Many people have been asking me what they can send to my villagers. This might sound weird, and it’s kind of hard for me to say, but I’d rather people didn’t send gifts. I didn’t really understand this at first, but now I’m beginning to. When I volunteered in an orphanage in Romania, we brought tons and tons of gifts for the orphans, but that’s okay because we were there for such a short time.
Peace Corps approach to development is sustainable development: we don’t give money (you’re welcome.). Sure, we can teach village members how to apply for grants and help them out, but we don’t do it for them. The reason that we use titles such as ‘Counterpart’ and Co-Facilitator, is to emphasize that we’re not here to do things on our own. We’re here to help the communities mobilize, and learn how to help themselves. That way, when we leave, they are able to carry on their projects, and continue advancing, because they will then have the knowledge to sustain something.
The same thing sort of goes for giving out gifts or material help to my village that people send from home. Aside from that not being a sustainable approach, my villagers would then always expect me to be bringing them things, which isn’t the image that I want here either. Yea I share my sweeties from America with them and let them try things, because that’s cultural exchange. But what if I brought in a box of shoes, and not everyone in my village got a pair? Or my neighboring villages got upset that I didn’t have anything donated for them? Or my clinic workers don’t understand why I wouldn’t first bring Western things to the clinic and it’s patients? The best and most important thing I can give the people here is knowledge.
This is why, when you ask me what the kids would want here, I ask for beginning readers books, teaching guides, learning posters, easy experiments, etc... Things I can teach my village that is useful to them. Some of them never went to school, some of the young children will be too ill go to go school once they are old enough. Mostly all of them don’t know English. And there is a young boy who is deaf, and I’d like to be able to help them all communicate with him, and vice-versa.
… Also, I’ll always take soccer balls. That is one thing I will distribute through playing and coaching in mine and surrounding villages. I can even make this educational, and use the soccer training SKILLZ and Grassroots Soccer to teach about HIV/AIDs through the beautiful game.
I love that so many people want to help out. But free hand-outs and sending material items is not sustainable, nor will it help them develop on their own, to get to a point where their country no longer needs foreign aid (this is a huge dream, and many many years down the line, but possible).
That being said, there will be times when I’ll be working on a project, and ask for people from back home to donate in some way. If you want to help out, wait for these times. One that I know of for now is Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) which I’m very excited to be a leader for next August. It is a week long overnight camp in which 20 grade 8/9 girls and 10 female counterparts attend sessions on empowerment, gender-related issues such as domestic violence, young marriage, HIV/AIDs, and other such topics. We will also be doing arts and crafts, as well as sports and other fun activities. Since I get to bring two girls from my area and my female counterpart, I will then continue to encourage them to start Girls Clubs at their schools and pass on the information that they learned at camp. This is an awesome experience for these young girls, where they can learn things that they might not learn otherwise. Most girls never really leave their village or get to travel, so it will be huge for them to go to an overnight camp. When we get more into the funding of these camps, I will post information on how you can contribute.I don’t know what the holiday traditions are for Christmas in Zambia. I don’t know if I’m supposed to do anything special for my village (I will, of course, share with them any things from America that are sent to me). But, I’ve decided I will buy a goat, and we can have a feast together, and I’ll cook them a relish (side dish) from America to try. I’ve also never killed a goat, only observed the slaughter and held it while they skinned it, but I’m beginning to believe that any animal that you eat, you should have at least killed once and done the work for, so you appreciate what they go through in order for you to enjoy them. This is a completely different Caitlin.
Front of my hut. Since this picture was taken, I've added
many more handprints to my left wall, from everyone,
adults and kids, that comes to see me.
The right outer wall is being cemented, which I will then paint
over with blackboard paint, so I will have a chalkboard
to teach on.