Sunday, August 2, 2009

Instructions (That I Don´t Follow) for a Successful Project

Um, yeah. Just thought I´d send along these tips that our country director passed on to all of us.

It is a note from a currently serving Volunteer in Ecuador to a group in training that he just had a training session with - Enjoy.

Instructions to trainees from a crotchety PCV:

Nobody is going to like this part. Many people ask for the secret of our success, but nobody seems to pay much attention to the answers, yet they are simple and basic.

You must make yourself a part of your community in every way you can. You will always be an outsider and never be fully trusted, but you can go a long way towards being accepted. The key is to make your entire world your community. Live as your community lives and make your communitys concerns your concerns, your only concerns. Here are some specific suggestions:

§ Avoid as much as possible Peace Corps events and organizations. ...For the most part, these groups tend to be about us and our problems as volunteers, not about our communities problems. Stop worrying about yourself. When tempted to join, ask yourself what it has to do with your community and how it will affect your relationship with your community. Remember that your time here is not about you, but about your work in your community. It can be very rewarding to completely abandon your self-importance. Dont indulge yourself in your concerns and worries about your privacy, your future, your romances, your life in the States, and your comfort, but open yourself up completely to life in your community. This can be extremely rewarding.

§ Break or at least loosen as much as you can all your ties with family and friends in the States. Tell them you are entering two years of service in Ecuador and they shouldnt expect to hear much from you. This can actually be very liberating.

§ Don’t let family or friends visit you here if you can at all help it. Their visit will start you thinking about your life in the States and not about your life in your community. It can be a big distraction from your work and can turn you into just another rich gringo in the eyes of your community.

§ Dont let other volunteers visit you in your site. The exception to this is an ICT with both volunteer and counterpart visiting. Hosting other volunteers creates a life for you outside and separate from your life in the community. Not only that, but your community can see that you have other concerns foreign to them. The point is not to get a life, but to lose all lives that separate you from your community. Visits from other volunteers tend to augment Peace Corps Fiesta Móvil reputation and make you appear frivolous in the eyes of your community. You need to develop an intensity directed toward your work. Don’t dilute it by hanging out with other volunteers.

§ Dont take vacations or weekends away. The people of your community cant take weekends away from their lives and neither should you. You should try to keep in mind that you are here for two years of service (and sacrifice, if need be), not a working vacation. Staying in site will let you come to know your community deeply and this is a privilege. You dont need shallow glances of other parts of your country of service at the expense of your work. You can be a tourist after you COS. Lets try to dispel the Cuerpo de Paseo reputation we have acquired.

§ Dont check your e-mail except once a month or so. The longer the better. E-mail only involves you in the petty day-to-day concerns of your family and friends and, once again, removes you from the concerns of your community. Also, e-mail is a mysterious process to many people in many campo towns in Ecuador and, as such, is mistrusted. It is a good idea to do your banking chores, check your mail and your e-mail all at the same time. It is an even better idea to take a community member with you when you do all this. They can then see exactly what youre doing and this will dispel the mystery and mistrust.

§ Dont hide. Your community needs to see you every day, preferable working (the dirtier and sweatier, the better). They need to see what you are doing all the time to even start to trust you.

§ Always remember that you only come to know someone thru action, not talk, and action under pressure is even better. Do whatever you have to do to actually work with people. Dont just visit a family for lunch, but go help them plant corn or harvest rice. One minga is worth a hundred conversations.

There, I told you that you wouldnt like it. Yet these are the best instructions I can give for a successful project.

1 comment:

Jillian Badger-Reyes said...

Hey, my name's Jillian and I was a PC voluteer in PY from 2004-2006. I just wanted to say that I randomly ran across your blog and I really like it! Keep up the good work, and I look forward to more blogging. It really makes me miss PC service, and it makes me wish that I had done more or spent more time with my community, so really get out there and do as much as you can and spend time with your community as much as you can so you don't have any regrets. I know it's difficult sometimes but you'll feel so much more rewarded in the end. Here's my email if you ever need anything: Thanks!