Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Brief intoduction to my assignment

Instead of purchasing a puzzle to practice patience (refer to last post), I purchased a travel guitar. I figure it'll add a little structure to my day because I have to practice a little every day to not be totally annoying to others. It's not as hard as I thought to learn basic chords, can pretty much play one of my favorite songs now, Four Winds by Bright Eyes. I'm still working on the singing while playing part.

March 7th I'll be joining my fellow Senegal Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) at our Staging event in Washington DC. I've already received two booklets, one explaining the work being done in Senegal and one explaining my assignment as a Water and Sanitation Education/Health Education volunteer. Their descriptions may change, but I'd like to share them. First, allow me to (copy another blogger's idea and) list the three objectives of the PC and the Core Expectations:

The Peace Corps' mission has three simple goals:
  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
Core Expectations:
1. Prepare your personal and professional life to make a commitment to serve abroad for a full term of 27 months
2. Commit to improving the quality of life of the people with whom you live and work; and, in doing so, share your skills, adapt them, and learn new skills as needed
3. Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service
4. Recognize that your successful and sustainable development work is based on the local trust and confidence you build by living in, and respectfully integrating yourself into, your host community and culture
5. Recognize that you are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your personal conduct and professional performance
6. Engage with host country partners in a spirit of cooperation, mutual learning, and respect
7. Work within the rules and regulations of the Peace Corps and the local and national laws of the country where you serve
8. Exercise judgment and personal responsibility to protect your health, safety, and well-being and that of others
9. Recognize that you will be perceived, in your host country and community, as a representative of the people, cultures, values, and traditions of the United States of America
10. Represent responsibly the people, cultures, values, and traditions of your host country and community to people in the United States both during and following your service

My specific assignment (on paper) is Water and Sanitation/Health Educator. From what I've heard from current volunteers, this description is not to be taken too strictly. One volunteer said I may not hear the phrase "water and sanitation educator" ever again, but I'll sum it up about identical to how its written:

I will be working as an educator, a facilitator, a catalyst, a liaison and a mentor to assist my community members to work collectively and individually to (1) Address the major environmental health and nutrition problems of the area through non-formal education and community actions. Environmental health includes access to potable water, improved sanitation conditions, hygiene education, solid waste management, prevention of mosquito-borne diseases, access to clean energy, land restoration and tree planting etc. (2) Improve the health of vulnerable groups (mothers, babies, and children) through the implementation of communication for behavior change strategies and the promotion of good health strategies.

There is an intensive 8 weeks of training before I'm installed in my volunteer site, which will most likely be a village of 150-5000 people. When installed I will conduct a survey to assess the environmental health and nutrition conditions of my community and school, and the key health indicators. After three months of settling into my new home for the next two years, I will design and begin to implement projects and plans.

There are lots of unknowns for right now, and so much to look forward to. And it's not all work! After reading lot's of blogs of current volunteers I'm happy to say I found volunteers that play Magic The Gathering, a volunteer that wants someone to bring Settlers of Catan (ill bring it if I can fit it), volunteers that have built pizza ovens and have grown watermelons, and past volunteers that have done beekeeping. To quote the immortal (literally, I think) Sam Beckett (the physicist, not the playwright), oh boy!

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