As a previous member of the Michigan State University SCOUT BANANA chapter, I am absolutely thrilled to begin my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda starting in just a few weeks. I know many young (and older!) people who have considered doing the Peace Corps, so I’d like to detail what my work will probably entail (not to mention the equally-challenging cross-cultural adjustment, language acquisition, being far from home and family for 27 months, etc.). However, every volunteer is in a different situation and has a different set of skills and experience – therefore everyone ends up doing many different things!
I’ve been given a job title, program, and job description, but nothing about the details of my job are clear yet, and probably won’t be for a long time to come. Part of the model of Peace Corps, and any type of grassroots participatory development work, is doing needs assessments in your community and doing what the people there are interested in and need, not what your international organization deems necessary (radical thinking, I know). So the details of my work are still yet to be determined, but here is the general idea of what I’ll be doing:
Program: Community Health and Economic Development (CHED)
Job Title: Agricultural Extension Volunteer
Your Primary Duties: Volunteers in our Community Health and Economic Development Program work as staff members in a variety of host organizations in Uganda. Uganda’s Ministry of Health, and local and international organizations request Volunteers to assist them with developing and implementing programs with the goals of improving overall levels of community health and economic development, preventing HIV/AIDS among adults and youth, caring for orphans and vulnerable children, and supporting people living with AIDS, their families, and their caregivers. As an Agricultural Extension Volunteer it is important for you to know that more than 80% of Ugandans depend on subsistence agriculture for livelihood.
The info packet then goes on to explain a number of activities with which I could be involved with the overall goal of improving livelihoods through agriculture, especially for people affected by HIV/AIDS and youth. I’m really hoping for a livestock/animal husbandry post (I majored in animal science and plan on veterinary school after Peace Corps)! However, volunteers always get involved with secondary projects, as described below:
While your primary assignment will be work in an advisory role full-time with a local host organization or government agency, there is little that goes on in your community that falls wholly outside of your role as a Community Health and Economic Development Volunteer. Your primary assignment will be the door through which you enter and initially come to know your community, allowing you to identify activities that are of interest to your community as a whole, and that further enhance your sense of fulfillment and professional development…
Oftentimes, secondary projects are among the most fulfilling to Volunteers. Such projects may include working with a local women’s group to improve their health practices; teaching adults basic computer skills; teaching English or basic reading and writing to low-literacy adults in your community; setting up girls’ empowerment or sports camps with students in local schools, to name a few such possible secondary activities.
Hopefully that gives you some insight into what some Peace Corps Volunteers do! Others going with me to Uganda include economic development, NGO development, youth development, and community health volunteers, so we will all be involved in a variety of projects. I leave the U.S. on August 10 and will be in training until October 21, at which point I will begin service at my assigned post. While I’ll be focusing most of my posts on this blog on my actual work, thoughts on development and aid work in Africa, etc., I’ll also be posting more of my personal experiences on my own blog for those who are interested.