Saturday, March 12, 2011

Youth center content meeting

Working as a Peace Corps volunteer is pretty much as grassroots as development work gets. As a PCV we live the side by side with the members of our communities in order to better understand each other. Which is ultimately the most important goal of Peace Corps.

In Moroccan culture specifically respect comes with age. And 24 just isn’t quite old enough to get the same respect that I might get at home. Most Moroccans refer to unmarried people as “chebab” or youth until the time they are married. For some that may be 30 years old.

Even though I live by myself, take care of myself, and travel all around this country by myself I still get treated like a child a lot. At a tender age of nearly 25, when I am starting to leave my early 20s behind and trying to be respected as a capable adult I would rather be treated like the latter.

This week I was asked to participate in something that really helped me to feel that way. I got to feel like a different kind of development worker and more like a professional.

I got invited to Rabat, along with three other PCVs, to be present at a meeting about a new model of content for Moroccan youth centers. The Ministry of Youth and Sports is in the process of building 500  new youth centers that will feature many resources to develop well rounded and capable young adults. The meeting that we participated in was to talk about the content they will offer. We talked about a whole slew of ideas from exercise classes, to first aid instruction, to around the country field trips.

Present at the meeting were some ministry officials as well as some directors of some nearby youth centers. The meeting felt very professional and they were so willing and eager to hear our feedback and get advice based on our experiences.

I could tell I was a development worker in another country obviously because the meeting was conducted mostly in Arabic with our PC staff helping to translate. There came a moment where I just had to fully take in the notion that I was sitting in a room in a foreign country, struggling to understand a foreign language, talking about the future of a nation’s youth.

At that point I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing with my life. I felt lucky to be part of the beginning of something  that is going to help shape these youth and ultimately make our world a better place.