“I will act on situations and opportunities, rather than be acted upon.”
-Seven Habits of the Most Effective People
I apologize for the lack of entries these past few weeks. I will try my best to catch you up with the adventures of my life!
On one particular Sunday, I learned by e-mail that perhaps my most meaningful project would not be carried out, that my mom may have cancer, and that my sister’s husband came one day and told her that he didn’t love her anymore and wanted a divorce. What I felt was making a difference here, came to a halting stop, and I was preparing myself to come home on emergency leave…and somewhere amidst all this emotionally draining crisis, topped with personal relationship disasters here in country, I decided that I needed to take a step back and re-assess what I really want. Tim gave me a book titled Seven Habits of the Most Effective People. It felt really good to spend time on myself, trying to organize my priorities. After a couple of weeks, I came up with my own personal mission statement. I strongly encourage everyone to do this, especially if they are having doubts and want to clarify, in a sense, who they are as a person.
The Piggy Bank Project. My province has begun a project that involves teaching students the importance of saving money. Our plan is to collaborate with MC2 banks (a national bank; there is one MC2 in most towns, and Small Business Development Volunteers are often linked up to work with these banks). Each MC2 will be asked to donate 25% of the total funds of the project- our travel expenses, plus the costs for 100 “piggy banks”- and in turn the manager of the bank can come to the seminar and publicize his establishment. A carpenter, my neighbor and friend, is working with us to build simple wooden boxes that money can be guarded in. I may have explained a little bit about the Peace Corps Partnership Program in a pervious blog, but I would be happy to say again that this is what will help us receive the remaining 75% for the project. After a proposal is submitted, we can be added to the list of programs in which sponsors will be able to support through contributions. Individual donors will be a great help, but I am also currently in the process of seeking out specific organizations that would like to work with us to help fund this project.
Last week, Tim and I conducted a trial seminar at my lycee. We received the support from our local MC2 bank, and Roger did a wonderful job getting the 100 boxes ready to hand out to children. I created a song, with Franck’s help, that is a spoof off of a popular Cameroonian song, and Tim planned out a lesson that entails activities that open children’s eyes to the bigger dreams that they can dream of if they just save their money. We prepared a sketch about saving money. On Monday, only five students showed up because of the time and possibly the lack of marketing. So we dusted ourselves off and tried again. We pushed the seminar to Wednesday, just two days before we were on our way out to Yaounde for two weeks. The second attempt attracted 100 students into the classroom, in addition to various students peaking through windows. It was a great, chaotic experience! There were a lot of things that worked wonderfully, but also lots of things we learned that we should change. Probably the biggest problem was in the way that we handed out the piggy banks. Children started standing up, and mob mentality took over, and in the end some children were left in tears because someone else had stolen and run away with theirs- even though we were absolutely sure that there were only 100 students to enter the classroom. We agreed to implement a number card system, in which students receive as they enter the classroom, and hand back to us in exchange for the piggy bank at the end of the seminar. In any case, I am excited about getting the proposal submitted soon so that we can carry out the project within at least 7 other high schools in my province during the next school year.
But now I am focused on getting ready for the new trainees that will soon be arriving. We have two weeks to prepare the training schedule and sessions for the Education group. I will soon get to see photos to go with the names so that I can start learning them. They let us read up on some of the new trainees, and it’s getting everyone excited about the new faces that will soon join the Peace Corps family! It’s so strange to think that I was in their shoes just one year ago, and now I am expected to be a role model for the new group. I am so far from the perfect volunteer. The training director mentioned in one of the sessions that training is an ongoing process, from the day your plane lands to the day you close your service and fly out again. He is so right.
A few weeks ago, I met a guy who plays drums and often performs for Rasta celebrations. After he asked me if I like to sing, we immediately started teaching each other songs. We shared a lovely performance that evening- one that left me with a natural high for a couple of days. He called me a week later to ask me to record with him in Yaounde, so when I arrived I contacted him and we went! It was interesting to experience recording in a small shack with a computer, microphone and headphones. It was so hot. I sang two songs: In My Fathers House, a gospel song that I learned from Isiak a very long time ago, and In the Morning, a reggae melody that Jackson taught me. He didn’t record his part that evening, but the idea is to produce a song that features my voice as a background and his reggae rap recorded on top of that. I have heard him reggae rap before; it’s really neat. I cannot wait to see the finished product, and to come together again for another performance. Jackson invited me to perform with him for a party for the Alliance Française in July.
My plans for after Peace Corps are becoming more and more music focused. If Peace Corps taught me anything, it’s that no dream is too big, and also that trying counts for something. I suppose this is just a prelude to my possible plans for the future. I hope none of you will be too surprised when my next plan of action is fully developed. Surely everything will become clearer in time.