I raised some questions on how Peace Corps approaches development in my last post, and I wanted to talk a little more about it in a less abstract, ask-the-universe type of way here that will also give some more insight into my life here in Kyrgyzstan. As I said before, our work might solve short-term problems, it is designed to focus on empowering and training communities to recognize, develop, and achieve their potential for creating lasting, positive, and community-driven change.
This is a collaborative and dynamic process, and it works by pairing Peace Corps Volunteers with highly motivated individuals the Peace Corps calls “Counterparts”.
Counterparts are exactly what they sound like – partners in training, learning, and doing. Counterparts are a Volunteer’s “in” to a community and an organization, and will work to collaborate on ideas for a Volunteer’s two years of service.
I am really lucky in that I have not just one, but two incredible and motivated counterparts.
On the left is Ainura, a Specialist in the Republican Center for Health Promotion. She is a former biology teacher and Kyrgyz equivalent of an assistant principal, and manages several programs at the RCHP. She is passionate, dedicated, and determined – she has a lot of incredible ideas on what we should be working on over the next two years, and – like me – is impatient that we can’t get started already. Also like me, she can’t speak without using her hands, and she has a particular skill of mixing Kyrgyz and Russian together in the most rapid pace known to man (also known as “Krussian”).
On the right is Gulina, the director of the Association of Village Health Committees of Kyrgyzstan, an organizing body managing and advocating on behalf of over 1,700 village level civil society organizations working in health promotion. Gulina was a Russian professor, and the only English she knows is incredibly polite requests to turn on Justin Timberlake or take a break outside to ask questions about America and bounce ideas around. She smiles more than any Kyrgyz woman I know, and also has big goals for our coming two years working together.
Like I said – I am lucky to have two incredible and powerful women dedicated to making serious changes in the way people interact with the health system in Kyrgyzstan. I have so much to learn from them, and we have so many opportunities and ideas how to work together.
As a part of my first few weeks of work, I am writing about my first days as a Peace Corps Volunteer at my permanent site and about what I will be doing. You can read more about beginning work HERE.