Well. It’s official. I have accepted my invitation to serve in Cameroon as an Agroforestry Agent. I will be leaving for my orientation on September 17th, 2009, leave for staging in Cameroon on September 19th which will be eleven weeks, and my actual service will begin December 4th, 2009 and last until December of 2011. (Of course exact dates my change closer to departure). I’m so excited.
Earlier this week I received my very large FedEx package containing my invitation materials. Even though I knew I wanted to accept I took two days to read through the material, day dream, etc… Last night I stayed up late to finish up my updated resume and Aspiration Statement and sent it in to the Cameroon Office. These two documents are my way of introducing myself to the PC staff and organizations I might possibly be working with in country, so I wanted to speak from the heart and really allow them to receive a sense of who I am (in such a brief term…) Following is both my resume and statement:
Ogle’s Greenhouse Albia, Iowa, seasonally 2001-2006, February 2009-July 2009
Responsible for general care of variety of plants including annuals and perennials, transplanting, watering, assisting customers with various needs, answering questions about plant care and choice for gardens, designed decorative containers for individuals and local businesses, keeping work place clean and organized, running cash register.
Central College Office of Service and Community-Based Learning, Pella, Iowa 2007-2008 School Year
Student Service-Learning Coordinator
Worked as a liaison between college student volunteers and nine community organizations in Pella and Des Moines, determined community partner needs by traveling to community sites then communicating said needs to students completing volunteer service for a service-learning class, keeping records of communication with students and organizations, attending weekly meetings with supervisor and peers; also helped facilitate Central College’s annual service day by organizing community events and maintaining the online information and sign up page
AmeriCorps Student Leaders in Service Program (300 hours) October 2007-October 2008
Served as part-time AmeriCorps volunteer, completed just over 300 hours of community service as a full-time college student during my senior year at Central College, volunteered with a variety of organizations
Central College: Helped to develop and lead a student-led volunteer center, tutored writing and English
Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Outdoor Journeys for Girls: Chaperoned a camp for females learning outdoor skills such as hiking, camping, canoeing, hunting, fishing
Pella Regional Health Center: Served as an activities volunteer for the Long-term Care patients, visiting and reading with patients with terminal illnesses
Jefferson Elementary School Pella: Helped with a reading program and after-school math program for fourth grade students
Study Abroad Experience, Paris, France through Central College Abroad January 2007-June 2007
Lived and studied in France for five months without any prior study of the French language returned to Central and was admitted to the Advanced French classes my senior year; while abroad studied at L’Institut de Touraine and L’Institut Catholique de Paris
The Public Benefits Hotline Project, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago,
Chicago, IL, Fall Semester 2006
Advocated for low-income residents of Cook County, Illinois; clarified communication between Department of Human Services caseworkers, supervisors, administrators and clients; worked with over 70 clients who had “lost basic benefits because of improper sanction, termination, reapplication, or appeal determinations” according to Illinois law; observed Intentional Food Stamp Program Violation hearings.
Central College Center for Academic Success, Central College Spring semester 2005
Writing and Philosophy tutor during freshman year of college.
Central College Campus Ministries Mission Trip to Reynosa, Mexico January 2005
Week long service-oriented trip to an impoverished city in Mexico, hung drywall, painted homes, helped to convert space into a clinic, visited and played with children at an orphanage.
4H Club and Youth Council, Monroe County, Iowa, 2000-2004
Served as local chapter 4H treasurer 2003 and President 2004; led community service events, food collections for local Helping Hands organization, project on raising rabbits showcased during county fair, toured local farms in Monroe County.
Central College, Pella, Iowa
Bachelor of Arts
Graduated cum laude, May 2008
Teaching English as a Second Language, Central College Fall 2007, 3 credit hours with 15 hours teaching experience at Lutheran Services of Iowa’s Refugee Cooperative Services
French– Spoken, Writing, Reading (Intermediate levels), studied five months in France and one year at the college level
Spanish– (Beginning level), studied four years in high school and one year at the college level
Gardening, Environmental awareness/ sustainability, Medicinal plants and healing, Literacy, Education and Learning, Health with a holistic approach, Travel, Art, Poetry, Baking, Sewing
A: During my Peace Corps service I intend to use creativity and innovation to design and give constructive educational presentations to local farmers, community groups, and schools to address environmental issues, agroforestry techniques (such as contour farming, fruit tree grafting, live fencing, wind breaks, etc.), as well as those concerning the complex challenges of HIV and AIDS relevant to my community in a way that trains and inspires my audience to action.
