| Above and beyond |
|Part three - Guidelines for success|
Go to the people,
Live with them,
Learn from them,
Start with what they know,
Build on what they have.
But, with the best leaders
When the work is done,
The task accomplished,
The people will say
"We have done this ourselves."
Perhaps this quote by Chinese scholar Lao Tsu in 700 BC best describes how you should view your role as a PCV. You may be an important resource in your community, but in the end, it is the community that will determine your success or failure.
In our sampling we have tried to suggest the various ways in which Peace Corps Volunteers have reached out into their communities to encourage people to act on their own behalf. As you think about an activity you might like to undertake, keep in mind the principle of putting the community first, its needs as well as its limitations, before moving ahead on your own.
From our success stories, some common elements emerge that may guide your thinking. You probably discussed many of these elements in your Pre-Service Training. Let's consider what they are.
Stephanie Cox and Del Friedman, our PCV couple assigned to Nepal, had decided on a secondary activity before they left the U. S. Before they became Trainees, they knew about the country's need to have braillewriters repaired, and were prepared to do something about it. Their foreknowledge, however, is unusual.
PCVs need time to settle in end establish relationships within their communities.
Most Volunteers arrive in-country preoccupied with adjusting to their new environment overseas and getting started with their primary Peace Corps assignment. Not until this settling in has happened are they ready to decide how to undertake another project of their own within the community and to identify the specific activity.
Although she had researched the country before going there, TEFL teacher Nancy Picard spent her first year in Hungary gathering information about the school system and culture itself before she decided on a secondary activity to encourage Hungarian women to take a more active part in society. Even though Stephanie Cox and Del Friedman had decided that they were going to train local people to repair braillewriters before they arrived in Nepal, they waited to put their ideas into practice until they were well established in the country.
Once a secondary activity has been selected, PCV experiences show that it is best to start slowly end take one solid step at a time.
Phil Bob Hellmich in Sierra Leone caught a lot of fish in the Rokel River with his host country friends, the Conteh brothers, before he decided to pursue a personal project to see if he and his friends could create locally made lures to attract Nile perch. Once the activity got underway, the development process was slow for the first eight months with many failures and technical obstacles. Its eventual success attests to how well these obstacles were surmounted.
The culture within which you an working, in fact, may require moving slowly.
People in the United States tend to proceed rapidly through activities, but the pace is considerably slower in many other parts of the world. How slow was demonstrated by the example of Papua New Guinea where community members engaged in a six-month process to decide which bank to use in opening a savings account for their egg farm project. The Marcoves - the PCV couple working with the villagers - found it difficult to sit on the sidelines and wait for the villagers to come to an agreement. The wait, however, was one of the key elements leading to a successful venture because it meant that the people involved had learned to make decisions together and to cooperate with one another.
By not rushing into a secondary activity, you give yourself time to assess what you might really enjoy doing given the realities of your situation. You also come to know the needs of your community, as well as its leadership, skills, and interests.
Whether your community is a village of families related to each other or street children living in the same slum neighborhood, the community should tee involved from the beginning.
This "hanging heads" as it was called in the fishing lures activity in Sierra Leone - sharing ideas - may produce a different activity from what you originally had in mind. It will reflect, in all likelihood, a give-and-take between your culture and theirs. But it will be a community activity, enhancing the chances that it will continue once you have completed your Peace Corps service.
The International Women's Conference organized by PCV Nancy Picard in Hungary was successful because the women involved took the initiative to organize themselves into various committees and kept to their weekly meeting schedule. It was at these meetings that important issues were decided and planning began on how to get support for the international women's conference.
In many instances, the secondary activity may stem from an action van idea of someone else in the community.
PCV Frank Giarrizzo began thinking about promoting village enterprises when his houseman asked him to retain his salary so that he could start a chicken farm. The impetus for the egg farm in Papua New Guinea came from a villager - Angelina Mal - whom Kathy Marcove had gotten to know from working as a health educator in the village and whose leadership potential she recognized and encouraged. In the urban setting of Santa Domingo, Casey Vanderbeek's hydroponic gardening was tried first by his counterparts and professional agronomists. Vanderbeek added the element of making it an activity for "at-risk" youth.
You will need to be sensitive to the local culture, including its political structure ant make it work to the benefit of your activity. That can happen only if the community is involved from the beginning.
