June 20, 2005: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Blogs - Morocco: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer D.Griffin in Morocco: Frustrations

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: June 20, 2005: Headlines: COS - Morocco: Blogs - Morocco: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer D.Griffin in Morocco: Frustrations

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Peace Corps Volunteer D.Griffin in Morocco: Frustrations

Peace Corps Volunteer D.Griffin in Morocco: Frustrations

"The following email excerpts were simply an expression of the frustrations that I have been feeling towards not the Peace Corps in general, but to that of my own personal experience with it thus far. These are thoughts that I have had for some time now and thought that I would share these with you all. And before these thoughts began to fester and rot away at my Peace Corps experience, I thought I would share them with my upper management here in Morocco-Peace Corps."

Peace Corps Volunteer D.Griffin in Morocco: Frustrations

Monday, June 20, 2005
A few words...

The words below are excerpts from an email that I sent to my Program Manager & the Program Supervisor just the other day. I thought it might serve as a good post also...

The following email excerpts were simply an expression of the frustrations that I have been feeling towards not the Peace Corps in general, but to that of my own personal experience with it thus far. These are thoughts that I have had for some time now and thought that I would share these with you all. And before these thoughts began to fester and rot away at my Peace Corps experience, I thought I would share them with my upper management here in Morocco-Peace Corps. In writing this email, it was my hope that I could in return receive some useful words of guidance. Whether that be a re-organization of my current site, a full disconnect with my counterpart, an intervention by someone at PCO (Peace Corps Office), an alternative approach to my current issues, or.... whatever.

Throughout Peace Corps (at least in my experience) there are the typical problematic volunteers which have complaints with just about anything. I certaintly don't want to become one of them, but I thought it was my duty to inform them of how I am currently experiencing the Peace Corps under their command, rather than speaking in the dark with co-workers whom are nothing better than sounding boards. As well, I thought they should also be aware that a few of these topics, that I shall soon share with you, were the same topics of discussion that boil to the surface for many of my fellow SBD volunteers stationed here in Morocco. I thanked them in advance for their time and waited for their guidance.

Pre-IST (Inner Service Training) -my first 6 months in the field
Most of the SBD volunteers arrive with some sort of basic business skill-sets. But, not all of us have several years of experience with development work (in general) and/or have the invaluable experience that is consistantly recognized by our veteran SBD volunteer (Gregg, who is in his late 50s and served in Peace Corps back when I was born). So, recognizing my own short comings early, and understanding my weaknesses as far as business effectiveness in this particular community, I had an the idea to invite an outside consultant (Aid to Artisans - http://aidtoartisans.org/) to arrive at my site in order to evaluate the posibilities for my site's artisan crafts. It was my hope, that by introducing an experienced international evaluator, that they would in turn be able to share with me a direction as to properly assist my community over the course of my future service. Coming away from this evalution, it was my understanding that these artisans required a major re-organization/focus/and training in order to extend their artisan crafts outside the inner-walls of their community marketplace (let alone an International market).

IST (Inner Service Training)
So, coming to IST, I was posed to present my ideas based on the information gathered from this evaluation (along with my own personal evaluation over the previous 6 months). Unfortunately, my counterpart was unavailable during the presentation of my project ideas at the IST (due to the fact that I was the last person to present and we had run over our time with other presentations). This was a major disappointment, returning back home to my site. Because I had come to the IST with my palms open, looking for some sort of useful answer(s) to the project ideas I was presenting. Along that line, I also saw this as a way for the PCO to become a mediator of sorts, and help both my counterpart and myself to reach an understanding as to the direction we should head in the future. Then by using the combined ideas/perspectives of my 6 month assessment, along with the willingness by my counterpart to absorb these ideas, we could then emerge from IST and begin executing the plan we had set forth for our future business relationship. However, upon my return to my site, I had a meeting with my counterpart to discuss these IST project ideas, in hopes that I would we could begin this process of implementation. Unfortunately, those project ideas that I presented at IST have now been rejected. My counterpart told me that he would rather I work on two new projects that were his primary concern now. I can't exactly say that I'm in agreeance with his project ideas, but who am I to argue with him? The way I see it is that it's his community, and he can run his artisana anyway he choses to do so. I'm only here for another 20 months, and then it's up to him to continue.

