I hope the New Year finds everyone well. We are here in Bamako, just finishing up our training. Supposedly after this we are fully capable of doing our jobs on our own. Yeah, right!
The most exciting thing that's happened to me lately is that I've decided I don't want to be a Health Education volunteer anymore. While I admire those volunteers who are out there spreading very important (and difficult) health information, it's not really a job I'm comfortable with. I really dislike the desparity that comes with trying to get people to change their ways. If someone told you that you were most likely going to die or get very sick because of a certain bad practice you have, wouldn't you change your behavior? Especially if it were an easy change, like covering your toilet to keep flies from spreading disease. You would think it would be an easy answer, but people just won't do it. I suppose the same thing can be said about smokers and alcoholics, but it just seems to me that Americans at least have a little more sense when it comes to their health. At any rate, it's a difficult job, and one that I don't feel qualified to do, nor do I have any interest in health studies or work. I spoke with the director about this, and while there isn't an Education program here in Mali, there will be one starting in July. It looks like I will be able to switch over to that sector, even though all the other volunteers they are bringing in for that program will be teaching at the university level. I would hopefully be able to stay at my site and not have to move to the university. I have lots of ideas for improving the education system in my village. When I return to site I am organizing a "Career Day" where I invite 17 people from the community who either have a high level of education or some skill to share with the students and encourage them to continue their schooling. I also want to do a Girl's Enrollment Campaign during the summer, since there are so few who make it past elementary school. Since the primary method of instruction is lecture format, I want to host a three day training seminar for the teachers to talk about introducing different methods of instruction and assessment, in the hopes that students will retain more information and be more interested in school, and thus be more likely to come to school. I still have to do health related activities for the next six months, but after that, I should be able to switch sectors, even if it means I have to move to the capital to work at the university.
In other school news: for those of you who are able to send books to us, let me know when you've put a package together. I can give you an address in Washington to send it to, and they can send the books via diplomatic pouch. That means that it's way cheaper for you to send the books, and the books are guaranteed to get here because they'll be flown via U.S. aircraft carrier. The boxes must be under 50 pounds, but there's no limit to the number of boxes you can send.
This is a short update, but hopefully I'll have more to report around my birthday in February