In Peace Corps service the first few months you spend building a community profile, assessing the needs of the community based on how the community view their needs. The next year is spent building dialogue and relationship, this is typically done through actions and projects. The last 10 months of service are typically spent closing up grants, implementing projects and ideas and building the capacity of your assigned organization. As you step back, the organization is to step up. My service has been all over the board. I have had some really low lows, and some very high highs. Mostly I have had an adjustment to accepting that I am not as good at cultural relations as I once thought I was.
My three base goals are environmental education for adults, environmental education for children and finally capacity building. These are on top of the base PC goals of skilled labor, sharing host country culture with Americans, and sharing American culture with Jamaicans. My successes have been: school garden, sharing American culture with children, adult literacy, showing small sustainable farming techniques to individuals, building and installing 2 trash skips in the community, several community clean-up days, and a summer program to encourage children to read. So what are my failures? Understanding cultural relations here, trying to unify the community, trying to avoid being pulled into political affiliation, and finally any type of organizational capacity building.
I am a very goal oriented person. I set high goals and I suffer from great failures because of this. I also take failure of projects very personally. I need to let that go. It is not my failure, it is my lack of cultural understanding. It is also my lack of understanding the community history and the politics of the area. You hear of bad mine or bad mind here, and that is a bit of my issue but more so it is my inability to be seen as a non-political entity. It comes down to who you associate and work with and how they are viewed. You tend to become an extension of them if you work exclusively with someone.
As my time is winding down, I have come to realize my biggest success and most sustainable projects will be the school gardens. This is where I will put my focus for the rest of the school year. Along with a recycling program and a clean community focus, all to be implemented on the school grounds. The principal at the school is not from the community so she is not involved in politics of the area, which makes it easier to be seen as neutral. Also children are super-excited to work outside on things and listen to most of what you say. They tend to be little sponges, and often share new information with their parents. If you think back, how many times were children the reason for a behavior change in your life? In mine many times, parents quit smoking for the kids, they will recycle for the kids they will even drive slower for their kids. Children are powerful influencers.
I do also hope to set up a monthly reading competition for the children at the school, with prizes like we had for our summer program, a themed day spent outside of class doing fun things. So if you have a suggestion for a theme that has a book to go with it, let me know. I want a book for each theme so the children have something to inspire them that month.