Each Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience is completely their own. No two experiences are the same. And you cannot judge another’s experience based on your own. And from experience it seems as though you either love it or you hate it. By the end of your two years, you’re either ready to get the F out, or you are scratching your head wondering where the time went, filling out paperwork to extend your service. I am just such a person.
I was assigned to a semi-private/semi-government-operated rural secondary school, serving in the capacity of remedial reading teacher and librarian. I have worked to establish a library by procuring library books from several US based non-profit organizations. I have taught remedial reading classes. And on more than one occasion filled in for teachers on maternity leave; teaching subjects ranging from integrated science, maths, and physics.
I can’t say that my service has always been positive or productive. There were many times where I felt very frustrated and unsupported. It seemed like at every turn there was a roadblock, preventing me from doing my assignment. Other times, it seemed as though there were barriers obstructing my visions and ideas for improved remedial classes, a functional library, educational afterschool clubs, and other initiatives, such as life skills classes, from becoming a reality.
From the beginning I formed a strong and special bond with the school Guidance Counselor. Together we have created a Guidance Committee aimed at tackling some of the school’s toughest social issues. This has been one of the most rewarding bonds and positive programs I have been involved with.
From early on, I decided that I would want to extend my stay. Due to the nature of how Peace Corps operates, my group arrived in February, dictating that we would be leaving in April. This falls in the middle of the school term. I knew that I would want to finish the school year, as otherwise I would feel as though I abandoned my students, the teachers, and the Guidance Counselor/Committee. I would feel incomplete, as things would seem to have been left unfinished, and abruptly.
Furthermore, from the day that I arrived in St. Vincent, I began looking around for a rugby team. It took nearly a year before I accidentally found them. Since then, I have been a dedicated player, albeit for fun and not competitive at all, since I am not male, nor a citizen. On my own, I have tried various times to initiate a youth rugby team at the school I teach at, but to no avail. After about a year of trying on my own, the men’s national team initiated a youth rugby program, whereby some of the players go to different schools to teach/coach rugby. Some players have even started youth rugby teams in their communities. While it is still a slow go, progress has been made, and it is a step in the right direction, toward increasing awareness and interest in rugby in SVG.
To this end, I proposed that the SVG National Rugby team organize and conduct a youth rugby camp over the summer (as a way I could extend my service even longer). Much to my surprise, the team was very receptive and extremely enthusiastic and supportive of the idea. Although, we are in the beginning planning stages, it looks like this dream can very well become a reality.
So while most Peace Corps Volunteers begin wrapping up their projects in the last 2 months of service, here I am just beginning a new project. I feel as though there is still so much I have to offer, so much I have to do/see/experience, that two months is no nearly enough to accomplish all my professional and personal goals. For these reasons, among others, I have decided to extend my service beyond the initial two-year requirement. I will be staying an extra 6 months to finish the school year and formally wrap up all lose ends with the library and remedial reading program, the Guidance Committee, teachers and friends; and to implement a vision of mine: to start a youth rugby team and conduct a summer camp.
Not only will this fulfill my sense of completeness, and give ample time to say good bye (more on that in a later post), but it will give me time to get my act together and start planning my next journey in life. Spoiler: back to the grind of trying to find a job in engineering, yeah nothing exciting.