One of the things I love most about Peace Corps is the freedom you have with your work. I set my own hours, plan my own projects, and follow things through to measure results and impact. Some days are pretty typical to office work: I spend hours and hours preparing presentations or planning for a seminar. Other days, I do the Hokey Pokey with a ton of kids, hand out cookies I made at midnight the night before, and hang out in my hammock reading my 3rd book that week.
Before coming here, I fully expected my happiest and most productive days to be those of the former- doing typical “work.” I thought that would make me happiest and that would be where my biggest potential impact would lie. However, after a few months in my little village, I’m starting to see things from a different perspective.
I still have hopes and plans for improving the local way of performing agri-business functions. Though I’m no longer naïve enough to believe that I could completely change the community, I have several smaller goals: helping producers understand basic business functions, taking inventory of their farms, starting to use registers, and potentially even working with value added products (chocolate bars instead of raw beans).
Making a difference in the way locals handle business practices is certainly important, but I’ve begun to ask myself if there are other equally, if not even more important, ways to make a difference.
In addition to my primary project (agribusiness development) I also get to work with secondary projects of my choosing: education, youth and gender development, nutrition, etc.- essentially anything other than agribusiness. As is common with many volunteers, secondary projects have quickly begun to be a large and important part of my work here. There are the official secondary projects: teaching English in schools and leading gender and development seminars, but then there are also the non-official activities: days I spend playing with kids, helping with art projects or teaching songs and dances to draw shy kids out of their shells.
As a professional, I feel incredibly happy and fulfilled when I teach excel to a local entrepreneur or when a women’s group asks for my help in marketing their products. As a person, however, I cannot imagine feeling more fulfilled than when a kid runs up to me to show off the better grades he or she is earning, or when a group of kids starts calling me Aunt to show me that I am a part of their family.
So, it seems like there are two stories to be told: That which is on my resume, and that which you’ll only hear from listening to the little moments.