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.