Yesterday, our class of K-21s learned about the communities in which they will be living and serving over the next two years. We were given large white envelopes, counted down, and raced to stand on a map of our new home in Kyrgyzstan.
This process is repeated, to some effect, in every Peace Corps country and with each new class of trainees – I imagine it will be the closest most of us will come to an Oscar-type ceremony. It was exciting to see trainees huddled together over their chalk-drawn oblasts, comparing the size of their villages, embracing their new sitemates and neighbors, and eagerly reading about their host organizations and the goals for their projects.
Trainees in K-21 are a combination of Secondary English Teachers, University Trainers, Business Consultants for Women’s Empowerment NGOs, Community-Based Tourism Developers, Teacher Trainers, Health Promotion Consultants, Youth Entrepreneurship Developers, Health Education Teachers, and Advocacy Consultants. They are an incredible group of people, and I will be honored to be among them as we swear our oath in the coming week.
After swearing-in on Tuesday, June 11th, I will move to my new home in Kyrgyzstan’s capitol, Bishkek. I am a part of Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic’s Health Education Program, but my particular job is unique in that it straddles the line between Health Education and Sustainable Community Development. I will be working with Republican Health Promotion Center, a non-profit division of the Ministry of Health focused on improving public health, awareness, and promoting healthy lifestyles for the people of Kyrgyzstan.
My core goals are helping to improve the business processes associated with running a national-level public engagement program including advocacy, grant writing, project development, leadership development, organizational sustainability, and monitoring, reporting, and evaluation. I am also partnering with a Swiss-designed project strengthening community-level engagement on public health issues. This is an incredible opportunity for me – it encompasses many things that I am passionate about. I am excited to help build policies that actually engage people with their government, about empowering the Kyrgyz Republic’s burgeoning civil society, and improving the connection between an organization’s work and the public they are meant to serve. I am excited to learn from this experience and challenge myself to explore new territory.
Apparently, my program manager has been called almost every week to ask when I will be starting work, and I am equally excited to begin next week. I am not the first volunteer that will be working with this organization, but I am the first to be working on these particular issues. I have been warned that this job will be a challenge, that it will be unlike the work most of my Peace Corps colleagues will be doing, and that high expectations will be set for me.
And a challenge is exactly what I signed up for.