The enterprise zone PCV Frank Giarrizzo helped to organize in Malawi would not have moved forward if Giarrizzo had not been aware of how the political system functioned and taken the time to enlist the necessary support at every level. Moving from a single chicken farm - the goal of Giarrizzo's houseman when he asked Giarrizzo to retain most of his salary - to several farms and businesses involving entire villages meant that the two had to secure the agreement of clan elders and village headmen before they could proceed. In this case, planning for the zone involved a number of local people who joined Giarrizzo in obtaining approval and support from the local and regional political leadership as well as from staff of the Ministries of Agriculture and Community Service.
In Yap, PCV Susan Willett learned both the importance of not jumping ahead of the community and creating some distance between herself and the activity. Willett came to understand that people in her community placed a great deal of importance on discussing ideas and mulling them over for a long time before coming to a decision. She learned to wait for them to take action.
"A Volunteer must not unwittingly become an indispensable part of the operation. "
This was Casey Vanderbeek's conclusion in analyzing his experience with the hydroponic gardening project. The job of Volunteers is to transfer the skills they have to the communities they serve. Initially, they may be doing much of the work, especially if they are trying to teach new skills and are setting an example. Eventually, however, they should work themselves out of the job. Casey Vanderbeek saw himself moving into "an advisory type of position." Susan Willett in Yap referred to herself as a "catalyst." Others have called the Volunteer a "facilitator."
It is sometimes best to remove yourself physically from the community to give people a chance to act on their own.
Returning from vacation, Susan Willett was delightfully surprised to find that her counterpart had arranged to have the legends they had selected for the English curriculum illustrated while she was away. She also found that on their own initiative, the community was able to get the folk tales published. Casey Vanderbeek also found progress made while he was away. His absence, however, also uncovered problems that were not apparent while he was there. In the time remaining, he had a chance to correct them.
There are many different types of resources - human, informational, material, technical, financial, and natural. All of these need to be considered in planning your activity.
As a first step, it would tee wise for you to discuss your idea with your APCD.
He or she will probably have suggestions for you both on the feasibility of your idea and where you can turn for help.
For technical information, see what's available in your Peace Corps In-Country Resource Center (IRC).
If you need technical information, check the Whole ICE Catalog to see what materials on the subject are available from Peace Corps' Information Collection and Exchange (ICE). Your IRC should have the publications ICE distributes that relate to your country's projects; materials from World Wise Schools and other Peace Corps programs; as well as resources specific to your country's needs, including local publications, references to local organizations, and information on your country's history, culture, and development. If you have access to other local library facilities, explore these also.
Mobilize local support.
You need to consider which people within the community, who may or may not be directly involved with the secondary activity, can contribute to the project. Are there local government officials who can play a role? What about missionaries, social groups, school groups? Can they help provide information, raise or donate funds, provide labor or materials? You as the PCV, together with others in the community, need to investigate these options.
In exploring what resources are at hand, discuss your activity with your counterparts and anyone else in the community who may be involved or knowledgeable about it. Nancy Picard's women's conference in Hungary grew out of her discussions with her fellow teachers, which led to a women's organization, and finally a country-wide conference.
Find out who can offer technical support. Casey Vanderbeek's primary source of information on hydroponic gardening came from a UNDP agricultural engineer working in Santo Domingo. Technical assistance can also come from people who lack professional training but have experience. The Marcoves sought advice on chicken farming, for example, from the Pupunes, their hosts during training, who ran a profitable farm.
And don't forget your fellow Volunteers, especially if your activity extends far beyond your immediate community, as Nancy Picard's did, or involves a variety of skills other PCVs may be able to provide. Our sampling is replete with examples of group projects - PCVs supporting an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador, or running a summer camp in Paraguay - and the major players in two of our success stories are married couples who pooled their talents in a joint activity.
With "appropriate technology, "tine project has a better chance of being sustained once the Volunteer leaves.
Casey Vanderbeek's experience underscores the importance of making full use of what's readily available, before looking to outside resources. After he learned more about hydroponics from the UNDP expert, he was able to start a second project for only $30.00, by using recycled refuse material. The start-up grant for the original project had been $2,400!
Clearly, a project that costs little and depends on materials easily available has a better chance of surviving than one that requires outside assistance. It will also be something people in the community can identify with and take pride in as being their own product.
If additional technical support is necessary, consider the resources available from OTAPS.
If your activity requires technical information that is not available either in your IRC or any local library or other institution, then your APCD probably will suggest contacting Peace Corps' Office of Training and Program Support (OTAPS). Your APCD is probably familiar with OTAPS because of the many types of services and technical assistance OTAPS provides all country programs. If your secondary activity is linked to women or youth, you may have had contact with OTAPS' Women in Development (WID) or Youth Coordinator, who may have advised you on its planning and support. Nancy Picard, for example, sought help from the WID Coordinator in organizing her women's conference in Hungary.
