Many volunteers think that their Peace Corps experience revolves around one momentous project, something that requires one of the three forms of funding from Peace Corps (PCPP, VAST, or SPA). They think that there needs to be something physical left behind to show their legacy. Time and time again, volunteers build such things, selling pavilions, concrete ponds, libraries, etc. But after that volunteer finishes their service, and leaves, the buildings crumble due to inadequate training on maintainence, lack of interest, or just pure laziness. I’m not saying this happens to all projects, I think some of the things my Peace Corps Mates have built are outstanding. Time and time again however, I have passed through towns where a Peace Corps Volunteer had lived and see the skeletons of their projects. A sign that says “Tree Farm”, but there is no trees because as soon as that volunteer left, the Malagasy people sold them for money.
In this past week, I have watched my three large projects crumble to the ground; one out of corruption, one out of sublimation of a friendship with another volunteer, and the last because of difference of moral opinions between my Malagasy counterpart and a PCV friend. You can’t do anything but laugh as everything falls apart around you. What everyone told me about Peace Corps before my service started ended up being true.
With all that has gone wrong, I can’t dwell on it. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, I have made an impact in my village, more than I know. They have welcomed me into their family, and no matter what I say, Alakamisy is my home. As for my projects, yes the ‘momentous’ ones have fallen to pieces, but the small things still remain. The smile on children’s faces as I just sit with them at the market and teach them how to say things in English. “Yo dog, what’s up?” is my favorite thus far. Fist bumping random people from my village to 60km north or south of me because they know of me and my way of saying hello. I have done much smaller projects, visited friends sites as well as my own, and teaching simple topics that can have an effect on their future.
Just this past week, before Thanksgiving, I taught another informatique class to adults at my friend’s site near the capital. 10 adults who have never used a computer before. The class was only 3 hours a day for the week (there was a morning session and an evening session). These students left with email accounts, advanced knowledge of Microsoft Word, and an understanding of internet usage. It was such a simple class, but it can have such an impact on their jobs and futures.
So coming back to my first point, your service is not just about the big, pricey projects, but the smaller ones. The ones that can change simple views or acquire technical knowlege. The small things really can matter the most. It’s the small things that start the chain effect.
I’m happiest most when I’m in my element. Teaching computers to the afternoon session.