“So… what are you actually doing there?” A Guide To My Role as a PCV

Over the past few weeks. I’ve fielded many questions about what my “work schedule” is like so I wanted to dedicate this post to explaining my role as a PCV. For starters, although I am a health volunteer, I will not be posted at the health center doing clinical work. In fact, we are prohibited from dispensing medications, administering vaccines, etc. Rather, the bulk of my work will be directly in the community. As a PCV, my job is to build capacity within organizations, service providers and community members, thereby promoting sustainable development. Rather than arriving with and imposing my own project ideas, I will be working with the community to access the area’s strengths and weaknesses/needs. Then, using the available resources in conjunction with the knowledge and skills that I bring, the community and I will work together to address these needs and engender change. As emphasized during our training, the purpose of our work is to develop capacity so that the people in our catchment areas can improve their own lives without outside support. Instead if basing developmental success on tangible “things” like the construction of a borehole, it will be based on the sustainable development of the people here and their ability to accomplish their goals long after I am gone.

Guiding our work is a “project framework,” which is the Peace Corps document that outlines each sector’s goals and objectives. For the health sector, the three goals are as follows:

1). HIV & AIDS: Community members will adopt healthy behaviors and practices to decrease the spread of HIV & AIDS. (Prevention, Care and Support, Orphans and Vulnerable Children)

2). MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH: Community members will adopt behaviors and practices that contribute to improved maternal and child health outcomes. (Nutrition, Malaria Prevention, and Community Water and Sanitation Systems)

3). LIFESTYLE FOR HEALTHY BEHAVIORS: Peer educators will be trained to empower community members to adopt behaviors and practices that reduce risky sexual behaviors in youth and increase healthy choices. (Behavior change).

These goals will be the focus of my work and will provide guidance for future projects. While I am eager to begin, our first three months at site are dedicated to solely integrating and assessing. Therefore, my “work” right now is to build relationships with community members, including my supervisor, counterpart, landlord, neighbors, tomato vendor, health workers, chiefs, etc. I am also supposed to be accessing the community to ascertain as much information as possible regarding demographics, social issues, health issues, existing organizations, current resources, perceived problems, seasonal activities, etc. These findings will then be presented to PC staff and fellow volunteers at our “in-service training” in September. So, as of now, I am making my house a home, adapting to village life, and meeting countless community members. Additionally, although we aren’t supposed to be starting projects yet, I am in the process of forming a community leadership and development group called SOLID. More on that in my next post! Also to come: my adventures making bucket wine!

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