The day I moved to Maun I spent the night in my new one bed-roomed apartment, sleeping on a bare mattress with a sleeping bag and surrounded by clutter and boxes. The very next morning I left Maun to travel south to Kanye, a village on the opposite end of the country. It was swearing-in time for the new Bots 12 group, and Peace Corps wanted the PCVLs (Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders) there for support. This is the life I’ve been leading since early June – fast paced, consistent travelling and direction changing at the whim of Peace Corps. As much as I love my new home in
Maun and am glad when I have a weekend to do laundry, I’m acutally enjoying the opportunity to get out and interact with Peace Corps Botswana on a deeper level.
Our first action item as PCVLs was to set up tiny-regional meetings in various shopping villages in the country. The three PCVLs coordinated and conducted our own meetings and wrote follow-up reports, ensuring we accounted for all volunteers traveling and collected their feedback. I held meetings in three villages: Maun, Ghanzi, and Tsabong. If you were to compare this to Texas, that would be kind of like having meetings in Ft. Worth, Odessa, and Laredo, respectively.
The meetings were great opportunities for the new volunteers to get to know the earlier intakes and ask questions like, “When will I get a house?”, “What do I do when strange men come to my house after dark?” and, “How do I check for gas tank leaks?” The earlier intakes helped to answer these questions, and also discussed issues of their own like communication problems with staff and each other, technical issues, travel issues, counterpart problems, and questions about other aspects of their service. Much of my job, aside from conducting the meeting, was to give and receive feedback and liaise between the volunteers and staff.
It was also good just to hangout with volunteers from all over the country inside their respective regions. I’m trying to wiggle my way into a comfort zone with being a PCVL. PCVLs are not staff, and we’re still just volunteers, but other volunteers tend to look at us as a gateway to staff, and so this can put an awkward cramp on some normal volunteer-to-volunteer interactions. So I made a special effort to ensure volunteers that: a) I’m here to provide support first and foremost, b) my job is not to rat on volunteers but to help them keep their service productive, and c) yes, I would love a beer.
- Willy Volk: What Peace Corps Taught Me About Managing People (huffingtonpost.com)