may be sporting some new head injuries when next you see me. Accra, Cape coast, Takarati, Butra, Busua, and then back to Burkina. Its amazing to me that one of Burkina's neighbors can be so completely different from Burkina itself. In comparison Ghana has a similar culture, better food, better scenery, and a better developed infrastructure. It may just be one of my favorite countries that I've had the chance to travel to --although Grenada is still a strong contender. Remarkable transport systems, cleanliness, fantastic food, general friendliness, and epic scenery set Ghana apart from neighboring countries.
The majority of the country's roads are in the process of being paved or are already paved (with actual traffic lines), traditional foods include fried chicken and fried rice, and the country's castles/forts add a touch of magic to the country. The short of the long, do I really have to go back to Burkina?

3. Our close of service(cos) conference came and passed without much incident. I am quite amazed at the rapidity in which the last two years have flown by and part of me almost feels like i could do another two years, but then my stomachs growls and I remember all of the food mishaps during my service. COS conference consisted of resume building workshops, job hunting workshops, and discussing what exactly "closing one's service" means. As we start thinking about life after Peace Corps, a certain amount of fear of the unknown begins to surface and manifests itself in the form of anxiety attacks and OCD job searches. We've dedicated years, arguably 2 of our best, to the development of a country that most people don't even know exists. How does that translate in America and more importantly, how do we share this experience on Resumes and in writing?

4. My final project in village will be a nutritional rehabilitation regime targeting moderately malnourished children between the ages of 6 and 59months. The two week course/regime/program will consist of sessions on nutrition, proper breast feeding techniques(led by yours truly), hygiene practices, and enriched porridge preparation.

5. Andddd I'm OUT! 60 days!

Friends back home have <started/finished> <medical/law/grad> school but still find themselves at a loss for ideas on what they want to do with their lives. I, unfortunately, will not be sharing their discomfort and have decided to pursue public policy with a focus on monitoring &evaluation. Although I will be eternally grateful for this experience, I'm ready to move on.
As one of the many authors whose book I've read during my service (82 books) put it, in more or less words:

I am not only going to miss this experience, but I am going to miss the person I am during this experience. Never again will I be this person and never again will I feel exactly as I do at this point in time.

Every new beginning starts from some other beginning's end.
See y'all soon!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Letter From The Field

Dear Friends and Family of Peace Corps Burkina Faso,

 

The third annual Youth Development and Leadership Conference was a huge success! Thank you! We would never have been able to reach out to, and train, 38 youth leaders without your help and support.  After working with such motivated and capable youth, we sincerely believe that the future of Burkina Faso is in good hands. Although a PCV service tour is only two years, these youth are now fully capable to do some of the same work and to affect change in their communities.  Although you were not physically there, feel free to browse our pictures and relive some of our greatest moments. Most of the pictures have been posted online and can be viewed by clicking the following link. https://plus.google.com/photos/100400178087205224810/albums/5887736581270353425

 

Outside of the usual West African logistical problems, tardiness, Day 1 went off without any problems. We opened up both conferences with welcomes from the local Mayor's offices, Peace Corps, and conference directors before moving on to our first session on gender roles and norms. Although there were a few comical scenes involving men wearing women's clothing, all of the youth took the session seriously and came to appreciate the differences between gender and sex. Further, participants began to think about the qualities of a good leader (strangely not limited to the male sex). After discussing gender, participants began working on identifying the needs within their own personal communities and began planning their responses to these needs. 

Day 2 consisted of sessions on professionalism, community resources, community mobilization, and how to be a successful positive deviant.  With these newly acquired tools and knowledge we are sure that our youth will be heading back to their communities well equipped.  Day 3 required participants to hit the ground and work in the communities hosting the conferences.  Participants at the Fada conference volunteered at a public radio station and at a vegetable garden owned and maintained by multiple women's groups. Participants at the Yako conference performed HIV/AIDS demonstrations at a local hospital, worked in a tree nursery, and tutored primary school girls in reading and math.  The youth had a BLAST! The local community members were sincerely impressed and touched by the thoughtfulness and motivation of our youth leaders.  Although we spent most of the afternoon working on the ground, nobody complained when we were a bit late getting back to the conference room.

 

En fin, day 4 graced us with visits from various community members, past participants, and a representative from the Peace Corps Bureau.  Our guest speakers spoke on citizenship, community service, and how to work as a "volunteer citizen" at the village/community level.  After these fantastic guest speakers each young leader went to work planning their community projects and then presented their projects to the group.

SUCCESSS!!!

Again, none of this would have been possible without your generous contributions and support. Thank YOU! In the words of one of our youth counterparts; "You, the Americans, have opened our minds and eyes to a new way of thinking about our communities. We are leaders. We are able to work for our entire community and to develop our nation. Thank You!"

 

Yours in Gratitude and Service,

 

The Youth Development Committee