I will use leadership skills and delegation to identify potential leaders within the community and help them develop their expertise in the agroforestry sector so that they can become a resource to others and my project can succeed in becoming self-reliant.
I would also like to use my knowledge of medicinal plants and hard work (designing, tilling, planting, weeding) to set up a successful medicinal plant garden in my community. I am willing and able to roll up my sleeves and take an active part in the day-to-day physical aspect of agriculture.
B: I am going to keep an open mind and pay attention to social cues and mores so that I can assimilate into the culture as much as I can in order to show respect for the host country partners that I will be living and working with. It is important to listen to them to determine their needs, and to understand them effectively I must be willing to fully experience the lifestyle in Cameroon i.e. the way they dress, the foods they eat, the language(s) they speak, and important village functions. I will take a genuine interest in those I meet and work hard to gain their trust and hopefully friendship.
C: To adapt to this new culture I will treat people with respect and dignity, openness and generosity. I will need to practice patience, flexibility, tolerance, and humor to different ideas and the reality of working with other people. I hope to have very little expectations coming into this new experience, but rather have an open attitude to how things unfold organically and cherish each experience as an adventure.
As a woman I understand that I may be used to a considerable degree more acceptance into the professional world as well as used to the idea of being accepted into a position of authority than is common in Cameroon. To address this, I will need to practice tolerance, develop a supportive network of female colleagues and friends, and would like to take part in workshops and activities that address female empowerment, and hopefully be able to lead by example (showing respect to my colleagues, doing a good job in my projects, and becoming an accepted member of the community).
Finally, I accept the fact that there will inevitably be times when I make cultural mistakes, and I hope to see this as a learning experience.
D: During pre-service training I hope to get to know and bond with my host family, pay diligent attention to each of my training activities, and develop a support system with the other trainees. I hope to gain a very high proficiency in the French language by building on my current language skills and begin a secure foundation in a local language. In addition I want to learn about the agricultural needs and techniques essential for my projects. I intend to pay attention during activities, do as much reading and research I can before departure, and put forth a lot of extra work and study in order to feel comfortable with my abilities to serve in a useful and dynamic manner.
E. I do not know specifically how Peace Corps service will change my aspirations and life goals, but ultimately I do know that it will. I will learn so much more about myself, my personality, my expectations, gain new insights into my abilities and talents, and hopefully feel a new and empowered sense of direction. I currently have a few goals in mind after my Peace Corps service has ended; these possibilities include a World Teach program for a year, AmeriCorps service, teaching English, apply for a job with Peace Corps, and going back to school to study at a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program and eventually going to medical school. Ideally I would like to do all these things in my lifetime. Essentially, though, I know that my core values are helping others, living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, being civically involved and incorporating world travel and new cultural experiences into my life. I know that as long as my life is conducive with these values, I will be happy and consider myself successful. I understand that Peace Corps service may very well give me into a new specific goal or career direction that I had not previously thought of, but ultimately those values are who I am, and I believe that will only be enhanced by my experience. I believe that in the end I will become a more mature, confident, and able version of myself.
So there it is. No where near perfect, but honest, and I hope that shows. I also have tons more stuff to do like send in my application for a no fee passport and visa (which I’m not sure I did correctly. Some things are just confusing, but I did my best), insurance papers, shopping for supplies and appropriate work and dress clothes, and on and on. I’m so afraid I’m going to overlook something important!
Packing List provided by Peace Corps
professional clothes, slacks, button-up blouses, knee length or longer skirts, business casual
clothing patterns (you can have custom clothes made for less than $10.00
cotton shirts in dark colors (light clothes are stained and discolored from dust and sand)
good quality underwear
rain jacket or pancho
two formal outfits/nice looking dresses
denim or fleece jacket
modest bathing suit
one pair comfortable dress shoes
two pairs sandals like Tevas or Chaco
one pair running shoes
good pair work or hiking boots
vitamins/ herbal remedies
lotions, soaps, incense that smell nice and familiar
three month supply prescription drugs
two pairs of eye glasses, straps and repair kit
hair clips, bobby pins, hair ties
toiletries for two years
scissors for cutting hair
makeup and nail polish
swiss army knife, good kitchen knife
a variety of open-pollinated vegetable seeds and gardening book
12 passport-size photos
map of Africa and map of Cameroon
travel-size games, cards
weekend size back pack (formless)
plastic water bottle
rechargeable batteries and charger
reliable water resistant watch
travel alarm clock
combination pad locks
*have excess stuff boxed and shipped to you