During our first month of training, we learned a lot about the Peace Corps’ approach to development. In essence- the Peace Corps’ philosophy is that we are here to serve at a grassroots, people to people level with the end goal being sustainability. This is why we aren’t allowed to implement any projects the first three months at site. Our sole goal is to learn what the community needs/wants, not what we think they need/want. Our job is also to find counterparts- people in the community who are already working to make positive changes and who are passionate about improving the lives of community members. We will work with these members and teach them the tools we have learned, while implementing projects together. Sometimes all it takes is a little training and they will be able to implement the projects without us. Then, once our two years is up, the community will have several trained men and woman that can continue improving the health/sanitation of the community for years to come. The way it has been phrased that sticks with me is that we are here to “teach a man to fish.” Chris and I really like this. It makes good, lasting-change type sense.
The challenge we have run across, is that our community (and many communities in Ghana) are under the impression that we, as Americans, have lots and lots of money and that we are here to build big budget structures for them and that’s it. They have also had the experience where big NGOs come in and build a structure then leave (and actually many times will return a few years later to find it broken due to the fact they didn’t teach the community how to maintain it). As Peace Corps volunteers, we can apply for small grant money, but building a new school, expanding the clinic, building hundreds of latrines, building several boreholes, and enlarging the dam are really not all that possible in two years, nor what we are here for. Chris and I have already had this conversation about our role here, and I’m sure it will be one that will come up a lot in the beginning here.
As Peace Corps volunteers in the health sector, here are some the things we can do and hopefully will do during our two years here (depending on the community’s wants/needs) :
– Teach mothers how to make Oral Rehydration Salts from local ingredients to give to their children when they have diarrhea.
–Teach the school children how to make tippy taps. This way the classrooms will have them, and then hopefully they will go make one for their homes.
-Hand washing campaigns
-Play soccer with kids while teaching them about HIV/AIDS
– Girls/woman’s empowerment groups
-Teach health topics in schools while making them fun
-Teach income generating projects for the dry season when it’s difficult to find work. Ex. Making Shea Butter Soap
-Connect community leaders with local NGOs; Educate about the nutritional properties of the local herb Moringa and encourage cooking with it
-Create latrine demonstrations out of local materials -Advocate for the community on a municipal level alongside empowered members -Educate about maternal and child nutrition
-Women’s health groups
-Educate about the importance of breast milk and proper baby weaning
-Assist in the health clinic
-Empower counterparts with the knowledge and urgency to continue projects that better the their community long after we are gone
-Help start community/school library
-Create school gardens for increased nutrition in school lunches
-Teach our village friends about American culture
-Teach American friends about Ghanaian culture