Monday, A Typical Day…
Monday, A Typical Day
Today was a pretty standard day, in terms of training and daily life. I started out with language class at 9am with my cluster (4 other people) and continued that through 1pm. After that I walked back home to eat lunch with the family. Lunch was a delicious soup with meat and potatoes and tomatoes.
I left the family lunch (after tea, of course) at 2pm and headed back to school for our technical training. Today was a focus on organizational development. In the Peace Corps, we focus on four levels of development: Personal, Service-Providers, Organizational, and Community-wide. Today, obviously, focused mostly on OD theory.
The important parts we discussed today included development strategy, organizational development focus areas, and ways we can establish ourselves within new organizations to gain trust and be effective development volunteers. The development strategy the Peace Corps strives for is an asset-based model, using the strengths of the organization to make improvements. Since it’s considered “asset-based”, we’re mainly looking within the organizations for building a development agenda and using internal resources for problem solving. The main takeaway that I get from this general description is that the relationships and communication within any given organization have to be built up (and probably rebuilt over and over) in order to make serious organizational improvements. Without that communication, identifying key areas for improvement and identifying the strengths of the organization become incredibly difficult.
In terms of establishing ourselves, PCVs, in Azerbaijani organizations, we talked about attributes that will help us gain trust and be able to make meaningful contributions. These are organizations that don’t necessarily know who they are getting or why. The biggest obstacle for PCVs, from what we’ve heard so far, is establishing credibility because our new colleagues know next to nothing about us. Why trust the new foreigner with something important? Why listen to them? They can’t speak Azeri….how could they know anything about running an organization?
It also doesn’t help that most people think we’re just here to teach english. There are folks who are here to teach english…but that’s not necessarily the folks in my group. We did talk about, however, how teaching english or having conversation clubs can be a quick way to establish credibility and get some quick points. We’ll see how I do when I have to start a conversation club…
After these OD discussions, we also heard from another PCV, Andrea, about the work she is doing with a microcredit bank in Mingecivir. She spends 3 days a week working at the bank, helping them implement projects and establishing standard business practices. She also helps do lots of trainings for the employees, in things like Microsoft Excel. She tells us that Azeris love certificates, so she’s started offering certificates for all of her trainings and it is going swimmingly. She also spends a few days a week working on English conversation clubs, managed to pass her english class on to an Azeri teacher, and she also has a tutor for her own Azeri lessons. With the extra time she has, she also is working on other community projects, such as working with a local hotel, the tourism ministry, and a local university to promote Mingecivir as a tourist destination. Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be able to be even half as involved as Andrea is in her community.
With that, class ended on some administrative notes (site placement interviews this week!) and I headed home. I helped my host mom with the Duşbǝrǝ and did some reading of Azerbaijani history. Now I’m writing and am ready for a few games of solitaire and bedtime.
Ah, a day in the life…