Thoughts on Community Developement Roles

21 Sep

In response to an email from my friend Becky, who is embarking on a CD volunteer adventure in Guatemala, I wrote these jumbled words of 1/2 advice, 1/2 musings.

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Dear Becky,
Some thoughts on coming into an undefined role as a volunteer in community development. It´s hard in the beginning, because you feel a bit useless and don´t know what you are doing or where you should be. It may be even harder for you, because you are living with clinic workers, who will have very defined responsibilities and tasks to fulfill, keeping them busy (which is one important part of not going crazy/being homesick/feeling helpful) and giving them a measurable way to see the difference they are making. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. You have such a beautiful and lucky role (at least I like to keep telling myself that!). You will go out and see all these different initiatives, with nutrition, pre-school education, agriculture and probably lots more. You will meet all sorts of people and kind of gauge their interests and needs. Then, as you start to get an idea of where you want to work and what you want to do, here is my advice:
Use an idea, or area of need that has local interest (obviously). If you find even one person who seems to be all about getting the pre-school centers to incorporate back teeth dental hygiene education into their program, or something totally random but specific, and you think that´s cool, do it. Even though it won´t always feel like it, 6 months is going to FLY BY. So, after a few weeks of testing the waters, make some decisions. Sometimes I get caught up because there are SO MANY THINGS I could do and want to do here. There are so many people I could work with and who are interested in development projects. But it is important to make a choice, develope a plan and project, well defined (you can always make changes later) and stick to it, because if you try to do everything, you will end up doing nothing. And if every time one plan doesn´t seem to be going forward, you switch to another, you will end up never finishing a project. If you think an idea is good, IT IS. Stick to it, keep have meetings or teaching or capacitating, and even if interest or community involvement lulls, keep it up to the finish.
Was that a lot of blah blah? I just feel like myself and other Capeverdeans and volunteers waste a lot of time getting pumped and prepping an idea, then not going through with it. Don´t get distracted, focus! Maybe it´s just me…
Also, kind of thoughts integrating my feelings on moving to administration at AGQ, a Scrubs episode I saw yesterday and capacitation work (wierd I know): I think it´s more fun to go and run sessions at the kindergarten or community center, working with the kids directly. That´s great, and a good experience for them to interact with non-tourist foreigners, but when we are gone the locals will still be here. So run some trainings for education center staff helping them get creative and come up with new stuff for teaching/working with their kids, it´ll go a longer way and even if you or I think we could do it better (ahaha I am so humble) it is much better when they do it themselves.
I think you know all this, I am kind of just reminding myself, too.
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One Response to “Thoughts on Community Developement Roles”

  1. jenna September 23, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    hey, the whole what will happen when i’m gone was the exact center of my international social work course – so kudos on getting there on your own – sustainability of social justice is just as important as being there and helping in the moment – late night philosophical musings…

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