Sunday, July 10, 2011

Building a Cathedral

The goal of development in Peace Corps (not that it differs much from organization to organization, but I have only worked for PC overseas) is sustainable development and capacity building measures in the local community. We are only supposed to facilitate development - the ideas, procedures and implementation are all supposed to be worked out through the local counterparts and organizations that we work for. Now this sounds great in theory, but in actuality to make a sustainable noticeable impact in 27 months is not feasible. Now I'm not saying the work as a Peace Corps volunteer doesn't positively effect the community in which we live and work more than the impact we have is not as great as we would like to think it is. I was talking with one of my PCV friends a while back and she brought up a great analogy that she had heard from another person in development: development work is like building a cathedral. At first this was a strange analogy to me; how am I building a cathedral? However, once finding out the meaning behind this analogy I thought it was perfect! A cathedral is a beautiful, inspiring and large dream that the architect has thought of and usually takes years upon years (especially throughout history) to complete. When the cathedral's were being built stone by stone the person who helped to lay the foundation was not usually there to see the walls put in place to completion let alone the majestically built dome ceiling. This is how I feel about Peace Corps development mission. I want to think that my presence and projects here in Kayunga will be sustainable and help many people live healthier positive lives, but the time I am here might not as impactful as I am and was hoping to be. I do believe that development can make a sustainable impact in a community, but I think time is the key factor. Take the local community known as the Dogon Tribe who live in the escarpment communities in Mali. In the 1930's a French man visited the Dogon Tribe on a vacation and fell in love with their rich religious and vibrant culture. He decided to live with them, learn their language and way of life. Throughout this process he helped them improve their sanitation, food production, education services and eco-tourism practices. However, what he brought to them the most was the cash crop of onions so they could have a continuous source of income that would better their lives. This sustainable and capacity building cash crop has brought the Dogon Tribe much money and improvement to their daily lives (not to mention the people I have talked to that have had these onions say they are the best they have ever had). Nonetheless, this man lived in this community for around 50 years before he saw the impact of his development work. I believe that international development is a very important cause and should continue to have many men and women involved, but I just think it's important to remember the amount of time you pour your heart into something doesn't mean it will make an impactful change for the community which a person lives in.

Mural Painting at YALE SS

Our 3 in 1 Art Group at work does great things for school students in the Kayunga and Mukono Districts (I'm not biased at all by the way!) by working with student groups for six weeks about different public health issues. While at the school working with the students we let the students lead the discussions in the sense that they choose the topics of discussion and then we facilitate educative talks around those issues. It is a safe place for the students to ask questions, share stories and also learn the importance of living healthily and positively in their community. After the six week sessions the students get to decide how they want to teach the rest of their school population what they learned: they get to choose whether they show the student population their positive messages through drama, dance or visual arts. The group at Yale Secondary School in Nazigo, which is located in Kayunga District, decided that they wanted to express their messages through visual arts.

With their mural project they came up with the images that they wanted to be displayed on walls at their schools. Along with the pictures they had to create positive messages to be written in Luganda and English with the pictures. This was a totally student lead project with a little help from the Youth Center. I'm very proud of the dedication and creativity the students at YALE SS showed for this project. I'll make sure to post final product pictures once the final touch-ups are made this week.

Dad and Alex's Visit to the Pearl

Dad and my brother Alex came to visit me this past month of June and we had a great time. I went through a massive homesick period in April so it was refreshing to have family here. There is something so emotionally satisfying about sharing this experience with important people who are in your life from back home. I felt blessed that they got the opportunity to experience so many new sights and sounds, but most importantly that they got the chance to meet my new family and friends here in Uganda. Below are some of my favorite memories from their trip - enjoy!

Alex, myself and Dad at Lake Victoria

Dad and I in Jinja

Alex and I in Jinja

Rafting the White Nile

Lioness in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Dad's new friend he made during our hike through the Rwenzori Mountains

One of the many crater lakes in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Yay safari!

Baby elephant playing in the mud

Watering hole time

Us at one of the bigger crater lakes in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Us at Murchison Falls National Park

Awkwardly loved seeing dung beetles

White Egret

Lioness and her four cubs in Murchison Falls National Park

Hippos playing in the hippo pool

We got to go out to breakfast with my friend Britt and her mother

Dad and Alex helped paint the white base coat to prepare for murals at YALE Secondary School

While Alex spent the day with my co-workers at the Youth Center, Dad and I went on a Koome Island outreach together. He had to get carried to the boat and I think the photo describing this event is priceless.