Cameroon / Peace Corps / Volunteering

Je Suis La

A good volunteer is one that stays.

– Felipe, Peace Corps Education Volunteer

One moment, you’re helping someone else get through, telling them, “Ashia”… and the next, you’re down at the bottom, holding hands with those same people, only now it’s their turn to support you and to give you their shoulder. I’m overwhelmed with the burden of everything, mostly with trying to be a teacher, a role that entails more than I currently feel capable of. I want the students to enjoy class, but I want them to respect me, and all the while I want to smile but if I do, I wonder if my kindness will be taken for granted…but then I lose my patience, and it’s completely acceptable to scream at your students as a teacher…but I feel guilty because I don’t want to be a teacher that’s angry all the time. How do teachers feel accomplished at the end of the day?? Because I feel anything but accomplished. I don’t know if I can be satisfied with the fact that one third of my students actually understood something. As a volunteer, I want my students to appreciate me being here. I want to be a good teacher (see an education training delivered by yours truly here!). I want to know my students…and I know that I can’t make that much of a difference in 4 weeks of model school, with a class in which I don’t even know the kids’ names. At this point, I’m trekking on, just to get through. One day at a time, a voice in my head says. But there’s another voice in my head that’s screaming, How can I do all this?!

Girls’ club is tomorrow. Last week, meeting with our girls was interesting. Independence was put on the negative list for women. Most of the girls then said that it was okay to be independent, but only when you are single. When you get married, you should become dependent on your husband. You should respect your husband. You should have children. Like a duty or a chore. Gay marriage came up and so much hatred erupted that I could have cried if I weren’t continuously telling myself, You’re just an intermediary. I whispered this to Sophia, and she later thanked me for it. When I left the group, I felt tense and disheartened, so much that Sophia and I had to debrief after the event. If anything, maybe I can make these girls think about helping themselves first, before they get married. I don’t think they quite got it when I said, “If I were to get married and my husband didn’t want to me to finish school, a dream of mine, I would see that my husband does not respect me.” But the girls were really happy to be in a place where we could discuss freely amongst ourselves. Some of the girls became teary eyed when we were going around, expressing what each person wanted the club to be. Ce qui cherche le trouvera, one of the girls said in her introduction. “He who seeks shall find.” I look forward to creating a more lasting club in Bare. There are already opportunities that have come up, such as the HIV/AIDS workshop that will be happening in Emily’s post. She’s a SED (Small Enterprise Development) Volunteer who will not be too far away.

My post mate, Yune, is in town to help with the Diversity Training, another thing that I would like to be apart of. If I join the committee, I could even help with the next group of trainees, an Agro-forestry group, that will have their stage here in Bangangte in September (see a tour of the Peace Corps training facility below!). My original point being…with all the things going through my head, what I really need right now is to do a little lesson planning for tomorrow, followed by putting it all aside and going to the local bar where I can unwind a little. They always said not to take things so personally as a teacher, but when professional life is your personal life, it can’t be anything but that way.

Je suis la. Just being here will have to be enough for now.

About Tara

Tara received her degree in French and Communications before jetting off to serve Cameroon for 2 years with the Peace Corps. She has forever since been inspired to serve in humanitarian projects around the world. She's a writer, tour guide, business owner, property manager, wifey, dog mom, and traveler. Tara lives in Dallas, Texas, where she's happily married to the tech genius who keeps her website pretty.