Stephanie Cox and Del Friedman, our PCV couple assigned to Nepal, had decided on a secondary activity before they left the U. S. Before they became Trainees, they knew about the country's need to have braillewriters repaired, and were prepared to do something about it. Their foreknowledge, however, is unusual.
PCVs need time to settle in end establish relationships within their communities.
Most Volunteers arrive in-country preoccupied with adjusting to their new environment overseas and getting started with their primary Peace Corps assignment. Not until this settling in has happened are they ready to decide how to undertake another project of their own within the community and to identify the specific activity.
Although she had researched the country before going there, TEFL teacher Nancy Picard spent her first year in Hungary gathering information about the school system and culture itself before she decided on a secondary activity to encourage Hungarian women to take a more active part in society. Even though Stephanie Cox and Del Friedman had decided that they were going to train local people to repair braillewriters before they arrived in Nepal, they waited to put their ideas into practice until they were well established in the country.
Once a secondary activity has been selected, PCV experiences show that it is best to start slowly end take one solid step at a time.
Phil Bob Hellmich in Sierra Leone caught a lot of fish in the Rokel River with his host country friends, the Conteh brothers, before he decided to pursue a personal project to see if he and his friends could create locally made lures to attract Nile perch. Once the activity got underway, the development process was slow for the first eight months with many failures and technical obstacles. Its eventual success attests to how well these obstacles were surmounted.
The culture within which you an working, in fact, may require moving slowly.
People in the United States tend to proceed rapidly through activities, but the pace is considerably slower in many other parts of the world. How slow was demonstrated by the example of Papua New Guinea where community members engaged in a six-month process to decide which bank to use in opening a savings account for their egg farm project. The Marcoves - the PCV couple working with the villagers - found it difficult to sit on the sidelines and wait for the villagers to come to an agreement. The wait, however, was one of the key elements leading to a successful venture because it meant that the people involved had learned to make decisions together and to cooperate with one another.
By not rushing into a secondary activity, you give yourself time to assess what you might really enjoy doing given the realities of your situation. You also come to know the needs of your community, as well as its leadership, skills, and interests.
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