| Above and beyond |
Do YOU THINK YOU MlGHT LIKE TO. . .
• Teach adults in your community to read;
• Organize an urban garden;
• Train villagers to operate solar-powered radios;
• Conduct a survey to find out whether people would like to improve their water supply; or
• Volunteer to work in a neighborhood center serving at-risk youths?
IF SO, YOU MIGHT CONSIDER DOING IT AS A SECONDARY ACTIVITY.
WHAT IS A SECONDARY ACTIVITY?
A secondary activity is just about anything you as a Volunteer might do to benefit the community that is not part of your primary assignment. It is secondary to the primary assignment, not necessarily secondary in importance either to you or to the community you serve.
Secondary activities can share the objectives and methodologies of Peace Corps projects and many of the same characteristics, without following the same formal procedures. A village clean-up campaign, for example, may get underway without a needs assessment or a feasibility study, simply because a Volunteer and her neighbor start talking about the garbage outside their houses and decide to do something about it.
In the more than 30 years since the Peace Corps was established, PCVs have organized an amazing range of such activities. To give a few examples, they have promoted environmental awareness through drama, established piggeries, equipped language laboratories, taught women how to make milk from soybeans, built latrines, organized libraries, and taught children to play new sports.
WHY DO PCVs UNDERTAKE SECONDARY ACTIVITIES?
PCVs get involved in community activities in addition to their primary job assignment for a variety of reasons. They may do so because of lulls in project tasks, bureaucratic delays, or simply because they want more direct involvement with people in their communities. They may have free time, or see community needs they think they can help with; they may be asked to undertake a specific activity by community residents, or may have skills and interests they wish to pursue for their own pleasure.
TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA, HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES FROM THIS MANUAL:
• In the Dominican Republic, a Volunteer had her students paint a world map on the school wall after she discovered that very little material existed to teach them geography.
• Missing the fairs she had enjoyed growing up in Iowa, a PCV organized one in her village in Mauritania to foster community spirit.
• A PCV in Jamaica who had played in a band back home turned his hobby into a profitable business for five young men, whom he trained to build and play drums.
Sometimes an APCD may suggest that a PCV continue with an activity started by a previous PCV. In the case of Paraguay's summer health camps, a secondary activity begun years ago by a group of Education Volunteers is now an ongoing part of the country's Peace Corps program.
EXPLORING YOUR OWN POTENTIAL
Your secondary activity may prove to be a particularly meaningful part of your Peace Corps service, enabling you to expand your own skills and explore your own potential. Perhaps you have always liked gardening, but never tried to grow vegetables hydroponically. Here's a chance to try! Secondary activities are most likely to be successful if you choose something that really interests you and utilizes your unique skills. Most important, make sure it answers a community need.
In some cases, it is the secondary activity a Volunteer undertakes that provides the impetus for a career once Peace Corps service is completed. In one of the success stories included in this manual, a PCV working in the Dominican Republic as a Business Development Volunteer organized a rooftop garden for at-risk youth as a secondary activity. This rewarding experience influenced him to study biology in graduate school after completing his Peace Corps assignment.
WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS MANUAL?
This manual is intended to help you get started on a secondary activity by sharing the experiences of former PCVs. In the pages ahead, you will read about their successful efforts to raise poultry in Papua New Guinea, publish folk tales in Yap, establish hydroponic gardening on rooftops in the Dominican Republic, make fishing lures in Sierra Leone, repair braillers in Nepal, create rural enterprise zones in Malawi, and organize a women's leadership group in Hungary. An anecdotal approach is used to demonstrate how these ideas originated, how they became a reality, and how they made a difference in the lives of the people concerned.
IN GENERAL, THE VOLUNTEERS FOLLOWED THREE BASIC STEPS:
• First they perceived a need within their community and thought perhaps their skills could be of use.
• They then gathered information to find out whether the activity was worth pursuing.
• Finally, they enlisted the help of community members, planned together, and proceeded with the activity one careful step at a time.
The descriptions of their experiences come from their own material, two originally appearing as articles in the "ICE ALMANAC" (now "TAPESTRY") section of the Peace Corps Times. We selected these particular examples to illustrate the variety of activities and settings in which these activities have taken place, but they are not necessarily typical of PCVs' secondary activities. Two, in fact, are distinctly atypical. Not too many Volunteers, for example, will have the time, skills, energy or ambition to organize enterprise zones, nor will many be able to follow the example of the PCV couple in Nepal and know in advance what they want to do before they start their Peace Corps service. Some activities may never even get off the ground, and if these failures were publicized, they could teach us as many lessons as do success stories. Regardless of whether these stories typify the Peace Corps experience, however, telling them provides some insight into the process that brought about their success.
AS THE CONCLUDING ANALYSIS DEMONSTRATES, WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS, WHAT THESE ACTIVITIES HAVE IN COMMON IS THAT THEY...
• Started slowly, after the Volunteer had gotten to know the community and its needs;
• Were initiated and led by the community with the assistance of the Volunteer, rather than vice versa;
• Included planning and monitoring;
• Made use of available resources;
• Were kept relatively simple and flexible;
• Were enjoyable (most of the time!) for the Volunteers; and
• Provided information for others to learn from their experience.
Keep these principles in mind as you read through Part II, "A SAMPLING OF ACTIVITIES." Then think how you might apply them to your own country and your own situation to add another success story to Above and Beyond.