You’re Official Now, Kid: In-Service Training is Finished

Well – it’s official. I’m done my in-service training. I’m an “official” volunteer now, ready to start projects and make a difference in my community. But, I thought I became “official” after pre-service training? And didn’t someone tell me I was “official” when I stepped off the plane in Guinea? Didn’t they say we were “official” when we met for staging in Philadelphia? When does one become an “official” volunteer? Better yet, what is an “official” volunteer?

My group of 32 stellar folks has finished our 3 months of site evaluation and 2 weeks of training. We’re now trained in grants, monitoring and evaluation, project design and management and a variety of technical skills. We’re supposed to hit the ground running and ~save the world~, right?

Well, sort of.

For the rest of our time here in Guinea, everything we do is in our hands. We’ve got no boss breathing down our backs to get the report turned in by the deadline. Imagine yourself in our shoes for a second –foreign, grappling with language, working with minimum resources. Everything around you is different. Many people don’t believe you can accomplish anything. Maybe you don’t even believe in yourself.

The problems sometimes seem awfully big, while we seem awfully small.

But we persist. To me, an official Peace Corps volunteer is someone who has committed. We have chosen to be here and we actively choose to remain here. Although our days may pass slowly and we may not always seem busy (in the American workforce sense), we are working 24/7. Peace Corps has three goals within it’s mission:

  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

Living with a host family, making friends with people of all ages, walking through the market and talking to the women selling – viola! Goal 2! This blog post? Letters back home? Facebook interactions? Phone calls? Viola! Goal 3! And as for Goal 1? We work within the context we have been given. Some of us visit gardening collectives, some of us visit health centers, some of us teach in schools. When we gather for events we share our successes and failures and we think of ways to adapt them for our sites. We google for new ideas. We read dozens of text books. We try our hardest; we work with what we know and we learn what we do not. That is what an official Peace Corps volunteer does.