The sad occasion of the departure of two of my beloved site-mates, Joanna and Isabel, makes me realize that I myself became a Volunteer a year ago today, May 23, 2014, after 11 weeks of training. Joanna and Isabel are both completing their entire service of two years (actually three years for Joanna, since she chose to extend), but since my group became Volunteers a year ago, a full eight of us Volunteers have left either voluntarily or for medical reasons (we were 40, give or take, when we arrived in country, and two left during training). That’s an unfortunately high 25% drop-out rate.
A little over a month ago my “boss” came to León to pay me a visit. I put boss in quotes because as a Volunteer I am not a US government employee, and seeing how I do not get paid I don’t feel as if anyone has a right to direct my time, as you would expect a boss too. Really, Georgia is my Volunteer Coordinator. She directs the Small Business Development program, including formulating its goals and volunteer activities.
[makes me realize that I need a picture together with Georgia]
After the visit I have only confirmed the respect that I have for her. Georgia is a born and raised Nicaraguan woman, but from the lesser mentioned and oft-neglected Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. I think she is very proud of her heritage. She has been with the Peace Corps for something like 17 years, has a Masters in Project Development, and allegedly speaks five or six languages.
During the visit it was clear to me that she had read and synthesized all of the work reports that I had written up until that point (my next one is due in mid-July). She asked follow-up questions on a lot of points that I had raised. In addition to helping me evaluate my in-progress projects, she helped me think of some new projects and some new ways of attacking my current work.
Right now I am in full gear with a lot of projects. I’m probably hovering at 50% of my time in the schools, 50% on other projects. Mejora tu Vida! came to an end last week (see photo gallery below for our party pictures, and stay tuned for a wrap-up blog post), but I am kicking off a program where university students will be mentoring my high school kids, so that will keep my busy. I am also working on Entrepreneurship for Engineers (again, stay tuned for a blog post), and lots of business advising, especially with rural cooperatives. Last weekend some of my friends even called me a hermit, because I haven’t gotten out as much so far in 2015, compared to 2014. However, I definitely have some trips I want to plan to visit other Volunteers around the country. Joe Daniels and Tom Ford, I’m coming for you before you leave later this year!
Last weekend I was with all of the members of 63 at a beach house at Las Peñitas celebrating (prematurely) being Volunteers for a full year. We didn’t swim much due to the clobbering waves, but we still had a nice time together. And starting this week Jen and I will be welcoming the new members of my Lion Pride, Hailee, Isabel’s replacement, and Robert, Joanna’s replacement.
One year down, one to go, folks. If you were planning on visiting, now is your chance! And I will spare you all a photo gallery of one picture from each month of service. But here is a nice before and after (well, during) comparison. Me one year ago, and me recently (the photos above from our one-year party are also all very recent):