Monday, November 22, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Business Development for those Living with HIV/AIDS
Monday, November 8, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
As I pulled into the schoolyard I should have felt out of place. I was riding a road bike, wearing a helmet, sporting a both a brand name backpack and a fashionable eco-friendly bottle full of filtered, pure water. Certainly no one else my tiny Thai village had any of these things and even if they did have a helmet, it was certainly way too hot to be wearing one.
But I wasn’t out of place. The schoolchildren all screamed greetings and rushed along beside me to head into the schoolroom; one of my favorite places in the village that I had called home for the past eighteen months during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. About twenty children and I gathered for our weekly after-school reading club. As I gave my young readers a drawing assignment, I noticed a teacher, members of the youth group, and local government officials meeting on the other side of the room. I eagerly listened in on their conversation, as I had been working with this youth group and teacher for the duration of my service on various projects. Putting my Thai listening comprehension skills to the test, I deduced that the government officials were finally starting to take notice of the good work of the group, and were interested in providing some funding for a small agricultural project to be managed by the group. Those officials were also congratulating some of the youth on a presentation that they made at the provincial level the day before and the award they had won for their recycling initiative that I had helped them start. A wave of feelings rushed over me. I thought, this is great; the group is finally getting the recognition and support that they deserve. But I also felt like I should have been included in that meeting. I wondered why I didn’t know about the presentation and award and why I had not been consulted on the new project idea. For the first time since my beginning months in the village, I felt my identity as an outsider, as a temporary presence seeping through.
As I pedaled home, I tried to sort through my mix of emotions. I was happy for my friends, those involved in the youth group, but I was sad for myself. Finally, I realized that to dwell on that sadness would be a mistake. I realized that the group was standing on their own. They had needed me when they started out. They had needed me to help them write grants to start projects. But they had not needed me to accompany them to an awards ceremony and they had not needed me to consult with the government officials. That work could be done without me. The group was making a transition. They were becoming sustainable. My feelings of sadness were replaced with feelings of accomplishment. In that afternoon I had seen the goals of development come to fruition. I saw a group of disadvantaged people that I had helped, trained, and empowered become a viable and sustainable entity.