In all likelihood, you've already reviewed The Whole ICE Catalog and received technical information or publications from OTAPS' Information Collection and Exchange. ICE can make available to you virtually all the materials mentioned in this Secondary Activities manual. ICE also helps to establish and support IRCs, and maintains its own Resource Center, encouraging PCVs to send their reports, newsletters, and other field-generated documents to Washington for use there and to disseminate the information more widely. You or your IRC Manager can write to ICE for specific publications or information, and ICE will send the publications and either answer your inquiries directly or contact people with the technical expertise at headquarters or at another organization in the ICE Network to put you in touch with them.
In our sample, we describe the help a farming cooperative in Tonga received from another special OTAPS program, Farmer-to-Farmer (FTF), which was instrumental in sending an expert to teach the farmers how to maintain their farm machinery. Based in OTAPS' Agriculture Sector and funded by USAID, FTF sends these volunteer experts to Peace Corps sites on short-term assignments at the request of PCVs (made through their APCDs). These volunteers, recruited by the nonprofit organization Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA), are not only farmers, but may be veterinarians, agricultural engineers, soil conservationists, land management specialists, marketing specialists, agribusiness experts, and the like.
If fund-raising is required, whenever possible, start locally and let local people take the lead.
It may take longer that way, but the results can contribute to local empowerment. Before the women's group in Hungary had received funds from Peace Corps' Small Project Assistance program to run a women's conference, the members had already gotten support from local businesses, through in-kind donations and reduced costs. The SPA grant may have eased the way, but the women's efforts helped them realize what they could accomplish on their own.
See what the community itself can do and, if necessary, go to the region or the capital before seeking resources from outside the country. Casey Vanderbeek's funding came from the local telephone company. Frank Giarrizzo had the support of the local Rotary Club.
Most Peace Corps programs and many international donors, in fact, will require your host country community to make inkind or cash contributions to match any outside funding the activity receives. In this way, people receiving assistance will have a personal investment in the activity's success.
If your activity demands outside funding, then you can serve to link the community with the most appropriate source of support.
If your activity has the full backing of your community but requires funding that cannot be supplied locally, then find out what other sources exist. You may find help forthcoming from the major international development organizations, such as the United Nations, especially its Development Program (UNDP) and UNICEF; the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the World Health Organization (WHO); and the World Bank. Your Peace Corps country staff should be familiar with how to get in touch with these organizations. Also, your In-Country Resource Center should have on hand the InterAction Member Profiles [WIC No. RE027], describing non-governmental organizations working in international development, including some that donate funds in support of projects proposed by outsiders.
Support for Frank Giarrizzo's activity came from the Trickle Up Program (TUP), which he heard about during his Peace Corps training. The brailler repair project in Nepal was supported from the beginning by the Perkins School for the Blind outside Boston, and PCVs Cox and Friedman secured continued assistance from a German PVO also working with blind people in Nepal.
Another frequent approach Volunteers take is to contact those groups they were associated with at home: business organizations, church groups, Rotarians, YM & YWCAs, Chambers of Commerce, professional organizations, schools, and alumni associations. These groups often have a special interest in helping "their PCV," especially when the activity is related to their mission. All official contact with such groups can be made through Peace Corps/Washington's Office of Private Sector Relations, specifically the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) and Gifts-In-Kind (GIK) Program - and many PCVs whose activities are described in our sample have followed this route.
The Peace Corps Partnership Program offers an opportunity for grassroots organizations in the United States to become involved in international development by providing funds for community development activities in which Peace Corps Volunteers are involved. PCPP is a resource available in all Peace Corps countries and, as our sampling indicates, has been used to support a wide range of activities, from constructing schools to developing environmental education materials; from assisting the handicapped to improving computer technology. Through Partnership, direct links are established between U.S. Partners and the PCV's host community, and the opportunity for cross-cultural exchange is fostered.
Gifts-in-Kind does not offer funding, but can provide materials for project support. GIK seeks donations in response to specific requests from PCVs, who complete an application form, which is signed by the Country Director or APCD and then submitted to GIK in Washington. The materials requested must directly facilitate the PCV's ability to implement a secondary activity or primary assignment. Requests have ranged from baseball equipment to typewriters, from crayons to sewing machines. Although the GIK program does not guarantee that all requests will be fulfilled, it does make every attempt to do so.
