I’m staying in Rwanda another year! That’s right, two years wasn’t enough for me; I am knowingly subjecting myself to the challenges and struggles of another full year in Rwanda. Though I will be staying, I will not be continuing as a teacher at G.S. Rango. I have been accepted as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) for Women and Development and Gender and Development (WID/GAD) and will be moving to Kigali in about 3 weeks to start this new adventure. I’m pretty excited about this new position and am even more excited about moving out of the village to the “big” city of Kigali.
“So what will this new job entail?” you may ask. It is a combination of PCV support and gender and development (GAD) programming development. To support PCVs, I will travel out to their sites to visit, attend regional meetings, and help them with project planning and implementation. There are so many volunteers and limited staff to give them all the support they need throughout their two years of service, so myself and a fellow Ed2 volunteer will be helping to improve the lines of communication and support between the Peace Corps office in Kigali and individual PCVs. I’m really excited about the PCV support side of things because during my two years of service, I received one visit from the PCMO (doctor) to inspect my house and never got a call from a staff member to just check in or give me feedback. This often left me feeling abandoned out in the bush without anyone at Peace Corps knowing about or recognizing all of the hard work I was putting in. As a PCVL, I hope to keep PCVs in the loop about what is going on at Peace Corps and give them the pat on the back and recognition they all so rightly deserve.
In the GAD programming realm, I will have a lot of work which will keep me super busy. After two years of 15-20 hour work weeks, it’s definitely time for me to go back to working 8 hours, 5 days a week. Peace Corps Rwanda has identified GAD and ICT as two of their Cross-Sector Programming Priorities (CSPPs – I think that’s what their called. In layman’s terms – initiatives), so myself and another Ed2 volunteer will be sticking around to work on those to projects. I have been a member of the GAD Committee since its founding earlier this year and have become extremely interested in the subject. This job will allow me to learn more about it and do a job that I think I will genuinely enjoy. I will chair the GAD Committee and coordinate projects and planning from the national level. I will work with the WID/GAD specialist at Peace Corps Headquarters in D.C. to get materials and learn about best practices. I will acquire and develop new resources and materials related to GAD, especially those that address the Rwandan context. Finally, I will be working to develop partnerships with other organizations who could help support GAD projects at PCV sites or who PCVs could help with larger projects. There is a lot of overlap in the area of NGO objectives and projects, so by working together we hope to increase the impact and decrease the redundancy. Also, PCVs often have great ideas, but no way of executing them due to lack of resources or PCVs want to help with other projects, but don’t know what other projects are out their needing free labor, so by talking with other organizations working within the GAD sector we hope to find solutions to these problems.
So, that’s a brief summary of what I’ll be up to next year. I’m really excited; if I could move to Kigali tomorrow and start, I think I would. I will be living with the other PCVL in Kigali. We found a house a few weeks ago and Peace Corps has approved it, so now we just have to sign the lease. It is 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, and an outdoor kitchen. It’s definitely a step up from what I’ve been living in for two years. Water in the house is a HUGE luxury for me. I think if we decide to cook with gas or a hot plate, we will change one of the bedrooms into a kitchen. We do plan on getting a refrigerator, so I’m pretty psyched for that too. The house is brand new and not completely finished yet, but once it is I will upload some pictures. It’s in a great neighborhood, right by the bus stop to go to work, a HUGE market that has basil and cauliflower (WHAT?!), and a bunch of shops. Only problem I may face is that I will be broke. Peace Corps does not give us a raise for living in Kigali, despite the fact that food and transport are more expensive, so I’ll have to be extra careful in the spending department. Oh, also, Peace Corps is giving us a car to use to go visit volunteers – like a car that I get to drive :) We still have to go through some sort of training and pass a driving test (I have to relearn how to drive stick) and then hopefully we will be good to go.
Though there’s lots of exciting stuff going on, I’m still really looking forward to coming home. Peace Corps is kind enough to send 3rd year volunteers home for a month between their 2nd and 3rd years and give us a per diem. They will buy my ticket and give me a whopping $12 a day (does that even buy dinner anymore?), but I guess something is better than nothing. I have put my request in to come home from Dec. 12 – Jan. 17, so I’ll keep you all posted on the approval process. I told my mom last night on the phone that when I get off the plane, she is to have a chocolate chip cookie from the Cookware Shop in Chatham and on the way home we are stopping at the Cheesecake Factory. Oh boy, how I miss America…