Teen Club Feedback Meeting and Subsequent Realization of Winning

It’s been said most Peace Corps Volunteers don’t fully begin their real work until about a year into their service. In most situations, PCVs are dropped off at their home after training and basically given the green light to “begin service,” whatever that may be. Some PCVs have a very open ended service, while others know to report to a classroom or office regularly. In any of these situations, however, it can take months just to acclimate to the lifestyle and work environment, get people to like and trust you, and learn enough about what the community needs to actually begin to give back at a substantial level.  As someone who works in a modernized office with people who speak fluent English, I never thought this path applied to me quite as much (my job is a definite exception to the norm). But, in my own way, I recently experienced something akin to this phenomenon, and as a result I see whole new possibilities for my service beginning to open up.

A couple of Thursdays ago the District AIDS Coordinator asked me to attend a stakeholder feedback meeting for a group called Teen Club, a peer support group for HIV-positive adolescents. I was to report to the Cresta Marang Hotel for a morning meeting in which we were to review the organization’s progress from the last year and round off the meeting with a catered lunch at the hotel.  Surely I had gotten used to these types of gatherings already.

But this time the meeting was drastically different. While normally I would attend a similar conference accompanied by either the District AIDS Coordinator or some other member of the District AIDS Office team, this time it was just me. Also, usually the group meeting is relatively large – I’d say an average of 20 at a time – so the pressure to participate isn’t always that high. And when I would participate, it was often with a confidence only backed up by a general, superficial understanding of the situation. This time I sat in a small, windowless room with seven others around a very intimate conference table, and the participants at the meeting were looking to me to represent the District AIDS Office and give adequate feedback on the organization’s progress. Lastly, I would usually be told ahead of time if I was expected to give any type of meeting presentation. This time that realization came only after reading it on the agenda at the meeting’s start.

The wonderful thing that surprised me though was that none of these intimidating changes actually intimidated me, and I felt comfortable with the whole situation. Upon arriving I not only recognized 2 out of the 7 other attendees, but I also know and greeted the Marang Hotel manager. These connections made me initially feel at ease. When Teen Club presented their yearly reports and explained their recent successes and challenges, I immediately referred back to a bank of comparative references I had learned over the months to see if they were operating above or below par. I could read their graphs and charts and see gaps my Batswana colleagues didn’t initially see. To sum up, for the first time I realized my collected background knowledge of both the organizational structure and the culture enabled me to know what information I should give back that would be both useful and appreciated.

“That was too much. Too much good feedback for one person,” was the literal response by the co-chair of the meeting. He and others also admitted it was great to have an “outsider’s” perspective on the issues. Hello, Peace Corps Goal #2.

It felt like an achievement, and also like a turning point for me in my service.  It happened with appropriate timing too – our year anniversary for entering this country is just around the corner.

2 Responses

  1. Hey, NICE, i’m totally impressed– and THAT’s why YOU were chosen to work in the DAC office. Way to go alexis!

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