Another important source of funding from Peace Corps/ Washington is OTAPS' Small Project Assistance program, frequently cited in this manual. SPA offers grants of up to $10,000 for community initiated self-help efforts. These SPA projects must be completed within one year and before the sponsoring PCV's Close of Service; they cannot encourage nor depend upon further outside assistance; and the community must be involved, contributing a percentage of the resources needed in materials, labor, or funds.
Besides offering project grants, SPA also provides Technical Assistance funds for programming consultations, project design and management workshops, and technical training to support the development and implementation of projects funded by SPA grants. These technical services are provided to PCVs and their host-country counterparts, with the requests submitted by Peace Corps staff and then being approved in Washington. The egg production project in Papua New Guinea is a good example of SPA at work, first through its support of a project design and management workshop where the idea for the egg farm took shape, and then in providing a grant to help make it possible.
The role of the PCV frequently includes proposal development, but the community should carry es much of the responsibility es possible.
As a PCV you bring with you a perspective of the world and a confidence in interacting with it that the people of your community may not have. You have contact with the outside and know how to communicate in a professional manner.
Casey Vanderbeek in the Dominican Republic, for example, was already a successful fund-raiser for his primary job assignment when he took on the task of raising money for the rooftop garden and wrote the proposal that was presented to the president of the local telephone company. Whether requesting financial assistance from Peace Corps or non-governmental organizations, such as the Trickle Up Program, Volunteers must submit an application accompanied by a proposal.
While it may be necessary for you to write and translate the proposal yourself, it is better if - like the Marcoves - you can get community members to undertake the task. The Contehs' workshops in which they explained their fishing lure techniques were supported by the Peace Corps Partnership Program, and working with their PCV to prepare the proposal added to the pride and capabilities of these Sierra Leoneans. One of the greatest services you can do is to share your skills so that when you leave, the people of your community can identify and draw upon the resources necessary to meet their own needs.
Over and over, PCVs have found that secondary activities are most rewarding when they reflect PCVs' personal talents and interests.
By organizing a secondary activity during your Peace Corps service, you have an opportunity to use different skills and interests from those perhaps you are employing in your primary assignment. If you enjoy working with your hands, for example, you might want to undertake a construction project. If you are musical, you may consider organizing a singing group to perform programs with a social message. Perhaps you are really concerned about the environmental degradation in your area and want to do something about it by organizing workshops for teachers.
Susan Willett's assignment as a community development advisor and English language teacher inspired her to undertake a secondary activity of recording Yapese legends for children to incorporate into the island's teaching curriculum. Phil Bob Hellmich arrived in Sierra Leone with a love of fishing and a strong commitment to preserving local traditions and culture. His secondary activity utilized both.
Although organizing secondary activities in the Peace Corps is usually not a formalized process, it is important to be systematic in executing them.
Goals need to be fisted end discussed both with people who can advise you and people with whom you will be working.
Defining goals and objectives gives you some yardstick against which to measure your progress. It also helps you to plan the direction your project will take. Casey Vanderbeek realized, for example, that his project had both educational as well as moneymaking objectives, and he had to focus on each separately in order to achieve them.
Plans need to be made, with the people concerned participating.
To be a Trickle Up Program Coordinator, Frank Giarrizzo had to submit detailed plans to the Trickle Up Program, specifying the number of people involved, the types of businesses, and how they would go about organizing them.
Your activity need not be so ambitious, but the planning process remains the same. All of the guidelines mentioned heretofore - deciding whether the idea is a good one; involving the community; getting information, funding, and all the other resources to get your activity underway - require planning. How the activity will be maintained in-country must be clarified. Tasks need to be defined and delegated. The people working with you must participate in this process, so they understand the steps taken and can continue the process once you leave.
The egg production project in Papua New Guinea is a good example of how you can plan an activity with your community. The SPA workshop, duplicated at the village level, enabled the Marcoves and the villagers to look at their proposed activity from a variety of angles. Spending one morning a week, carefully following instructions in the Small Projects Design and Management Training Manual for Volunteers and Counterparts, 2 they largely organized the farm themselves. The villagers prepared the funding proposal, while the Marcoves designed a simple bookkeeping system to have money available to purchase a new batch of chickens when more were needed.
It is important to be practical when considering whether or not to undertake a secondary activity.
A few of our success stories may seem complex, especially the example of HODEZ. In the case of that particular project, Frank Giarrizzo had both the skills and time to undertake an ambitious activity. Usually, however, you will have both limited time and resources to get your activity underway, and it's important that you don't shortchange your primary job assignment for this activity.
