“It was a pleasure to help others. You know I had the time of my life today. Since watching those little kind faces was so cool. I feel jealous toward you guys. Because when you help someone that gives you energy to get going. So at last I am so glad that I could help. So that if you need anything or me, I am yours. Peace and love, thank you to give me the opportunity to give a helping hand.” -A message I received from a student following our health fair at Madrassa Bouadia.
Hands down the best part of this project was the opportunity to involve students from the local high school and university as volunteers and teachers.
Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I had the ill proffered notion that it was all going to be about ‘me.’
I was going to organize spelling bee competitions for high school students.
I was going to build latrines for schools that didn’t have any.
I was going to present an HIV/AIDS workshop to illiterate, older women.
Note the emphasis on ‘I.’
These are of course, all things that I did throughout my time in Morocco, but the difference is that I didn’t do them alone. In fact, I merely served as a facilitator for many of these projects. I helped provide the impetus, but by and large the success of these projects belongs to the people who worked on them. My counterparts.
It’s my firm belief that project sustainability in the Peace Corps is only possible when managed with a counterpart. Anything I could do in my service could be done much better by a well-equipped counterpart. I think counterparts are critical to both project success and failure.
So when 10 students showed up to volunteer for the health fair on the first day of their spring vacation, I knew it was going to go well. These students led 20 minute workshops for 65 madrassa students on pertinent health topics like dental hygiene, environment, nutrition, physical fitness, and hand washing. They repeated these lessons 5 times.
They were engaging, capturing the imaginations and attentions of the younger students, all the while remaining professional. They were realistic role models for the madrassa students, truly the best ambassadors to promote healthy living. I could wax poetic about how great they were. But what was so wonderful about their involvement was that they wanted to be there. Unlike high school kids in the United States who volunteer for resume or college application purposes, these kids showed up out of their own volition. And they did it with a smile.
For me, a well completed latrine project meant the successful implementation of a health fair at the madrassa. Beyond just building the toilets, there needed to be an education focused takeaway. This was achieved on all counts. The madrassa students took away health information, the high school students took away notions of volunteerism and what it means to be a peer model, the community took away what it means to design and implement a project like this from the ground up, and I took away the importance of working with others to achieve a common goal.
A job well done.