After Peace Corps Training (PST) we were all assigned a site where we would stay for the remainder of our service. As an education volunteer I did move to a site where my main focus would be teaching English. Describing my work at Likwenu CDSS will be the subject of a different post, but I want to write about one of my secondary projects, which in my case would be become my favorite work.
As Peace Corps volunteers we have been trained in many aspects of development work such as Malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, matters of food security, nutrition, youth development, permagardens, and more. I was lucky enough to be able to use connections I had made the previous year to get in touch with two existing youth groups in neighboring villages, Ndecha and Mtogolo.
One Sunday I introduced myself to the group who was prepared to meet me with plays and dances. The youth were so eager to learn that they asked me to come back and teach three more lessons. This was the start to a wonderful collaboration. Every weekend I would make the journey to their villages and teach about a subject of their choice.
Three times rolled into larger projects, lessons in resume and proposal writing, collaborations with an NGO, festivities and very personal connections. Interested members of the youth group signed up for a community development/ leadership group, and were ready to tackle important issues of their community themselves with me as a facilitator. The excitement was high and I never regretted these weekends working because they became nourishment for me as well. Who can resist the youthful and strong desire to learn and improve skills?
Unfortunately, due to unforeseeable circumstances my time with the youth groups was prematurely cut short. I will stay in touch with them and hope they can complete the leadership training in community development themselves with me mentoring from afar and occasional visits. They have the passion and the drive to follow through. They are disappointed, of course, for me not being there anymore. Maybe they feel abandoned by yet another white person promising the stars. It breaks my heart that I have to be the one.
But what do I lose? I lose the company of passionate humans who accepted me as a mentor. I miss to be included in their fun and their games. I miss being greeted with song and dance. I miss just to be able to show up at a house and be offered beans and rice. I miss walking through a village in a happy group, being part of this group. I miss to be asked to help. I miss to be walked to the bus stop. I miss to be introduced to their families. I miss their trust that now is broken. I miss the easy laughter bridging cultural divides. And I miss them.
I was told that this is exactly the situation that all development workers eventually face. Human connections and integration into a group are necessary to help in creating change. But it is also the source of heart break on both ends. And while I almost fully understand the circumstances that led to the end of our relationship, the youth might never understand why I suddenly had to leave.
P.S. I had to leave because some sites were closed due to conclusions of our continuous security assessments.