Monday, January 25, 2010

Finding Purpose and Making Progress: My Work in Morocco

Even though my official job title is Health Educator, my job description is very vague. Peace Corps and the Ministry of Health in Morocco came up with a project framework that outlines the major health concerns that they want Peace Corps volunteers in general to address, but they don’t expect or even want every volunteer to address every concern. So, it is up to each volunteer to decide (based on a set of loose assessment tools they gave us during training) what the most appropriate and pressing needs are and then figure out how to address them. It is about the most unstructured job I can think of, and it has taken me nearly all the time I have been in site (about 8.5 months, not including the 2 months of training before we got to site) to figure out even what I should be working on.

It’s funny, but I feel like just in the last few weeks all the gradual growth and progress I have been slowly working on without many noticeable changes have all of a sudden exploded into a very noticeable difference. For example, I am getting compliments on my language ability, which is something that I have struggled a lot with here. Not that I am great yet—I still only understand about 80% of what is said to me—but I lately seem to have gotten a lot better all at once. Our Moroccan friendships are starting to feel more like real friendships rather than forced ones, and we have started taking daily 1.5 hikes into the mountains with our host mom. She had a health scare and is taking the doctor’s advice for dealing with her cholesterol pretty seriously. It has been great for our relationship with her as well as our position in the community. Work has also recently gotten a lot more productive. We have been having weekly meetings with our local associations to plan a project design and management workshop for some other not-so-productive associations. We also hosted 16 other volunteers at our house last week for a regional meeting to collaborate on projects and share information. We are planning a huge HIV/AIDS and STD risk awareness campaign for an annual festival in May. We are hoping to put on separate tents for men and women to educate about the risks of infection and transmission. The town where the festival is going to be is notorious for its prostitutes, so we are also hoping to work with an association to do a risk awareness and condom usage education session for the prostitutes a few weeks before the festival. We hosted an HIV/AIDS and STD training for volunteers this week and we got some really productive planning done. We also are working on establishing a women’s association in our douar (neighborhood). It’s hard to say whether or not all this is related, but I almost feel like I have an “open for business” sign on my forehead and things are just coming together all at once for a lot of unrelated projects. It is pretty exhilarating after several months of slow going.

So, right now I am on a high. The timing couldn’t have been better because we were not really doing well for a while and I was pretty stressed out about a lot of things. I guess that is how it goes. They say that Peace Corps just exaggerates the natural highs and lows of life, and so far, it has been pretty true. I am just taking one thing at a time right now, and I am doing what I can to make this trend continue.

1 comment:

  1. Amber, I can relate a lot with that feeling of purposelessness. Often I feel like, unless there's something very urgent that needs to be done, unless I have very definite directives, a job I'm consumed by, I lay down and don't do a thing. I suppose I'm not a self-starter. But I've been learning that nobody, or this moment, particularly owes me anything. Whether that's bliss, or guidance or direction.

    And so, moment by moment I've been asking myself, "If this moment were up to me, what would I do with it? How can I participate in this and not just wait for something to happen to me?" And those've been helpful questions for me to ask.

    It sounds like you've spent quite a few months working on those quesitons. Especially since I'm just sort of starting that process, it's nice to read about how it's been for you.

    I wish you and Sean blessings and ingenuity!