Our sample suggests many ideas that are not so difficult to implement - volunteering your services at a local orphanage, participating in World Wise Schools, or providing lessons in English, music, or whatever other special skills you have that the community needs. Consider one of these before moving ahead with something more involved.
Keeping it simple was very much on the mind of Phil Bob Hellmich as he worked to fulfill his vision on "African baits" for Sierra Leoneans. He began with simple premises, altered them when necessary. Much the same approach was used by Cox and Friedman in Nepal as they put the plans they had developed in the United States into action to train typewriter repairmen to fix braillewriters.
In general, whet seems to work best is to have a straightforward plan in mind and then be flexible and open to modification as you progress.
The most productive undertakings are not necessarily those that follow their original plans. Successful activities are often those that take unexpected turns and have unanticipated outcomes.
In the Dominican Republic, Casey Vanderbeek started out to grow vegetables hydroponically. In the end, he and his boys were growing plants for herbal medicines in response to community demand. Be open to the serendipity of your activity. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Do not expect your activity to be an unqualified success, but hope and plan for the best outcome!
Considering how the HODEZ Project has expanded and its far-reaching effects, no one would doubt Frank Giarrizzo's success. Yet not all the HODEZ businesses have remained profitable, and some farmers' groups have been delinquent in repaying loans. Giarrizzo, however, is still forging ahead with Village Enterprise Zone Associations.
Had Casey Vanderbeek or Susan Willett, or any of our other PCVs given up when they first faced problems, nothing would have been accomplished and nothing would have been learned. Casey Vanderbeek's boys may not be growing vegetables and their nutrition may not have improved, but they did learn something about responsibility and what it takes to run a small business.
Sometimes RPCVs continue to keep in touch with the secondary activity they organized. Even after her Peace Corps service ended, Nancy Picard continued to live in Hungary for a while and assist the Sopron Women's Club, and back in the U.S., Frank Giarrizzo, a retired engineer, has made the development of VEZA, the organization he founded in Malawi, his life's work.
These are exceptional situations, however. Few Volunteers stay on in their host countries when they leave the Peace Corps, and when they return to the U.S. they are unlikely to be in a position where they can travel back and forth to their host country, as Giarrizzo does, or maintain close contact with the people they knew there, other than through an occasional letter.
Besides, your goal as a Volunteer is to work yourself out of a job. You hope the classroom your villagers are building will be completed by the time you leave, and that without your help, the community will make sure the classroom doesn't remain empty.
If, on the other hand, it looks like your community still needs a little more support - e.g., the business has gotten started but markets still must be developed - then you need to provide for follow-up.
Communicate with your APCD regularly end keep him or her abreast of your activity's status.
As in the case of HODEZ in Malawi, sometimes another Volunteer takes over a secondary activity. Less frequently, the activity becomes a new PCV's primary job assignment. It is the APCD's responsibility to decide whether or not to continue Peace Corps' support. This is one important reason to stay in touch with your APCD.
Consider in advance who can assume your role.
In Nepal, the PCVs made an arrangement with a German organization working there that had the necessary expertise to support the brailler repair project. Casey Vanderbeek spoke of finding some member of the group whom you can groom or in whom you have confidence to carry on the activity. With a small business like the fishing lures of Sierra Leone, the entrepreneurs themselves, lured by profits, will make it their business to continue, assuming they have the market and skills required.
Record your procedures so that the person who comes after you doesn't make the same mistakes you did and has your successes to build on.
It was not until Frank Giarrizzo completed his Peace Corps service and had left Malawi that his PCV replacement as TUP coordinator had problems with the procedures for repaying loans. If the project had been documented more thoroughly, fewer follow-up problems might have occurred.
Providing documentation for your secondary activity enables the Peace Corps to follow up after your Close Of Service. While working for the Peace Corps back in the United States, Phil Bob Hellmich still answered requests about the fishing lures he helped to develop in Sierra Leone and wrote a manual outlining the procedures, encouraging other PCVs to try the project.
If you think your activity is worth repeating, use your talents to publicize it.
There are many ways to share your experiences - both incountry and once you return home. You can put on workshops as several PCVs did in the examples included in this manual. You also could write to ICE, make a video, contact your hometown newspaper with a story and photos, or draft an article for the Peace Corps newsletter.
The examples included here were used because the Volunteers involved let us know of their efforts. We want to hear from you too! Tell us how you were able to get people in your community on their own to improve the quality of their lives, and what they were able to accomplish. Perhaps your story will become part of a new Above and Beyond, and you will be helping tomorrow's Volunteers make sure that their secondary activities are of primary benefit to their communities.