Thursday, January 14, 2010

Peace Corps Rwanda!

Muraho! (Hello.)

This blog will chronicle my time in the Peace Corps in Rwanda and potentially beyond. I'm not sure how often I will write (due to limited internet access or limited desire). I'm sure this will not be my ideal blog, which would contain dynamic and original posts of topical content in a digestible length and would receive regular links from bloggers I admire. Peace Corps is all about adjusting expectations and working with constraints, so we'll see how it turns out.

My job title in the Peace Corps will be Community Health and Organizational Development. The specifics will depend on where I am assigned to work, but the job will likely focus on capacity building and assisting with health and HIV/AIDS treatment, support and prevention services. I will also engage in secondary projects that fit my community's needs and may include teaching English as Rwanda is currently switching the national language from French to English.

Rwanda is in many ways a perfect placement for me. I have an academic foundation in central African history and African economics, and in peace and conflict studies and transitional justice. My career interest is in working with refugees or in a post-conflict setting. Rwanda also offers opportunities for me to further my background in women's empowerment. It is a country in the midst of fascinating political, economic and justice developments. What I am more apprehensive about is the rumor that Kinyarwandan is the second hardest language in the world to learn.

Here is my obligatory Peace Corps timeline:

2005-2008: Debate whether I should apply to the Peace Corps after college.
Summer 2008: Meet a bunch of great PCVs during my travels through the Balkans. Saw the program first hand, and decided to apply, but had trouble figuring out how to time it. I was living in Geneva, Switzerland at the time.
Dec 19, 2008: Submit online application. Immediately contacted Boston office to request an interview during my limited time at home in Boston.
Jan 7, 2009: Interview. I pushed for French-speaking Africa and not teaching. No open programs for fall of 2009 fit these criteria and my qualifications, so we wait until the next quarter of nominations open up.
Jan 23, 2009: My recruiter offers me a nomination in Community Development, French Africa, March 2010. I agree, but she is out of office and the program fills up.
Feb 12, 2009: I am nominated for Health, French Africa, leaving late January 2010. I immediately do some online research and figure out that it's probably Rwanda, which was reopened in January 2009.
June 19, 2009: I submit my medical papers after a complicated process due to my living abroad. My mother was invaluable in running around to the doctor and dentist and printing and organizing the scans I emailed her. She got the paperwork filled out based on the physical and cleaning I'd had while in the US in January. I had to go to France (cheaper than Switzerland and a 20 minute bus ride from work) to get various blood tests done and then translate them to English.  Nobody from PC could tell me what I needed while I was in the US in January because I hadn't officially been nominated yet. For others in a similar situation, you can find medical papers on, a site I found too late.
Aug 2009: My internship with UNHCR ends and I return to Boston to wait. Knowing I'm leaving in January, I couldn't get a job, so I take on another refugee-related internship and volunteer with an AIDS-related youth program to satisfy Peace Corps's request that I gain more HIV/AIDS volunteer experience. 

Aug 27, 2009: Dentally cleared.
Sep 21, 2009: Receive notice I was medically cleared Sep 17. Speak to a placement assistant and send an updated resume and cover letter. (At this point I had fantasies of getting bumped up to an earlier departure. Haha.)
Fall 2009: Continue to send resume updates as I attend trainings and start new volunteer positions.
Nov 9, 2009: Email placement assistant asking if I am still on track for a January departure. She informs me that the program I was nominated for was delayed a month. This conforms to what I've seen online regarding Rwanda.
Dec 2009: Call a few times to ask what's up. I am practicing my self-advocacy skills rather than my patience. On Dec 7 they tell me 2-3 weeks, and on Dec 31 they tell me my file is on the placement officer's desk.
Jan 6, 2010: Get an email, log into the online toolkit, and see "Congratulations!" My invitation was mailed on Jan 5.
Jan 7, 2010: Rwanda it is! My job title is Community Health and Organizational Development. Send a mass text and a lot of emails. Read the information and call to accept my invitation.

Expected dates:
Feb 23-24 2010: Staging in Philadelphia
Feb 25 - May 11 2010: Training in Nyanza, Rwanda on topics including language (Kinyarwandan), technical (health and organizational development skills), cultural, safety and security, and personal health.
May 11 2010 - May 2012: Service!

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