It has definitely been an interesting week to be a United States federal employee living with a Muslim family in a developing African nation. The US Presidential Election is a huge deal worldwide, and people here in The Gambia are very well informed thanks to BBC, internet accessibility, and the Gambian Radio and Television Station. It has been a really cool opportunity to compare and contrast our election system with the Gambian election system which will also hold Presidential elections this year on December 1st. All that I will say is that I have really been working on Peace Corps’ second goal this week: to foster a better understanding of Americans and American culture worldwide. Ndanka, ndanka (slowly, slowly).
Aside from that, we’ve been doing some really cool things in the second half of our Pre-Service Training. Last weekend, we used our Wolof skills to navigate public transportation to the river, on the ferry, and to another larger town. Aside from the hour or so that we thought the ferry had broken down, it was a very successful day (and we got the most amazing egg sandwiches).
This weekend, we constructed a garden bed in order to transplant the vegetables we planted in our nursery a few weeks ago. Home gardens are an important facet of a Gambian compound, as there has been a recent “Eat What You Grow” campaign country-wide. Successful techniques and challenges of our garden will be important to bring to my permanent site in a few weeks.
Last night we attended the Soma Women’s Group weekly Microfinance meeting. This is a time for over 250 local women: shopkeepers, farmers, mothers, grandmothers, teachers, and everything in between, to come together and support each other. They put a weekly amount into a communal pot that is distributed individually for ventures such as soap making. The micro loan is returned to the group with 10% interest. The funding is flexible, and can be used for entrepreneurship, agriculture, or family emergencies. My language group and I have been helping the group’s Board of Directors to create an e-mail address and to digitize their mission, history, and current ventures in order to apply for women’s empowerment grants. They hope to open a center for all women in the community, but specifically focus on high school drop outs, skill training, and sexual empowerment.
This week, we will visit our permanent sites! This is where we will be placed after we Swear In as volunteers in December. I will be heading to the North Bank Region, about 60K from the coast. It is just a taxi ride and a ferry trip to the Capitol, or a 10K bike ride to another larger town. Some cool things about my site:
1. I’ll be working with 2 Community Health Nurses and a Village Health Worker on the Peace Corps Health Objectives: Improved sanitation and hand washing, malaria prevention, maternal and child health, nutrition, and school health.
2. There is also a Peace Corps Master Farmer in my village – a local agricultural leader who is identified by Peace Corps and works at the local Agricultural training facility to teach new techniques to farmers.
3. I will be replacing a current volunteer who is extending her service for a 3rd year to work in the Capitol.