Tuesday, March 20, 2012


In Peace Corps, there is a lot of flexibility with the work you do. After a rigorous and stringent Pre-Service Training, where they equip you with many of the skills you will need in the field, Peace Corps Volunteers are essentially let loose in their villages to come up with their own projects. Some of these projects have to do with their primary assignments and the rest are ones that the volunteers create on their own, "secondary projects". Basically, you can do as much or as little as you set your mind to. You have the choice each day to wake up and do nothing or to go out into your community and engage in as many projects as you can. As such, we talk a lot about our "work plan", which is written, revised, and submitted each year of service and evaluated each quarter. This work plan is a way for us to stay focused and dedicated to our projects, to assess our own impact in the community, for our host country counterparts to understand what we are doing, and for Peace Corps to examine the work being done by volunteers across the country.

This process has been interesting for me. My first year of services has meant two different sites with a variety of new and different primary and secondary projects. It has forced me to continually reexamine the work I am doing and make a concerted effort to have an impact. (Recognizing that much of our impact cannot necessarily be quantified but is still every bit as important.) This means taking joy in small projects, like teaching the village kids geography and yoga, to taking on big tasks, like helping start an NGO for orphans and vulnerable children in a neighboring village. This is exactly how varied the projects I have done are. In fact, those are two examples of things I have been doing here.

So, why am I mentioning all of this? Is it so you know what I am working on too and have a clear understanding of my work plan? No, not exactly. If you're curious then you can just look here: My Projects and you will know. The real reason is because I have been here nearly a year and am getting very introspective as I reflect on my service, my expectations, and my contribution here.

As Peace Corps Volunteers, we get so caught up in the actual work we do and the end product. We want to start clubs and projects and do more more more. Generally speaking, it is in our nature as go-getters. I think it's one of the best things about us. This is compounded, however, by having to file things like work plans with Peace Corps and fill out very detailed reports each quarter with quantifiable data. We often forget about our own personal growth and our own needs/wants/desires. Therefore, what I want to focus on right now goes back to the very beginning of this journey when we were first trying to express our hopes for our service... the Aspiration Statement.

Before coming to Botswana, each Peace Corps Volunteer is asked to write an Aspiration Statement, which is basically an essay that answers five very important questions. Among these questions is the title one: what do you aspire for your service? Simply, what do you want out of your time here? I recently reread what I wrote and was pleasantly surprised. Without even trying, it seems that my aspirations are being accomplished. Granted, many of my pre-departure aspirations were broad, but these were the things I hoped to get out of my service, my aspirations, and I meant every word. These are the things I set out to do twelve months ago, copied directly from my Aspiration Statement:

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The moral of the story is that I have accomplished all those things that I had set out to do during my first year. My "aspirations" are being realized. And, like I said, it happened without making the conscious effort. Exciting? I think so. The rest of my service is smooth sailing, accomplishing even bigger things. Kind of makes this second year seem even more promising!

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