Monday, October 31, 2011

A Return On Investment: My first "Peace Corps Moment"

I don't talk to much about my work here on my blog. I think it's difficult to properly illustrate the minutia that makes up what I call my job. Activities like "sitting" can be counted towards total work hours. Often times volunteers will start to teach classes or "charlas" just to stop from going insane. It may not be sustainable and who know how effectively you are reaching your goals, but God damn it feels good to have to prepare for something. It has that feeling of old school American productivity. You can write it in your planner!

My class? A thrice weekly Women's exercise class.

Yup, I'm an aerobics instructor. (Your tax dollars at work America.) I'm glad to help women take time out of their day to focus on themselves and health, but as far as "sustainable development" goes, it's not where I want it to be yet.

Since I'm mother's daughter and therefore a little intense, to keep my women motivated I constantly yell "YOU CAN DO IT! LET'S GO! YOU'RE AWESOME!" I even make my women yell encouragement at each other. They will, although begrudgingly. I'm sure they think I'm crazy and it strange that I would ask them to participate in my insanity.

While I love my class, I hadn't thought it had too much impact just yet. I sometimes wonder if the women are enjoying themselves or getting anything out of it.  (I'm sure you can see where this is going.) Then just the other day I'm waiting by the field before class, and one of my participants and her 5 year old daughter show up a few minutes early. We began to chat about the weather and the day, when the woman leans over and tells me the best story ever.

She says to me, "You know, my daughter listens to you. She is always saying to me now, 'no mom, I can do it.' Just yesterday she was carrying this huge thing of water and she wouldn't let me help her" Obviously, a huge smile crawls across my face. I must admit it felt great to hear. I can only hope that my attitude and actions show a small girl that she is capable. This is "A Peace Corps Moment."

Peace Corps loves to tell stories like this about all the small changes you'll make, and the tiny impacts you'll have. While totally valid, it's not always my idea of "accomplishment." If I'm being honest, who knows if this little girl really listens to me, or thinks I'm at all cool or inspiring. She could totally just be growing up and wanting to do more. It's so hard to tell what is actually a result of your actions. This part of the reason Peace Corps' effect is so hard to quantify, and often leaves volunteers frustrated, but hell with it, in this instance, I'm willing to take the credit.

Ultimately my job is not about me and my accomplishments, but about other people and theirs. I have to teach my class tonight. I'm glad to say that remembering this story has put a little more kick in my step to put together a good work out, and you better believe I'm gonna be shouting like a crazy women the whole time.