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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Changes!

There’s some big changes to announce for me! I’ll be changing jobs and moving sites. Although it’s a bit unusual in the Peace Corps, Rwanda is a new country with new placements and it’s fairly common here for volunteers to move around a bit. I’m glad I’m doing it now, 4 months into my service, rather than after a whole year. This way I’ll still have 20 months at my new job.

Although I loved my coworkers at my old job, there wasn’t a lot of space for a Peace Corps Volunteer to work with their office. They were very diligently fulfilling donor requirements,  or making it look like they were fulfilling donor requirements, and added projects I was discussing would have been outside that scope. I was also frustrated by the relationship with the inefficient NGO funding my project, and with all of the waste (see Jen’s blog for more http://jeneambrose.blogspot.com/2010/08/ngos-wasting-money.html). Mostly, I was frustrated by the fact that my office didn’t even work in Gisenyi but in surrounding sectors. My job involved sitting on the back of a moto, riding through the beautiful country to visit groups for an hour or a morning in order to fulfill donor requirements and give “trainings” and pay out per diems before returning to town. I joined Peace Corps to do grassroots development work in the community in which I was living, but I felt like an outsider doing a modified version of the NGO-worker-in-a-Landrover activities I wanted to avoid.

In July I met an American who is here with Iowa-based Great Ape Trust and their local Gishwati Area Conservation Program, based in Gisenyi (my current city) and Gishwati forest, where they are trying to reforest and where they look after 15 or so chimps. They were vaguely interested in a PCV to do more broad community engagement work in the villages around the forest. After my hike in Gishwati LINK and some discussions with GACP and Peace Corps, I’m switching jobs. I'll be doing a broad-based needs assessment with my new counterpart, working with their environmental clubs in schools around the forest (and I hope to start health and girls' clubs), working with the local health center a bit, and trying to combat diseases shared between humans and chimps (meaning community-based education on sanitation, safe drinking water and good hygiene), and perhaps trying to bring bio-briquettes to the villages because they currently cook with wood which is bad for both the forest and their health.

I move to the village of Kinihira into the GACP field station guest room on Friday. I have my in-service training in Kibuye September 13-18, and then hopefully my tiny little house will be ready (they are doing things like knocking windows into the mud walls and building the latrine). I'm going to have a huge yard for gardening, sloping downhill with a view of Kivu on a clear day. Although I love Gisenyi, I’m getting what I wanted originally- to live and work in a rural village. There's no electricity (there are poles, so it’s coming) and I'll pay someone to fetch my water. There's an American woman who's been there a few years researching the chimps, and the local research staff live in the town, so I have a welcoming community already.

My blogging frequency will definitely decrease without electricity, but I’ll try to update in batches whenever I’m in Gisenyi. Kinihira is 75 minutes from Gisenyi on the road that goes to Kibuye. GACP has a car that goes back and forth to Gisenyi on Mondays and Fridays, and bedrooms in their office, so it will be free and easy for me to get back to Gisenyi 1-2 times a month - the best of both worlds! I’ll have the same address and I still appreciate mail, email, and phone calls.



As for the blog, I have quite a few entries written but I'm out of time! I'll be posting them from IST on the 12th, backdated, so at that point be sure to scroll down for older posts if you're not using an RSS reader.

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