Thursday, October 15, 2009

What do I do here?

I got the question of “what will you be doing exactly” a lot before I left the US. I still get it now. Up until this point I truly couldn’t give a very detailed answer because, in Peace Corps a lot of things are uncertain. However, after spending just over a month in country I feel I am getting a better handle on how the next two years of my life are going to play out. I would like to take the time to answer the most common question for all of you now.

So as you already know I am a youth development volunteer. Meaning my main role in this sector is to implement programs that will advance the youth of this country. In the case of Morocco the term youth describes individuals up to the age of 25, usually all those who are not yet married. The way I will do this is through English classes mostly. However I have the freedom to implement programs that I feel can help my specific community. My focus is to provide programs that are in the best interest in the community, not my own. When I get to my final site I will have to begin work to identify just what it is the youth of that community wants to learn. But at this point I have a few ideas of my own, that I would like to bounce off them when I get there. I would like to teach a Pilates or ballet class to women and girls. Create a mentor match program which will essentially match youth with adults that have similar interests so they can receive guidance in that subject. For example match a teenager who dreams of opening a shop with a current shop owner. Create a girls empowerment club to empower the girls of the community. Start an essay writing contest. Create a health club to teach youth about healthy eating and the importance of exercise. I will be doing most of these activities in a local dar chebab (house of youth). But dar chebabs are sometimes a sore subject to some families. Dar chebabs are a place where young people, both boys and girls, freely mix. Since dating is forbidden in Islam some families forbid their children to go to them. Young boys and girls are not permitted to mix in the eyes of some here. Also the dar chebab has its slow times and its busy times. Seeing as it is a place that kids go in their free time it’s schedule revolves around the school schedule. Kids wont come when they are busy at school. I have been told that my busy months will be January though May. This is the time when I will be implementing these wonderful programs that I have dreamt up. During the summer most dar chebabs are closed because families leave town to travel. Some volunteers use summer months for travel. However also during this time the Moroccan Ministry (like the president’s cabinet in America) funds summer camps for deserving kids. These camps usually focus on English learning with also some fun things involved. At this time I will travel to some pretty cool locations (usually on the coast) to work in a summer camp. They there are 12 two week sessions from July to September. I will be able to choose the weeks that I have available to work. Now during September through January I will probably experience a dry season. During this time I could do some things for myself as well as plan my project for the busy season.

Those are just the ideas that I have for now. I am excited to start to get them underway. Development is a very slow process. When I get to my final site my first step will be to integrate myself into that community. Develop relationships with people that can help me develop these programs and build a positive reputation for myself. The thing is what I am ultimately trying to do is create sustainable development. That means that I don’t exactly want to create programs that are totally dependent on me being here, because I am not going to be here forever. If I do my job correctly I will leave my community with the tools to continue the programs I have started. So I will also have to focus on transferring my skills to a person who is capable of continuing them when I am gone.

Even though I am here for the people of Morocco there are a few things I want to do for myself in my time here. I see living in Morocco as a huge source of inspiration for writing. Both creatively and informatively. Seeing as I studied journalism in college this is a priority for me. This blog is one thing that I am doing to keep my writing skills up to do date. I have approached the editor of The Jackson Citizen Patriot (my local newspaper) asking for any kind of space in print or online for me to write about my experience here. I specifically asked if it would be possible for me to do a guest column now and again, just for me to get some published work to help me in my future journalism career. I have already approached the leader of the VSN (Volunteer Support Network) to become a member when I begin my service. Members of the VSN are trained in active listening stills to become a person that volunteers and trainees can go to when they need support. They are essentially peer mentors. I think getting experience in this area would feed my skills as a reporter and help other volunteers at the same time. I have also approached the leader of PeaceWorks, a publication complied for and by volunteers. I would absolutely adore even more experience to use and perfect my writing and reporting skills. I have a few ideas for photojournalistic projects here too.

Aside from journalistic goals, I would also like to learn some French (on top of Moroccan Arabic) while I am here. I can see myself studying it on my own time as well as taking classes if I can find them. I want to do this because I see some time in France in my future after Peace Corps.

As for travel, I have goals but I think they are attainable. My cousin Anna is currently studying in Paris and I hope to visit her there before she leaves next June. I already have planned and look forward to my visit back to the US in July of next year. It will be the wedding of my best friend Kahley. I can’t wait to be a bridesmaid as well as see all my family and friends after 10 months apart. I also have hopes to get up to London to see my friend Davin and experience England. I think over 2 years these travel goals are attainable. These three right now are my only “must dos” as far as travel. I know I will be able to travel after my service is over in November 2011, so I will keep that in mind.