In the time between now and June 4, I’ll be posting some of my favorite past adventures because they’ll be much more exciting that another omg…it’s getting closer post. Also it will help to remind me of my adventurous self, and that I have been through some amazing life experiences [good and bad], and I’ve done some pretty amazing things in life so far. Peace Corps isn’t always fun and games; sometimes it’s damn hard work. It will help me to remind myself that I’ve taken on challenges before and I have succeeded.
Every aspiring journalist knows what the five W’s are–it’s essentially a how to for writing. Who, What, When , Where, and Why. If you can answer all those questions, then you’ve got an effective story. So let’s begin, shall we?
I’m Michelle and until the end of May, I’ll be hanging out a my little house on the prairie in South Carolina. I’m a RN and will be working right up until I leave. I’m always up for an adventure.
I’ve accepted a position at a Maternal-Child Health in Rwanda with the Peace Corps. The official Peace Corps job description reads like this:
Maternal and Child Health Volunteers collaborate with health clinics, community organizations, and family members to promote healthier lives for mothers and children. Volunteers are assigned to health clinics in the most rural and needy communities where many children suffer from chronic malnutrition. You will help improve the training system of public health clinics to deliver high quality training to women, community members, and midwives to deepen their understanding of maternal, neonatal, and child health topics. All work done within the project will have a focus on behavior change, community empowerment, and sustainability.
Volunteers train health workers in adult education methodologies, behavior change theory, motivational interviewing, lesson planning, and overall development of educational resources. These actions will enhance health workers’ abilities to deliver high quality education. Having trained health workers and developed educational resources, Volunteers will co-plan and co-facilitate educational activities with household and community members, especially with women who are of reproductive age.
Volunteers with also work with the community at large, as community organization and empowerment is key to promoting community health. Volunteers and community members will engage in campaigns, activities, and projects to address community health needs. Methods include raising awareness around health issues, providing training on community project design and management, implementing educational projects, and implementing structural projects such as latrines, improved cook stoves, or vegetable gardens.
Technically, the journey begins on June 04, 2018. I will serve for 27 months, returning home [if all goes according to plan August 2020!] In all reality, the journey began September 2016 when I first applied. Since then, through the rounds of interviews, incredible amount of paperwork, and frequent doctor visits, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. [I’m still not getting my hopes up too much because my last opportunity fell through]
Rwanda is a small country, technically in East Africa, but being land-locked, seems more central Africa to me. It borders Uganda, DRC, Tanzania, and Burundi. It’s mountainous; not as mountainous as Lesotho, but still not many places are. As a result of the altitude, despite being practically on the equator, the climate is much more temperate. It occasionally snows there. Rwanda is about the size of Massachusetts and is one of the more densely populated countries in Africa [1211 people/sq mile as compared to my current situation of about 150 people/ sq mile]. I’m about to get a whole lot of curious neighbors.
This is a complicated answer. Why am I completely flipping my world upside down and exchanging a comfortable life for Rwanda? Honestly, the simple answer is because I can. The more complicated [much, much more complicated] answer, I’ll discuss later.
and the new departure date in June 4–which gives me about 2.5 months to get ready. I’ll be in the Maternal-Child Health sector which focuses on the first 1000 days of life.
It’s not Madagascar; it’s certainly not where I thought I might go, but it is an opportunity to do something in a field I’m qualified to serve in.
- It’s a small, land-locked country in Eastern Africa
- The genocide that people immediately think about when they hear ‘Rwanda’ happened 24 years ago .
- It’s a safe as if not safer than other African countries.
- It shares a border with DRC; Lake Kivu [a large lake that serves as Rwanda’s answer to oceans. It has beaches!] separates the two countries
- It’s capital is Kigali
- It’s official languages are Kinyarwanda and English [Although French was an official language up until a few years ago]
- It’s a more temperate climate due to its altitude so I may need long sleeves and sweatshirts.
- The sun essentially rises and sets at 6a/6p every day.
- There are four seasons: Rainy Season 1 and 2 and Dry Season 1 and 2
- Rwanda probably has the best road in all of Africa [overall]
- The mountain gorilla lives in Rwanda and Uganda and no where else on Earth
- Rwanda has set a country goal to become Africa’s 1st middle-income country. I’m not exactly sure what all that entails, but it sure says a lot about the hope and progressive nature of this country.
So I don’t know a whole lot about what is to be my future home for the next two years, but it is still close enough to the Indian Ocean that I have a chance to swim in it. I hope I get to visit a few other nearby counties while I’m in the area [Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, maybe Mozambique… I’m looking at you especially]
- 8th – Namibia – Community Health Volunteer, Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development Volunteer
- 13th – Vanuatu – Health Extension Volunteer, Health Extension Specialist Volunteer, Hygiene Education and Water Sanitation Volunteer, Primary Education English Teacher-Trainer
- 23rd – Mozambique – Community Health Services Promoter
- 24th – Mongolia – Public Health Educator, Secondary Education English Co-Teacher, Secondary Education English Teacher Trainer, University English Teacher
- 28th – Ecuador – Health Extension Volunteer, Youth Development and Community Service Volunteer
- 1st – Sierra Leone – Health Extension Volunteer, Secondary Education English Teacher, Secondary Education Math Teacher, Secondary Education Science Teacher
- 3rd – Uganda – Agribusiness Advisor, Business Development Specialist, Community Agribusiness Coordinator, Community Health Educator, Community Health Specialist
- 3rd – Togo – English and Gender Education Teacher, Food Security Educator, Public Health and Malaria Educator
- 3rd – Moldova – Community Development Worker, Health Education Teacher, Secondary Education English Teacher
- 4th – Rwanda – Maternal and Child Health Volunteer
- 5th – Malawi – Health Extension Volunteer, Natural Resources Management Volunteer
- 10th – Burkina Faso – Community Economic Development Volunteer, Community Health Agent, Community Health Specialist, English Teacher – TEFL Certificate, Math Teacher, Science Teacher
- 10th – Guyana – Community Conservation Promoter, Community Health Promoter, Community Health Promotion Specialist, Primary Literacy Promoter, Primary Literacy Specialist
- 11th – Swaziland – Urban Youth Development Volunteer, Health Extension Volunteer
- 24th – Belize – Rural Family Health Educator
If I had my pick, and at this point, I’m quite certain that I do not [although I did have some say in Madagascar] my top picks are: Mozambique [late April], Belize [late June], Mongolia or Ecuador [both late May]. I have Spanish language skills; I think Portuguese would be fairly easy to acquire. English/Creole is spoken in Belize, and Mongolian is so foreign that I don’t think my Spanish background would impede learning it. I think Moldova, Rwanda, and Guyana [early-middle June] are in the second-tier, with most of continental West Africa being third tier as far as my preference goes.
This is a long post, but for those of you who I haven’t been able to speak with about this at length, I felt that it was important to share the background and current status of my plans. Those of you who know me well will probably not be surprised by my desire to join the Peace Corps, even though I’m a bit sad to leave SC and my friends and family in SC and other parts of the US. I am hoping for everyone’s support and understanding as I (hopefully) launch into a new journey in my life.