Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Career Advice Anyone?

What should I do with my life? This is always a question that seems to be in my head and it seems that no matter what stage I am in life I am always researching and weighing my options. I have not quite figured out if this a good thing or not but I am pretty sure my OCD is more helpful than hurtful. Right?
My year mark in country is fast approaching, less than two weeks, and I am left reflecting on what exactly I have accomplished this past year, granted two of the months I was in training and the three months after that I was not allowed to work, merely work on my language. There seems to be an abundance of projects, ethical hardworking counterparts seem to be scarce and available funds becomes a question of community dedication and contribution to a project. All of these factors need to come together seamlessly to have a successful project and it seems as though we are failing more than we are being successful. I am not saying that projects are outright failing, but they may not attract the correct people or the project may never be sustainable and will soon be forgotten after the volunteer returns home.
A little boy in the back seat of the car on the way to Tamba
was passed out sleeping pretty much on my shoulder.
Apparently his mother's lap did not provide ample space. Too cute.
There is a culture within Peace Corps that makes it ok, though there is always a few that think otherwise, if things don’t go as planned. You are not looked at differently if a project fails because of outside factors (no financial or demonstrative support from community as an example) or if you decide that Peace Corps is not for you or not what you want at this point in your life. Working in development is not as quick or easy as anyone who has never worked in development may think. I am not making excuses for projects taking months to accomplish while if located in the states could get worked out in a month or two but things take time here and between the corruption and getting things passed through all the chains in command it is inevitable.
As an excellent example, I am still waiting on funds from the city to support our waste management project from going bankrupt. There is a portion of the city budget for “waste removal” so it would only make sense that since we are one of two waste removal operations we would receive some of the funds; since the mayor really likes money, a nice new office building and house we are not seeing any money. My boss with the Peace Corps actually came to my site this past weekend to have an impromptu meeting with the mayor (so he could not skip out of town, seriously) to ask him about funding and of course it is blamed on the city not having a lot of money and people not paying taxes. We were promised to have the money in the next couple of months so I am literally playing a waiting game. There is not much I can do but ensure that trash is collected each day and that nothing serious happens to my little donkey or cart because we have no funds to replace or fix anything. Part of the problem is the fact that people are only paying 500CFA (equivalent to $1.00) for the service each month and a business can’t survive or become profitable with those numbers. Don’t worry I have changed the price to 1000CFA, or $2.00, for new customers and things are changing, and in time it will work out. It just takes time.
I started working on a new project with a fellow CEDer (volunteer who works in the same sector as me – Community Economic Development), Jennifer Connor, who lives about two hours north of me. She has a counterpart in her city of Tamba, Sidio Cisse, who raises chickens and travels all over the country to do training sessions on all sorts of topics related to chickens; raising chickens, chicken health, chicken food, you get the point. If we can achieve funding ($33,000 for the cheaper plan B version of the project) we are going to start producing chicken feed in Tamba so people don’t have to make the eight hour trip north to the capitol to buy feed or pay excessive amounts of money down south for a simple product just because the market is owned by one company. We will have a cheaper, local, better product available for sale to businesses and consumers. Never thought I would be this excited about a project dealing with chicken food but it is really interesting and Sidio is very passionate and one can’t help but get excited about something he is so excited about. Since I am a couple hours away, if transportation goes as planned though it did take me 6 hours to get home from there this last weekend, I will make the trip a couple of times a month to ensure things are on track and of course I will work with him on a more regular basis via phone and email. Updates to come.
I talked about a large garden project funded by USAID a while back and now that the rains are coming, FINALLY, I can see more activity and promise in the project in the near future. I am partnering with my two site mates, Jordan who is in agriculture and Rachel who is in health, to make the project beneficial in more than one area. We are going to hold trainings on how to prepare certain foods that are nutritious and such to ensure that the women are getting the most out of their produce and my job is going to involve setting up a stand in the market to sell the produce and market the products. The market is comprised of rows and rows of tables selling the exact same thing so with a little product differentiation, competitive product pricing and good marketing we should have no problem selling our produce and products transformed to goods while hopefully turning a profit.
If you were an animal this is how you would travel in country,
stuffed in a rice sack and tied on top of a car. They seem
used to it and don't mind.
I am still waiting on funding for my possible youth project, providing trainings and activities to youth during summer vacation. We submitted the grant the end of April and a decision was supposed to be made in May but a few of the projects that requested funding, mine included, were required to submit more information and a final decision would be made in mid June. Another waiting game though since this project has a time restraint it would be nice to have the trainings while the kids are still actually on summer break.
Meanwhile life is going pretty good, I can’t complain too much. I am mostly content and happy in my village and work is there, it is slow moving but present at least. I know I will always be tempted and excited to search for careers when I get internet but there is no harm in looking or being prepared. I am actually reading the biography of Steve Jobs at the moment and would do anything to work in the philanthropic arm of Apple, someday hopefully. So if anyone knows of great organizations hiring great people (that’s me) feel free to comment! Take care everyone, until next time.



Rebe said...

I don't think many people know exactly what they want to do. It's not really something you can just decide, either -- it'll depend on many other life factors. Once you're older, I'm sure you'll be able to look back and connect the dots, seeing what led you to each job/activity/place.

For now, my advice would simply be to pursue your interests with energy and enthusiasm. That will lead you to great people and opportunities that align with your values.


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