Friday, March 13, 2009

Maybe I am actually making a difference.

I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer for a little over six months now. I haven’t much to show for those past months, no projects, workshops, or anything of that nature. The projects I’ve tried to do have fallen through. Organizations I’ve wanted to bring out to my village have already been here and the villagers are starting projects with them; which is good for the village don’t get me wrong, but leaves me feeling slightly useless. I am waiting for responses to requests and grants, yet have no hard evidence of whether or not me being here is making a difference. Let’s face it…part of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is wanting to make a difference and change the world. I’ve felt a little ineffective and get frustrated thinking I have nothing to show for my time. I think I’ve done a good job of integrating and knowing my village, but having not completed any sort of Peace Corps project isn’t where I wanted to be at this point. I thought I’d have something to show for my time. But alas, such is not true. So how does one measure effectiveness here in the Peace Corps? Is it the number of projects and amount of stuff you got your village? How many Ministries, NGOs, and other organizations you brought out to your village to do projects? How many babies were named after you? Truth is, since each PCV has a different experience, so that answer varies. I still have a year and a half to go so I have lots of time to do projects, but it is frustrating feeling like I have done nothing for six months but hang out in Samoa. All this being said, last week I was walking and talking with a member of my Peace Corps committee when the MPA came up. She told me the men had gone into the MPA and taken all the Crowns of Thorns out. It then hit me that maybe I am making a difference. See, I had been doing that for the past two weeks. At least once a week taking Crowns of Thorns out of the MPA would be the mission of my swim. I had talked casually with the mayor and other people in the village about the MPA and how Crowns of Thorns are bad for the reef because they feed on coral and in high numbers could decimate the reef. I didn’t think much of the conversations, just letting people know what I was doing in the MPA. When I heard the men had gone in there and taken the Crowns of Thorns out, it made me realize that my job as an “ecoliteracy educator” (as my official PCV title says I am) might actually be getting done. This brings much needed relief and gives me a new sense of accomplishment. So maybe in my six months I have nothing material to show my time hasn’t been completely worthless, but maybe I am using my marine biologist skills to educate people on the marine environment and doing my job as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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