October 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tonga: Blogs - Tonga: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Kyle Edwards in Tonga: I used to think that bringing technology to Tonga was evil. This could be farther from the truth.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tonga: Peace Corps Tonga : The Peace Corps in Tonga: October 19, 2004: Headlines: COS - Tonga: Blogs - Tonga: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Kyle Edwards in Tonga: I used to think that bringing technology to Tonga was evil. This could be farther from the truth.

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-37-25.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.37.25) on Sunday, August 07, 2005 - 4:28 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Kyle Edwards in Tonga: I used to think that bringing technology to Tonga was evil. This could be farther from the truth.

Peace Corps Volunteer Kyle Edwards in Tonga: I used to think that bringing technology to Tonga was evil. This could be farther from the truth.

"Progress is slow, but I think Tonga has a miss understanding on what we are supposed to do. Making Tongans self-sufficient is our job. There have been three volunteers before me working at the computer lab and not one, thus far, has made it run without the help of a Peace Corps volunteer. This is the problem. I see it our job to pass it on to the community so they can have a computer lab without help. That is something to be proud of. The problem is, they take pride in having a Peace Corps volunteer in their village. Itís completely backwards!"

Peace Corps Volunteer Kyle Edwards in Tonga: I used to think that bringing technology to Tonga was evil. This could be farther from the truth.

10-19-04

I used to think that bringing technology to Tonga was evil. This could be farther from the truth. I think itís wonderful they obtain the chance to use technology and become knowledgeable about the changing world. The problem, I see, is there use of outside help. Last night I had my first meeting with the youth in Kolovai. It was about 10 guys and no girls. They mentioned that their first priority was to build their club house to have meetings, but the over all goal is to have a place to drink kava. As soon as I heard that I was not too happy. Another problem was there were no women at the meeting. I asked why and in response I got a silent but harsh chuckle. It was obvious that no women will ever join the youth meetings. Sad: another village in Tonga with a divide between the men and the women youth. It was not surprising.

First and for most, Peace Corps is an American Organization to assist developing countries to become self-sufficient. In Tonga, Peace Corps has been here for over 30 years. Progress is slow, but I think Tonga has a miss understanding on what we are supposed to do. Making Tongans self-sufficient is our job. There have been three volunteers before me working at the computer lab and not one, thus far, has made it run without the help of a Peace Corps volunteer. This is the problem. I see it our job to pass it on to the community so they can have a computer lab without help. That is something to be proud of. The problem is, they take pride in having a Peace Corps volunteer in their village. Itís completely backwards! They should not want a Peace Corps volunteer to work at the computer center. If local people in Kolovai had been running it for the past 4 years imagine what other projects the volunteers coming to Kolovai could have done. But instead they need to maintain a project that a Peace Corps started.

Of course this is a double-edged sword. If you donít have a Peace Corps volunteer, progression will be slower, but if you have a Peace Corps volunteer, you rely on them to do all the work. There has to be a balance! If Kolovai cannot keep the lab going without a Volunteerís help it will be the last project Kolovai with ever see from a Volunteer. It would have been amazing to come to Kolovai and see the lab running itself. I could focus on another project that Kolovai is interested in. They could have had the computer center and whatever project I start. No, they only get the Computer lab because they do not see the point of why we are here.

These are my thoughts as I write them so I hope they are readable. I rarely go back over what Iíve written and it probably is obvious. Iím sorry, for whoever reading. I just hope that people in America can understand a little part of my life in Tonga and how frustrating it is to be in a situation that is both gratifying, but at the same time frustrating because we are up against a culture that has had help for a long time. It started with religion and now itís aid via many different countries trying to kick start Tonga.

Itís frustrating to see a culture that is used to hand outs. One example of this was last night. I told them I could write grants if they needed money to build their clubhouse. As soon as they heard that they saw my purpose: get to them ďfreeĒ money so they do not have to earn it. Iíll be damned if I get that money for them. As soon as they earn it I will get the money they desperately need. I also asked if any of the youth is interested in helping out at the computer center. The first question was if they would get paid. I told them no. I wonít have to worry about getting help at the center from a ďvolunteer.Ē Well, except for myself. Do they see that Iím volunteering? Probably not. They probably think we are in Tonga to do the work while they sit back and reap the benefits. Itís very strange how a book can give you ideas about the life you are living. Iím reading Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand. I agree with what she is saying in her book, to a point, but I see a lot of similarities with my work in Tonga.

The book is about many highly skilled people that bust their ass at what they do. They believe that what they are doing is right, but slowly all of them find out they are giving people that donít deserve anything everything. One by one, they all disappear and the world crumbles! If we left would Tonga crumble? No, but to a degree.

Tongaís perception of what the Peace Corps does has gained so much momentum that it will take a lot for them to see the problem with their own perception. It will take a new way of thinking, but I do not see it happening within my two years. I will not force them to change, but I can keep my agenda without breaking what the Peace Corps has become.





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Story Source: Personal Web Site

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