For me life as a PCV is not at all what I envisioned. I expected to work on sustainable farming and helping people understand the tenants of eco-friendly farm practices. I also thought I would be helping the community move itself into a prime location. This is what my services started out at, but it is not at all what happened. First off when you have a small pocket of people promoting and moving the entire population forward it is in no way sustaining. It is exhausting and then in my location we have a division based on land issues and politics. No matter what is being done someone turns up to undo any progress, even if it benefits the entire community. The frustration at times is overwhelming. On more than one occasion I have considered quitting and going home, lucky for me, quitting is just not in my blood. I always pull my bootstraps up and move forward.
In all of my frustration I came up with the idea of offering adult literacy programs. Tressa is from Seattle and has many skills/education in early education. She has been a great resource to get some things in this area actually done. I have one man who is full on able to read now. He inspires me to continue this when I get back home. The sparkle in his eye when he conquers a whole story gives me a warm feeling in my heart. The other two men not only are starting to read but also for the first time writing recognizable letters. This is pretty amazing and their excitement is contagious. Even on days I do not want to go down, I go because they are excited to learn. Several months ago we started taking them down to the library to get books. This was a way to give them the confidence in knowing that they now had access to the library. On many occasions, Library day had to be postponed or cancelled and each of these men on several occasions have walked down to the library to turn in their books and get new ones. I was told no grown men would be walking to the library for a book!
This summer I started an environmental club that meets on Friday mornings and a reading competition. A local citizen or group donated $2000 JD for the prize. As I was trying to get this going Tressa came in and helped organize it in a way that made sense to the culture, she has been here for almost 20 years. She worked in the local schools most of those years and knows how the culture works in this way. We encouraged the kids to come down to the library weekly with the men. The result? Nine kids read more books and pages this summer than they would have otherwise. They increased their love for books and found stories that they loved. Sadly because so much division exists in the area, not as many kids participated as I would have liked. Enough did participate to inspire me to propose monthly reading competitions at the local school when school starts back up. The principal is on board!
The prize for the reading competition (read-a-thon) was a day at the river being a pirate. Yup you read that correctly, pirate day! So we brought finger foods and in case you did not know, pirates eat cake at least once a day, everyday! We had treasure hunts, we created pirate clothes, we “terrorized” tourist tubing down the river. We also swam and swam and swam. Life vest were donated to us by the caretaker of the park (Hidden Beauty) to us to ensure the kids safety. We got wooden swords, treasure chests and eventually fake tattoos! Three books were donated as prizes for the top three readers by an American family when they visited the area.
All in all for about $5000 JD (food and rental of the park) and a little bit of time and gas, we gave the children the privilege or finding love for literacy and a fun day being pirates, which they will never have again. Tressa has had the pirate day in her mind and suitcase for a few years. She has wanted to do it and when she realized we needed a prize she thought this would be the perfect opportunity to pull it off. It was and I thank you Tressa for helping to organize and make the reading competition a true success!