A few months ago, my Associate Peace Corps Director asked me to write a vignette about life as a Peace Corps Volunteer and to include any advice. The Volunteer Assignment Description will be provided to future Community Economic Development (formerly Small Enterprise Development) Volunteers coming to Cameroon...including my replacement. Here we go:
Small Enterprise Development Volunteer Assignment Description Vignette
“Jam na?” In the local African language of Fulfulde, this translates into “Do you have peace?” Before every meeting, I must traverse the room repeating this to each attendee. I could have never predicted exactly what my projects would entail of as a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer. Some days, I facilitate the meetings of savings and lending cooperatives for illiterate women; other days, I organize artisan classes to teach income-generating activities. And of course, as cultural exchange is a part of the job description, I spend other moments dancing at Muslim weddings and playing “football” with the kids. As a Peace Corps Volunteer of this generation, you will find yourself in a transitioning world. I’ve helped women who weren’t allowed to attend school as children to create e-mail addresses. Sometimes I Skype with family and friends and sometimes I write letters by candlelight. Realize that although every Volunteer’s post is different, your own attitude and flexibility will be the true determinants of your experience. And do not worry, speaking French will come with practice and time for everybody. Life here is full of uncertainty and there will be instances of frustration as in every job, but let yourself laugh, remember that development and impact require patience, and treasure the small, everyday moments of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Krystina Nguyen, SED Volunteer
Ngaoundéré, Adamawa Region