That was less clever than I thought it was.
For those who don’t know and have been wondering what the hell has been going on, my laptop charger died some time in early December and was very recently replaced. It was brought over by a friend visiting America for Christmas, which seemed a safe bet, but to my horror, the bag was stripped of its tag and lost for more than two weeks… somewhere in Africa. Possibly the Central African Republic, where the plane inexplicably stopped before arriving in Cameroon. You know, the CAR, that lovely little nation which recently had a public lynching. At the airport.
The fact that I am now in possession of my charger is, therefore and needless to say, somewhat miraculous. In any case, missing the charger hasn’t actually been all that bad. Instead of melting my brain watching 2 – 3 hours of HBO every night before bed, I was forced to read; I know, awful, but in a Stockholm-esque turn of events I remembered how much I used to love doing that, so now, every night, me and Taco get cozy and listen to female soul singers and read feverishly until I pass out. Sometimes I get drunk with my friends first, and that makes me feel less old. But still I wonder.
So, for a “day in the life” without an expensive plane ticket: Walk around dusty roads and get frustrated by bureaucracy all day, get together with your friend and drink weird sap alcohol tapped from trees mixed with plastic pouches of ethyl alcohol whiskey, complain, talk about boobs, go home, put on Sharon Jones or Amy Winehouse or similar, vaguely wonder what the hell happened to you while you talk to your cat like he’s a person who only understands bad and bizarrely British baby-talk, then read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Steinbeck, or economic policy journals until your eyes bleed. I’m only a little kidding.
All seriousness aside, I do actually perform some of the duties expected of me by no one and her junkie brother. What I mean to say is, there isn’t a whole lot in the way of oversight in Peace Corps, but I’m still fighting the good fight. Go me. For those who have been following my blog for a long time, and whose memory for the trivial deserves Nobel recognition, I came to Wum with the intention of building up a small and mostly dysfunctional NGO before realizing that I had absolutely no idea how to actually do that. Well, I figured it out, and for the first time since I stunned middle management by flipping more burgers per minute than any of my stoned, illiterate colleagues at McDonald’s, I feel qualified for the job I’m doing.
We piloted the Grassroots HIV prevention material in Charegha to astonishing success. Kids were literally begging to sign up and learn about HIV. Pre- and post-test scores soared from an average of 58% to an average of 96%. Participation and enthusiasm were humbling. Five of the seven girls’ soccer teams we started Title 9-style at the secondary schools are firing on all four cylinders, almost completely autonomously, with only perfunctory supervision by me and Ibrahim. We’re working closely with the other two schools to sort out their staffing situations and get the balls rolling (pun intended yeah what up). We have trained a new recruit to the NGO, Lovett, to facilitate the Grassroots material. We are working with him at two schools to deliver the curriculum, and have been very impressed with the results. Sean is working a third school out in the rural Muslim village of Upkwa, and is also pretty pleased with how well it’s going. In doing so, we have created a dense web of connections with critical government agencies, school administrations, teachers, parents, and other NGOs.
My grant proposal for nearly $2.000 was approved without issue, allowing us to host a frankly extravagant tournament for these girls in May, which they more than deserve. We will have t-shirts and an announcer and food and drinks and certificates and special guests and lots and lots of publicity. The proposal also allows us to purchase all the equipment needed for REACH (my NGO) to keep doing ths program for years. With the addition of the new member, we have a staff well-qualified to do just that. The Delegation for Secondary Education and the Delegation for Physical Education have already pledged their support to keep the teams alive after I leave, and have even offered us publicity opportunities to garner community support and further diminish the chances they’ll be cut in the future. At the upcoming Divisional finals, we will be presenting one of our HIV prevention activities during half-time with some of the girls in front of some of the most important people in my division. Both delegates are optimistic that the program can even expand, giving REACH great work opportunities for the foreseeable future.
The scope of this competition has also given us the opportunity to approach corporate sponsors who may want to advertise with us. Nothing is confirmed and I don’t want to dash my luck getting cocky, so I will simply say that the money we’re asking for is substantial and that two companies have expressed significant interest. Invested properly, that money could easily fund projects for years, something the volunteer who replaces me will benefit from enormously. We have also created in-roads with PLAN, a mammoth international NGO, and the Cameroon National Youth Council. PLAN is trusting REACH to handle three monthly men’s engagement meetings, which we hope will put REACH at the tip of their tongues when bigger projects come up in the future. Buba, one of my best friends and the president of the National Youth Council in this division, plans to include REACH as a key consultant and work partner once funding starts rolling in.
The only piece that still worries me is the development of REACH’s leadership. I need to increase member participation and make this more than a one-man + Peace Corps organization. There’s an enormous amount of work to done, but somehow, after more than a year of uncertainty and fragile successes, things are shaping up. For now, it’s time for a brief beach vacation to watch the Race of Hope up Mt. Cameroon before the mad dash to May and our final competition begins…