Saturday, April 27, 2013

Getting a Head Start: Third Year Assignments

Third year assignments typically start after a PCV finishes their work at site and reaches their original COS date. For many extendees (myself included), this also means they usually take their month-long "special home leave" before starting their new assignment. This allows for significant closure to be reached in their projects before beginning something new (and sometimes wholly different).

As I have mentioned before, I will have two assignments when I start my third year: one with Project Concern International (PCI) as a Technical Advisor for their Tsela Kgopo OVC and Gender Project and the other with Peace Corps as a Volunteer Leader. I will officially begin my new assignments on July 1st. But, as you likely could infer from my ramblings over the past two years, I have never been one for "going with the grain", so to speak. My natural instinct is to gather all the information available and dive head-first into whatever lies before me. This has served me well in the past so it is no surprise that I would do the same again here in Botswana with my third year assignments.

PCVL Head Start

Two weeks ago, my Country Director called and asked me if I would be willing to help plan and host a "Take Your Kid To Work Day" at the Peace Corps office. My role would be to come up with the agenda and activities, coordinate volunteers, and facilitate the day. A chance to play with adorable little kids all day and call it "work"?! Of course I agreed!

In collaboration with the office's Executive Assistant, I planned the agenda for the day. We decided to make it like a real work day for the kids (aged 3- to 10-years-old). They would get "official" nametags with the Peace Corps insignia and the title "Junior Staff" presented at a mock staff meeting in the morning, where they would also take their Oath of Service alongside their parents and other staff. They would go on to receive "medical clearance", complete with watching their heartbeat on a monitor, then go through "security check", which meant learning about basic safety then learning how to use an air horn and put out a real fire with a fire extinguisher! The rest of the day required them to be "Program Support" for the different sectors their parents worked in. Activities included shredding paper (big fun for a little kid!), stamping envelopes, and making friendship bracelets and doing crafts (to help come up with fun activities for PCVs to do with kids in their villages, of course!).

Besides being such a fun day playing with all the kids, it allowed me to see the staff from a more humanist perspective. Yes, we are all a family here - staff and PCVs - but it becomes a more powerful connection when you open up and see these more intimate moments. Knowing that I'm going to be working so closely with them in the upcoming year, I feel this was the perfect opportunity to share something deeper and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity. Also, have I mentioned that I like playing with adorable kids? Because their energy and excitement over it all really makes it worthwhile. Totally.

PCI Head Start

Last week, after submitting my updated resume, one of the staff from PCI called and asked if I would be willing to attend a meeting put on by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). The meeting was being called to review and revise a toolkit for HIV prevention and treatment for adolescents - a facilitator's guide for trainers, a manual for teachers, and three separate workbook for adolescents (ages ranging between 10-years-old and 19-years-old). Essentially, there is a pre-existing toolkit that has been being used in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other Southern African nations, and they are hoping to implement something similar in Botswana. To do this, they asked a group of experts to assemble and adapt the current documents to something usable here.

The room was literally full of the best minds Botswana has to offer and some of the highest government officials. They ranged from the heads of NACA (Botswana's National AIDS Coordinating Agency), the Ministries of Education and Health, and Baylor Children's Clinic to directors of some of the key national and international NGOs dealing with adolescent health issues in the country. I felt like a very small face in this specialized crowd and wondered why I had been invited to join this meeting. I resolved to try my best to contribute and to learn as much as I could during the meeting, in the hopes of being a valuable resource in the future.

By the end of our first reading of the documents, the representatives in my group were providing me with accolades for my insights and all that I had to offer in terms of contextualizing the document for Batswana youth and for organizational structure and ease of use. It seems that my work on the ground and in the villages has provided me with keen insights often overlooked at this higher level that were extremely useful in revising the toolkit. To the point that the project head from UNESCO asked me if I would be willing to continue my revisions after the meeting because they wanted to get it finalized and begin implementation by June of this year.

All of this gave me confidence in myself and in the skills and knowledge I have developed during my time here. I was overjoyed to be in this company and to be able to contribute meaningfully to the project. I was proud of myself and grateful that PCI felt I was a worthy representative for their organization.

So here I am, with less than a month left in my two year contract, preparing and actually starting some activities for my future extension assignments. I am so content with where things are going and full of excitement about the work ahead of me. I think this is really going to be something great!

1 comment:

  1. That is SO COOL!!
    I watch a lot of UN meetings for work and sometimes it feels like everything is just so high level that it's not actually feasible so it's really nice to know that the UN is trying to listen to people who have been in the field. :)