Today I made actual progress on getting two projects started. One is a workshop for teachers and other interested people in how to manage a library. The other is a class on how to start a small business for youth.
I’ve been working with a funcionario, Luis, in the Muni for the last month and a half, but things aren’t really progressing. The last notable thing he said to me that last time I met with him was ‘We need to think about how much decorations are going to cost!’ I must mention the schools we want to do the project with haven’t even been informed about it and Luis and I haven’t sat down and discussed any of the details for the plan yet.
Anyway, back to guilt and skipping. Many of the volunteers are extremely nice and caring people who are more than willing to do any and everything possible for their community. Seriously, I know one volunteer who teaches typing classes for 6 hours a day everyday. He works with one student each hour because his personal laptop is the only computer in the community. On the other extreme I know of a volunteer who pretty much didn’t leave her house for a month.
For many of us finding work to fill our days is like trying to catch a butterfly…with a blindfold on….in a lightning storm…on a hilltop. It is a bit frustrating. Most of us have found the Munis we were assigned to be, at the very least, unhelpful or at the worst, outright hostile towards working with us. Trying to find someone to work within the community is equally difficult, especially if the community is small or spread out.
We’re told during training that it may take 3-6 months for us to even begin to start finding projects. I’m in month 8 btw. Even with that in mind however, it is really challenging to take someone used to 9-5 work down to… well you might find work in a few months.
Many volunteers feel guilty because we've been sent to the community that supposedly wants to work with us and yet all we do is fix our houses, do chores, hang out with people in the community, read, read, oh and um read. And if you’re lucky like me, you also get to play on the internet.
We feel like we’re letting PC down, or we’re letting the community down, or we’re letting our fellow volunteers down, or we’re letting ourselves down. We want to DO something. Anything! Please!
Sometimes people back in the states will comment about how what we are doing is so amazing and we doing such a good thing. But when you’ve been twiddling your thumbs for almost a year, that is the last thing you want to hear, because it makes the guilt worse because now you’re letting the people back home down too by not actually doing anything amazing yet.
Damn these gosh darn consciences. Why can’t we just be content to mooch?! But alas…no.
Fortunately many other volunteers are either in this stage or have been through it so there is a good support network in place. But most of us don’t live with other volunteers, so we’re on our own day-to-day, trudging through the trenches.
Volunteers all have their own ways of dealing with this. The most common is just leaving site often. However I really like Campo 9. Not working sucks, but I have a really comfortable life here. When I came to PC and went through training, I told myself that I wasn’t going to do projects on my own. I am very confident in my ability to get things done. I don’t have to prove that to myself. No, I decided that if I was going to do a project someone in the community, other than me, had to be in-charge and I would help. I don’t mind being a facilitator, but I am not here to push my own personal projects through. I have ideas, I’ll let people know what they are but I’m not leading the charge. Not this time. Facilitate, yes, pull all nighters and then be the only one at the meeting. No sir.
With this in mind I promised myself that I would wait until I could work