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Author Topic: Biggest challenges you faced in your service  (Read 5764 times)

Warner

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Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« on: December 07, 2013, 07:16:35 PM »
I am curious about what to expect regarding the work.  What were some of the biggest challenges or things that discouraged you when you got to your site with regards to your assignment and implementing primary or secondary projects?  And what did you do to overcome them? 

How much support does PC give you in addressing challenges?  Do they just stay in the background and let you deal with things or are they a resource?

Were there times when you felt like you weren't prepared to handle certain challenges that arose?


redmaypril

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2013, 09:28:21 AM »
Generally the most frustrating thing was the time it took to get things actually started. I had the money, I had the materials, but actually just getting that spark to have people come and start the project made me nearly tear my hair out. Mind you, the community had asked and planned for these projects. For instance, when it was time to put together the fence for the garden, I kept setting dates for us to start, and nobody would show up. Then I finally said "We're doing this tomorrow or we're not doing this." And everybody showed up and it was great and the garden was successful.

My Peace Corps staff was a fairly good resource, but then again, I didn't ask them for help unless I really needed them. They helped me to go to the market to buy the materials (Chainlink fence, etc) for safety reasons but during the actual implementation, I was solo. Mostly because I wanted to be, because I knew my community and wanted to do it on my own. Self-motivation and patience are stellar attributes for a volunteer and I had to work on both of those during my 2 years. :)

Offline chebeler

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2013, 01:48:06 PM »
Yes, there is a very different sense of time and urgency where you will be going (no matter where that is). One of the most valuable things you will learn is also the most frustrating - that a different culture works on its own timeline, not yours. I learned to recognize an immediate need and pitch in right then and there. It is what your host country people see as immediate, not what you do! Pitching in (a community dinner, repairing someone's roof, whatever is happening in your village) let me meet people in a new context, and they learned that I have a work ethic and included me in other things. You probably won't get to do the projects you think are the most important, because your host country people decide the priorities. It may be said elsewhere in this forum, but we learned early to "put lots of pots on the fire, and stir the ones that boil."

Offline cdillon8769

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2013, 12:55:28 PM »
Yes, there is a very different sense of time and urgency where you will be going (no matter where that is). One of the most valuable things you will learn is also the most frustrating - that a different culture works on its own timeline, not yours. I learned to recognize an immediate need and pitch in right then and there. It is what your host country people see as immediate, not what you do! Pitching in (a community dinner, repairing someone's roof, whatever is happening in your village) let me meet people in a new context, and they learned that I have a work ethic and included me in other things. You probably won't get to do the projects you think are the most important, because your host country people decide the priorities. It may be said elsewhere in this forum, but we learned early to "put lots of pots on the fire, and stir the ones that boil."

Great advice!
Caroline
Invitee: Lesotho, Africa June 2014

"The ones crazy enough to believe that they can change the world, do" Steve Jobs

Offline iogburu

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2013, 11:33:55 AM »
One of my biggest frustration was when community leaders were not interested in a project in comparison to their communities. This has happened to me several times during my service. The best way I have been able to handle it was to talk to the community leader and ask if they can assist me in finding a counterpart for the project, other times, the project had to be canceled. Overall, countries and projects vary concerning challenges that are faced by volunteers. What sector are you in, and what country will be going to?

Offline Jeff

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2013, 01:48:15 PM »
I would say the biggest frustration for me, other than what's already been mentioned (time/commitment), was actually something unexpected - corruption.

Specifically, we had one Regional Health Director who tried to steal all the money for one of our projects.  We had received a SPA grant (Small Project Assistance) through the Peace Corps/USAID and literally had the check in hand.  The regional health directorate agreed to fund 1/2 of the project - which was one of the requirements of the SPAs - and we had traveled about 2 hours from site to get the check.

As we went to the bursar to get it we were told that the Director had not signed it yet and wanted to speak to us before she would.  When we got there, she said she had decided that it was her opinion that it was in the best interest of the Health Service if we would give her the Peace Corps check, and she'll, "take care of it from there," rather than giving us the check we were promised and letting us implement the project (I should note she must have JUST decided this, as the paper check from the Health Service was sitting on her desk).

I could see that made my counterpart uncomfortable - but he didn't say anything - so I refused.  After we left he told me that she was known to 'chop' money (steal) and that I had done the right thing (I found out later that she was 'transferred' out of the region after I had reported the issue and returned our check to PC).

Cancelling a project was one of the hardest things I had to do in PC...
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline PeaceCorps1

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2014, 11:32:11 PM »
The biggest challenge was being in a country that did not really need volunteers. They had enough resources to do the job themselves. It seemed a waste of tax dollars to be there.
"If it were not for the reporters, I'd tell you the truth"', President Chester A. Arthur

LittleJo

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2014, 04:00:19 PM »
For me the biggest challenge was the language. I studied every day for 2 years and STILL can't understand Russian! Another challenge (for me and many other PCV's in my country of service) was the "disinterested counterpart". I ended up doing all these really great projects on my own in my community without their help and I'm damn proud of it! Thank goodness for a wonderful community that stood by me.

Offline wsalazar

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Re: Biggest challenges you faced in your service
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2015, 07:45:13 PM »
Some very insightful analysis...regarding the experience. "Do you regret serving in the Peace Corps?" is one that I have reflected when I first joined Peace Corps as a twenty year old in an Ag Project in Guatemala. I have often reflected verbally to friends and in interviews that Peace Corps made me who I am. I rationalized that if I can handle Peace Corps - I can handle anything. And for the most part it was true. Now some 40 years later I am doing it again, this time not one of the youngers but one of the older voluneers. I am serving in Panama as a teacher trainer for Panama teachers of English. True to form times, volunteers change and even Peace Corps has changed through the times. Still there is social injustice, poverty, illiteracy - and yes, graft and corruption. So Peace Corps presents its own challenges: cultural, linguistice, sociopolitical...and how we view these challenges and deal with them - is what the Peace Corps experience is about.
I happen to believe in that Peace Corps provides a, "forum" in which to , "help people", and a great way to learn a culture - and make true and deep friends, a rare occurance in the states. This time around when I get inpatience or frustrated, I have to remind myself that if things worked well (fill in the blank here), and if there was less poverty, less (fill in the blank here)...then there won't be a need for Peace Corps. I like the sentence, "Put a lot of kettle on the fire" and see what happens." Many Peace Corps volunteers have talked about how their "secondary projects" were the most fullfilling - or how they manage to survive. Of course my grandfather was always right when he would admonish me, "There is no substitute for a great work ethic." This has help me with my counterparts,community and community leaders. I would reccomend the book: Two Ears of Corn, A guide to People-Centered Agricultural Improvement. Great read on Community development for the novice and "expert".