...SBD (Small Business Development) Peace Corps in Morocco...

Because of this, I currently feel that I've no real "business related" reason to be here at my site. Yes, I've successfully integrated throughout my community (even with the language barrier that I will discuss with you later), and according to my Chief of Police he and the community have completely welcomed me into their little village. So, this part of the Peace Corps objective is being fully realized. However, as for the business aspect to the "SBD" Peace Corps objective, I'm feeling as though this portion will come quite short of full realization. As of recently, I've somehow turned into my counterpart's "sidekick" and am at the will of his decision-making process. And the current work that he has proposed for me in return, seems so remedial that someone with a much lesser education/experience level could easily accomplish this. I have to question my Peace Corps experience and ask, "Have I been placed in a community that can fully utilize my unique skills/education, or am I just another helping hand in the community working for free?"

To be completely honest with you, when I signed up to work as a Peace Corps volunteer, and commited 27 months of my life to the service of a third-world community, I didn't quite expect to be doing this. In fact, I didn't know what at all to expect, because of the lack of information sharing on the part of Peace Corps. But, after the long application process for Peace Corps service, and the assesment of my skills (business experience, education, personal traits, etc.), it was my understanding that I would be placed in a community that could utilize these skills for their betterment. Was I somehow obtuse in my assumptions towards the preparation of my arrival? Or, was I simply just expecting too much from a division of Peace Corps in Morocco that was only 5 years old? These topics bring me to "Site Development"...

Site Development (the introduction of a volunteer to a community):
After discussing this with both my Program Manager and my Program Supervisor, and then again hearing their comments at IST, I understood that this is an area that is "under construction". However, when I signed up for Peace Corps Morocco, I was under the impression that all the months of paperwork issued to their office would be reviewed and matched appropriately to a site in need of my unique skill-set. And before I go into the other topics, let me just first say that Tachelhit (a language dialect of Berber) is the primary language that is spoken here at my site, and not Dariza (Arabic). However, over my 3 month training, I concentrated on Dariza (Arabic), and unfortunately there are not sufficient enough educators here at my site to train me in this new language. Obviously, this was an issue during last year's stage, which is why I'm assuming this year's stage was split up into; Tamazight (a language dialect of Berber from the High Atlas Mountains) , Tachelhit (a language dialect of Berber from the Lower Atlas Mountains), and Dariza (Moroccan Standard Arabic). So, this is an obvious mistake that should have been realized much earlier during the placement process. In addition to this, I am the first SBD type volunteer to be placed at my site, so one could assume that there would be some confusion with how this all works, but again this is something I feel PCO should have taken extra time to explain to my community before placing a SBD volunteer there. At it was, upon my arrival to my site, my counterpart had little idea as to who I was and why I was now standing before him at his frontsteps explaining to him (in my best broken Dariza-Arabic) that I was to live with him for the next 2 months (let alone how he may utilize me in the following years to come).

In closing, I explained to them that I didn't want to make more work for them or sound as though I'm one of those problematic volunteers. It's just that my motivations for being a Peace Corps volunteer are fading quickly, and I'd like to see what changes could be done, prior to me making an early exit. I continuiously ask myself the question, "Should I stay with Peace Corps, just because I am committed to service?" And my personal response to that has been, "Should anyone stay with a broken relationship, just because they committed to it months prior, regardless of the disfunctionality of that relationship?"

Because when we talk about sustainability in general, I also believe that the sustainability of the volunteer needs to be in consideration. Sure, each volunteer comes into service with their own personal motivations that will sustain each of them throughtout the duration of their service, and it's not the job of Peace Corps to maintain this for everyone. But, my particular motivation stems from the general concept of "helping out my fellow man". However, I was under the impression that would be accomplished by means of sharing experiences/skills that I've acquired. If I was just interested in "helping out my fellow man", than I could have signed up within another sector of the Peace Corps like Youth Development (where there is no prerequisite for service entry). And I don't think I'm asking too much if I ask to be placed in an appropriate community where this motivation has the opportunity to blossom. In the end, I as a volunteer need to feel as though I am making a significant enough difference, by sharing the years of experience I have accrued with that of my community. Sure, this is volunteer work, but I have to be selfish and say that I expect something of an "exchange" for my 27 months of service.

When this story was posted in June 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; Blogs - Morocco


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