Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Update: Goodbye Preparations

I have been getting a lot of messages from family and friends asking about my impending move so I thought an update was in order...

I met with the new NGO on Monday alongside my APCD, the PCVL, and two program staff from the Peace Corps Zambia office (who were here for on-site training). We asked a plethora of questions about their mission, current programming, funding sources, and their need and vision for a Peace Corps Volunteer. It turns out that they are an extremely nascent NGO - far from what was described to me in my initial meeting about the move. I learned that their funding is contingent on a number of factors and that they are lacking in systems and a strong foundation, making it hard for them to move forward. They also stated that their intention for a PCV was to have them be a preschool teacher. However fun this might be, that is not within the scope of my job. We had a frank discussion with them about the role of a PCV in capacitating host country nationals, meaning that I could help the teachers become more effective by doing trainings with them, helping design curriculums, and assisting them in program development etc but that I could not be a teacher solely. They claimed to understand but still seemed very unsure about the way forward. (This is common among organizations that are getting their first PCV but unsettling nevertheless.) All of this made me extremely anxious about the move. I immediately felt like I might be making a move from one ineffectual site to another. This is worrisome, especially given that I have finally found resolve (and secondary projects) at my current site and do not want to start over after being in country for so long only to be frustrated and disappointed once more. (Not to mention the fact that I hate giving up on anything, ever. Maybe I'm overly dedicated once I start something but it's hard not to see it through.)

That being said, having had a few days since the meeting to let it all resonate has helped improve my perception and restored my faith in the potential good I can do. I am optimistic once more! I now recognize that the staff (mostly volunteers from the support group) are passionate and they are motivated. I believe they will take direction well and be open to what I have to offer them. And, although there is a lot to be ironed out, I can see the challenges the organization is facing and how I can help. This is huge. For this, I am grateful. I am also fortunate that the village is large and has a lot to offer. There are many schools and NGOs and other things to get involved with. So, at the very least, even if the NGO is a major flop (which I doubt), there is so much potential there that not all will be lost.

The next big challenge before I can make the move is finding housing. Because the village is so close to the capital, people often live there and commute for work. We saw one house during my visit on Monday but it was unfinished and overpriced. The NGO and Peace Corps are both fervently looking for other potential houses for me. Additionally, I have put out feelers to people I know in the area to help me find potential housing options (that fall within the confines of Peace Corps' housing policy). The hope is that we will find something suitable within the next two to three weeks so that I can make the move by the beginning of February.

My APCD instructed me today to start letting go of my life in Kumakwane. She said she can tell that I am still holding on. My response was that I have been disappointed before and that I am content in my village and don't want to let go until I know there is something positive to move towards. She seemed to understand my sentiments but continued to echo her call for my release. In my effort to do so, I am going to go to Mogoditshane tomorrow to sit with the people at the new NGO and then to walk around the village and start to acclimate. I am emotionally prepared to do this much. The hard part will be letting go of a place that has felt like home for the past seven months and to children that have truly become "mine". It is going to be a sad day when I have to take my pictures down, remove the drawings the Kums Kids have made me from my walls, and pack up my things. It will be even sadder to say goodbye to my friends and this village that I hold dear. I imagined this day and knew it would be hard but, when I pictured it in my mind, it was 17 months down the road. So I will commit to taking it one step at a time and ease my way into it, letting go bit by bit. I know this is movement in the right direction but, even still, change is never easy.

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