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 a 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 or for other reasons; 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 and discouraged. 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 stumbled upon/ found them. When I first came on the rugby scene in SVG, there were only a handful of players, and maybe one other girl. In the beginning I was a dedicated player, albeit for fun and not competitive at all, since I am not male, nor a citizen. But, I always had plans for developing rugby in the back of my mind. On my own, I tried various times to initiate a youth rugby team at the school I taught at, but to no avail. After about a year of trying on my own, the men’s national team initiated an informal and unorganized 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 was a slow go, progress had been made, and it was 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 2013 (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, there were some hiccups in the planning and execution of the inaugural summer youth rugby camp, it was relatively successful and it served as the springboard for formally launching the Grassroots Rugby Programme in SVG (also another reason to extend my service!). What was once a fun pastime to stay active and meet new people, soon transformed into my primary project.
After working tirelessly with the newly elected SVG RUFC Executive Board, which focused first on restructuring and reorganizing the Club, focusing primarily on building up rugby in SVG by targeting youth, we collaborated with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture, Department of Sports to introduce rugby into the PE curriculum at the primary school level. Traveling to numerous primary schools, teaching rugby to third and fourth graders became my full time job. It was the best thing to happen during my service and resulted in me extending my time, yet again!
The pilot Grassroots Rugby Programme was well received and highly successful. We conducted another summer youth rugby camp. Now, after over three and a half years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and nearly two years as the Youth Programme Coordinator for the SVG RUFC, I am handing over my duties. The Executive Board searched extensively for a new coach to take over the Youth Programme. To that end, a Welsh coach will be volunteering with the SVG RUFC for six months starting in October 2014. Not a moment too soon, as I officially complete my service Oct 4.