8 febrero 2011- martes
My mind is struggling with some significant changes and losses…I’ll eventually get back to Part II for my workday in the field.
A sobering message today from a friend volunteer in our training group…she is heading back to the U.S., and leaving
Peace Corps service. ..I don’t know what became the tipping point. Wow!…it came as rather abrupt and sad news especially on the eve of “Reconnect”, our 2-day training back together at the Peace Corps office, a welcome reunion after living apart in our various locations around the country for 3 ½ months. Another from our group decided within the last few weeks to return to his sweetheart in the U.S….relationships are a big reason for loss of Peace Corps volunteers. So we were a training group of 32, and are now down to 30… there is a certain pride in trying to retain as many of our training group as possible.…we all hold onto that dream of walking hand-in-hand to the finish line in 2 years… Alas, we can only walk our own path and support each other as needed….still it is very hard to say goodbye to these friends and fellow volunteers. ..it reminds me to set realistic goals for myself and keep an active support system so that I will indeed complete my service.
Losing friends is one thing, losing our program of Municipal Development is quite another. About 4wks ago we were invited to a meeting at the Peace Corps office, all travel expenses paid…usually that is our responsibility, so that set off alarm bells for some, but I stayed blissfully ignorant. It was during that meeting that we learned that 2 programs of our training group: Agriculture Marketing and Municipal Development are being cancelled…so we are the last of our kind for Guatemala. The fate of these programs in other countries is in question, too. Apparently a worldwide assessment process by Peace Corps concluded that it should focus on health, youth development, and teaching English.
There is considerable conversation amongst us muni volunteers about the wisdom of this decision by the national Peace Corps office…it seems very short-sighted. Guatemala has a horrific past of war, which began with U.S . meddling….so there is much we should atone for. Since the 1996 Peace Accords, this country has been on the road towards peace. Better yet, the new laws in 2002 promote decentralization of government & planning and increasing citizen participation, especially by women and the indigenous population (50%+ of this country is Mayan). As muni volunteers we work directly with women’s groups and indigenous populations….so despite what D.C. thinks, we are making a contribution to the progress of this country. Some successes of the municipal development program include: creating libraries; supporting women’s groups to begin cooperatives and businesses; more openness in government regarding budgets and projects- thus, greater accountability and transparency (there is still considerable corruption here); using plastic bottles filled with trash as low-cost but useful construction materials for building schools, and more.
Muni volunteers from our year and the previous year are considering a coordinated response to headquarters regarding our thoughts about this change….to put teaching English ahead of encouraging citizen participation just seems very wrong, often the former just leads to more out-migration by the more educated and capable people that a country needs to retain!
So there is much to ponder…my individual role in Guatemala which is also shaped by the mandates from the national
Peace Corps office. Many of us were looking forward to helping train the new group of volunteers next year…sadly, that will not be the case. As muni volunteers, we now resolve to be the very best we can and to go out with a successful bang! I have not yet informed my Guatemalan counterparts that I will be their one and only muni volunteer, typically a town receives a series of 3 volunteers. But soon I will let them know and advise them to take full advantage of what I can offer regarding ideas, support, and experience!
Thanks for listening….I welcome your comments on this theme…