12 May 2010

Close of service

How did it become the 11th so soon? This month and last have been absolutely ridiculous with busyness. I apologize for falling off the internet yet again.
Last week I had my close of service (COS) conference. Basically, all the kids who arrived with me (that are still in country) get together at a super posh hotel and talk about what the heck we’re doing with our lives now that we’re just a few months away from leaving. It’s a fun three days, but also pretty useful. There was a great panel on job possibilities – three former Peace Corps volunteers and one embassy worker with other international experience. It really made me think harder about taking the foreign service exam. And then the presentation on our non-competitive eligibility for federal government jobs made me want to look up federal openings (basically, as returned Peace Corps volunteers we get a year of ‘inside hire’ status where we can be hired for positions before they are opened up to the public).
So where am I going next?
Well, on the first day of the conference I submitted my formal application to be a third year Volunteer Leader. Yup, that means staying in Togo for another year. So all of you who thought about visiting but never got around to it… here’s your chance. I’m signed up to be here until Aug/Sept 2011.
I’m sure you’re all just dying to read my letter of interest for the position, but unfortunately I got kinda long-winded… four pages. Ridonkulous.
So I’ll skip around, here are some excerpts:

“When I grow up, I want to be a Peace Corps volunteer,” declared the girl with bright eyes, “just like Da Adzo Rose.”
“Thank you, Delali.” I replied. I smiled back at her and continued leading an exercise combining English and goal-setting with the class of 3eme students at CEG Kovié. Delali was one of the students with whom I made a special connection. She’d seen and experienced the benefits of working with Peace Corps volunteers; not just myself but also volunteers from all over the country during Camp UNITE 2009. Her admiration and respect for our work gave her the aspiration to become a Peace Corps volunteer. It is these special connections and relationships that I want to help first and second year volunteers to foster; these moments of inspiration and joy that lead me to apply to become a Volunteer Leader.

My Peace Corps Service
My experience in Edinburgh, motivated me during my Peace Corps service to pursue projects, both in my village and nationally, that focused on empowering young people. In Mission Tové worked with both students and apprentices, using lessons from the Life Skills book as well as teaching good business practices. Last November, after over a year working with my group of peer educators, I encouraged them to develop their own plan for celebrating World AIDS day. I facilitated the discussion, using brainstorm charts and priority mapping, but the ideas and the work were all theirs. They decided to plan a big event for all the students in the two villages of Mission Tové and Kovié. Instead of simply planning and presenting their own sensibilisation, the group chose to invite the two other junior high schools to write and perform their own skits, based on the theme “Youth facing up to HIV/AIDS.” The day was a fantastic success, proven to me by the fact that I didn’t do anything more than move chairs and take pictures; the students took care of everything. They’ve already started planning next year’s event.
I came into Togo as an NGO Development volunteer, a subset of the Small Enterprise Development program, but I hadn’t yet found an NGO to work with in my village so I was thrilled to take on a leadership role in two national projects: Camp UNITE and the Karren Waid Scholarship Program. These two projects will be the focus of my community level volunteer assignment. The non-governmental organization PAHCS located in Amlamé manages both projects. PAHCS has been the NGO contact for Karren Waid since its inception. We have now reached a point where volunteers should be assisting the program rather than running it. I intend to implement a capacity-building administrative process, developing a three-year strategic plan for growth and expansion of the scholarship program. This capacity-building will include lessons on how to maintain databases, setting up the physical workspace, developing filing systems, planning and managing a scholar conference, and holding fundraising events. I will also be the point person for the nascent Karren Waid Foundation currently in the first steps of applying for 501c3 status in the United States. I will coordinate with them on good communication of goals and objectives both on the US and Togolese side.
For the Camp UNITE part of my third year, I will focus on assisting CONGECS, the consortium of three Togolese NGOs running camp, to have their collaboration made official. Much of my role will also be developing a consistent reporting on camp. This will include photos, videos, and testimonials during camp that will serve not only for archive, but also for promoting the camp to our funders, especially the Unite Foundation. A major challenge that Camp UNITE has faced is the lack of follow-up on the young people who have been through the week of formation. I will work in tandem with the consortium to develop a reporting system that helps us to not only keep track of camp alums but also support them with resources, whether that means sending them new information or getting them in contact with a local PCV or other camp alums.

I believe that I would be an excellent Volunteer Leader. I have a strong commitment to the goals of Peace Corps. I am a very talented manager and trainer. I am motivated and creative and willing to put in the time and effort necessary to have real achievements in a complicated environment. I realize that if selected as a Volunteer Leader, I will essentially be creating the position and establishing standards that may be in place for years to come. The process will take a significant amount of time and lots of good and honest communication. I anticipate that there may be frustrations, but I look forward to the challenge.
Thank you for considering my application,
Xoxo ;)

You’d totally give me the job; you know it.
I have not yet had my interview, but I feel confident from informal chats with my program director and the Country Director that my application will be accepted. I’m pretty excited. Especially for the chance to move to a new city and do regional site development.
I hope to move to a city in the region of Plateau. It’s a lovely little city and really close to the village where my NGO collaborator is located (within two hours’ biking distance). I will have electricity and hopefully an internet connection… amazing!
I’m sad that I won’t be bringing little Ody along with me to keep me company. It’s heartbreaking to sit in my house and notice all the little evidence of a cat but not have him sitting in my lap purring or knocking things over. I’ve got to think of some appropriate way to mark his grave or something, a little closure. With all the running around, I haven’t taken the time to grieve. My first pet that was really mine

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