Saturday, May 2, 2009

...water bottle caps make pretty awesome candle holders...

Swearing-in took place on Wednesday, April 15th at the U.S. Ambassador's house; there were many great speeches given by Peace Corps representatives and Rwandan government officials. The ceremony lasted into the early afternoon.

(Pictured Here: Official Peace Corps Volunteers for Rwanda!)

(Ah! I miss training! Ha! What a great experience! If you talk to some Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, a lot of them will say that training was pretty intense and not ver fun. I don't know about them, but training was great for me. I had a blast, met many great people, and learned so much.)

Anyway, the ceremony was great and it even made the news! AND, not just the Rwandan national news, but the BBC!

I must admit, however, that the last few weeks of training at the convent were rough. I was really starting to feel the need to leave and get started on my assignment in Rwamagana.

Well, I got my wish. Here I am in Rwamagana and I am sooooooo busy with work. Not only do I have my assignment, but I have paperwork for the Peace Corps due soon too.

The CNA:

I moved into my house in Rwamagana on Saturday, April 18th and since then I have been working on my Community Needs Assessment (CNA) report for Peace Corps. The CNA is a great tool for me to figure out my place in the health center and the larger community.

I know it just sounds like more paperwork, but creating a CNA report is actually very interesting; it reminds me of what I was doing in my anthropology studies at UIC. Specifically, this report needs to outline evertything about the community...and I mean EVERYTHING!

In three months time (that is when it is due to Peace Corps), I need to detail the following aspects of my sector: history, geography, population statistics, education, health, communication, transportation, social issues, natural resources, organizations/groups, community infrastructure, government instititutions and programs, and much more. I even need to create a map of the sector...a full map detailing the important places of the sector and the sector's relation to neighboring communities..and how do I acquire this information, you ask? Well, there are no libraries, so I get to go around town and talk to people, observe interactions, and live life in the sector, baby!

It sounds scary, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. Merely conducting the CNA will not only acclimate me to my surroundings, but it will acclimate my neighbors to me. (Again, MANY people have never seen a white man before...so me walking around their town is kind of strange for them.) At any rate, Peace Corps volunteers have been completing CNAs since 2003 and they have found them very helpful...the communities in which they are conducted find them useful too! Many communities, in which a Peace Corps Volunteer may work, do not have libraries, so CNAs act as a valuable source of information for community members as well.

With two weeks of information under my belt, I have already collected sooo much data. The report only has to be 5-10 pages, BUT I feel like I could write a book! I have to present my findings at 'In-Service Training' in about 10 weeks. ('In-Service Training' is when all 32 of us will get together and review how our first 3 months at site have gone; the report acts as a summary of our 12 weeks of work; the reports are collected and included in a country report to Washington...so I hear.)

Wish me luck as I continue my CNA!

The English class:

During the first three months of my assignment, I am really only suppose to concentrate on completing my CNA. Well, the community had a different idea. Hahahahaha!

During the first week of work at the health center, I shadowed different staff members and assisted in various tasks, such as distributing medication, assisting in HIV counseling, and I even did some accounting/insurance work. The first full week was fine...it was actually a bit slow, but I focused on my CNA and got a lot of it done.

This past week, however, has been CRAZY! Since I moved to my sector here in Rwamagana, people have been asking me if I am going to teach English and, if so, when I am going to start. I kept saying, 'soon, soon.' Well, they were a bit more excited about learning English then I thought...let me tell ya about it.

I was sick on Monday of this week and I didn't go into work at the health center. HOWEVER, when I returned to work on Tuesday morning, one of my counter parts at the center gives me this list of people's names and says, in broken English, 'The sector director wants me to give this to you. He says that your class will be here at the health center from 5pm-7pm every weekday...starting today. I look forward to the first lesson this evening.'

I looked at the list...the director of the sector had recruited the health center staff (nurses and medical technitions), the primary and secondary school staff (teachers and head masters), and the local goverment officials to be my first students in the English class...the list had 70 names on it.

Yeah, I was a bit shaken, to say the least. Luckily for me, I had planned an English lesson over the weekend. HOWEVER, I was not expecting the class to be so large. Yikes! BUT! Then I say to myself, 'Self, there is no way that all 70 will show up.' Well, I was sorta right. On Tuesday, I had 44 students, but on Wednesday I had 55. On Thursday, however, I had over 70 students! (Friday was Labor Day for Rwanda; no work, no school). People were packed into this classroom...it was so crowded that some people were standing outside and participating through open windows! It was amazing to see such enthusiasm and dedication!

The class is great, but with 70+ people in attendance, it has many problems. Specifically, I need materials! I need materials to share with the class because some do not have pens, paper, etc. AND I need teaching materials for myself. This class and its size has kind of caught me off guard; I am doing the best I can for now, but I am appealing to you, my friends and family, to help me out and send some stuff...if you can. At the very least, keep the class in your prayers as our lessons continue.

I do want to make this disclaimer. It is true that I am NOT a PC TEFL Volunteer and that I am a PC Health Volunteer. HOWEVER, this is what the community wants AND it doesn't mean that my English classes can't also teach them the importance of washing their hands, brushing their teeth, using mosquito nets, getting tested for HIV, etc., etc. Heck, my students are the community leaders. That means that the rest of the community turns to my students when they have questions. In the interest of being as effective as possible and creating something sustainable, I can't think of a better group to educate about healthcare. In this way, I don't have to go to each house and teach the same thing 100 times; I can teach it to the leaders in the sector and they will spread the lessons through their various social networks themselves...

...I dunno...we'll see how this all works out. The class still has some problems. With 70+ students, there are people at several different language levels. Some people are near fluent and others don't know the English alphabet. I'll get it all figured out.

The Rest:

Oh, man! I have so many stories already and so much more to describe to you! I have been writting like crazy! Hopefully things will calm down soon...I'll get into a rythm here and I'll get more time to catch you up. Here is a taste of some stories to come.

The House...

...I love it! It has a cool bamboo fence and it is crawling with lizards that eat the bugs...those lizards provide more entertainment then you think...

...no running water, heat, or air conditioning, though...and, oh yeah, the electricity went out during a storm a couple of days ago. You know, water bottle caps make pretty awesome candle holders...

The Community...

...everyone is VERY nice and VERY welcoming...yes, I do get a lot of stares, but once you start talking to them, those stares quickly turn to smiles...in fact, I met one guy named Isumail; he pronounces his name as 'E Smile'...hahaha...I have made many friends so far...

The Neighborhood...

...I live across the street from a 'bar' (not like a bar in America...hahahaha...I will describe it one of these days, its pretty cool...), next to the open-air market, 5 minutes away from work (the health center), and 10 minutes away from church...HOWEVER, it is a 90-120 minute bike ride from my house to the next biggest town...getting mail and checking internet often may be rough...BAH!

The Catholic Church...

...they think I am a priest...hahahaha...

...the Bishop of Rwanda is white and speaks Kinyarwanda fluently...he celebrated mass last week...it was really awesome to hear and see...

The Health Center...

...the center is great...it consists of 20 staff members, half of which are nurses...the staff is so much fun; they are a great group of people, really; they work so hard every day...

...approximately 2-3 babies are born each day at the center...I will have to describe a birth to you one of these days...

More to come...Amahoro!

1 comment:

  1. Emmet, i'm amazed about your English class. I wish i could attend one of the sessions. If you need any help we're here, actually i'm involved also in English teaching here in Butare at a hihg school where i teach nowadays. so may be we can share some experiences.
    by the way, I really want to see your CNA report when you finish it if you don't mind. you can send it to me via E-mail. my adress is "gashakamba@yahoo.fr"
    wish u good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete