The end of PST (with pics!)
EXCITING NEWS: My permanent site is Mmametlhake, Mpumalanga and my organization is a family center in the village!
I’ve been in Africa for more than two months, and unfortunately, that means PST is coming to an end. My life is about to drastically change (again).
On Monday, March 30, I get sworn in as an official volunteer (moved from the original date of April 1) and that same day, I travel to Supervisor’s Workshop for two days, then move to Mmametlhake… for good.
Once I move to site, my job is pretty simple. As I wrote before, the first three months of service are an “integration period”. This means, I don’t start any new projects at site, however, I can help out with existing projects and work at my organization (obviously). During these three months, I must complete a Community Needs Assessment (CNA), which is a long research project/report that assesses community needs and allows me to learn what the community wants from me as a volunteer. I use the information I collect to justify programs I want to implement and I can also use the CNA as a resource when applying to grants on behalf of my org. I will spend three months interviewing local officials, traveling to all the schools and interviewing teachers/staff/students, learning about my village (history, medical statistics, etc.), speaking to religious leaders, and continuing to work at my org with the children that come every day after school. I need to complete my CNA by July and present my findings at IST (Internal Service Training… remember that??). It’s a daunting project and relies a lot on community participation, but it’s well worth facilitates integration into the community.
Fortunately, I am the fourth volunteer (count them, four!) at my site, so my supervisor is very comfortable with Peace Corps rules and operations. In fact, one of the first things he asked me when we met was, “When do you want to start your CNA?” Trust me, that does not happen with every volunteer. Also, Peace Corps likes to clarify that we are community volunteers, not just employees of the organization. Some supervisors who’ve never had a PCV don’t understand that distinction. Luckily, my sup is very comfortable with the idea of me working outside the org at the local schools and with community members.
I got assigned my site about two weeks ago and I got the chance to visit my site and my org for a whole week to get acclimated and make sure everything is in order before I move there permanently. I got to meet my supervisor, my coworkers, some community members, and the children that I will be working with every day. After being sworn in, we have a two-day Supervisor’s Workshop. This is a chance for our supervisors to meet with Peace Corps staff (as well as ourselves) and become more familiar with Peace Corps (although, as I said, I don’t think my sup needs this). All of the volunteers placed in Mpumalanga meet for SW in Nelspruit and all the volunteers in KZN are meeting in Durban.
Unfortunately, a volunteer has left us. That means our numbers are down to 31 ☹
Peace Corps only places volunteers in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and KwaZulu-Natal, but my cohort is only in Mpumalanga and KZN (most SA29s are in Limpopo but Jess is an exception to this and is in Limpopo due to varying circumstances).
Five volunteers are in western Mpumalanga (near Pretoria): Myself, Colleen, Shelby, Bobbi, and Greg A.
Five volunteers are in “the pocket” (eastern Mpumalanga, underneath Krueger and above Swazi): Olivia, Cori, Austin, Jon, and Jonathon.
Everyone else is spread out in KZN: Jane, Matt and Anna, Joey, Katey, Abby, Rachel, Betty, Vince, Jason, Rafeeq, Pam and Greg L., Cathy, Chenoa, Latoya, Sabrina D., Sabrina X., Sandy, and Nancy.
All Volunteer Conference
Most cohorts don’t get to see each other after swearing-in until IST three months later. However, our cohort is lucky because two months into our three-month integration period is the All Volunteer Conference. This is the first AVC and therefore, the first time every PCV in SA has gotten together for a conference. It’s only three days long but it will be a great opportunity to see each other and meet people from other cohorts (who we rarely get to see except at events like this).
As excited as I am to start my work as a volunteer and begin acclimation into my permanent village, I’m going to miss Matshipe, my host family, and my cohort SO MUCH!! Luckily, Mmametlhake is less than two hours away from Matshipe so I can visit Mma and my siblings once my integration period ends.
Last Saturday we had a Host Family Appreciation Function, basically, a chance for us to celebrate and thank our host families for everything they’ve done for us. It was a lot of fun. TONS of people showed up, we ate a sh** load of food, performed African songs and dance, gave out certificates, and some of us even wore traditional Sepedi, Zulu, and Ndebele clothing. My outfit was definitely something to remember haha.
I miss you all deeply, but I have 25 months left in South Africa, and it already feels like it’s not enough.
MORE PICTURES THAT DIDN’T UPLOAD WITH MY LAST POST!
Thanks for reading!