Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wrapping Up Our Peace Corps Service - COS Conference

Cathy:  There has been a long time gap between now and our last blog post. Steve and I made the decision to leave three months earlier than the "assigned" June 10 exit date. We could not write about our plans because they needed to remain secret. We also wanted to be sensitive to people who might read the blog.

Because we both had been in country with (what can only be termed) bad assignments, we felt unhappy about our Peace Corps service. This was true for the majority of the time we were in Belize. My work with POWA had been terminated officially in early February 2012. I found things to do in Dangriga - taught Health and Family Life Education to kids in Standards III, IV, V, and VI at three schools, started the girls club, and led the Zumba exercise classes. Those were all good small projects (they averaged about 8 hours a week), and I derived a lot of satisfaction from them.

Of the two of us, Steve had the least to do. Steve was taken off his assignment at the Polyclinic in October 2011, and then reassigned to the same project about February of 2012. Unfortunately, nothing changed regarding the work partners commitment to working with a PC volunteer was practically nil. Steve spent very little time in contact with the people there, less than 3 hours a week, despite trying to "drum up" work many times with many different organizations. As he got to know the Cayetanos, he enjoyed doing the woodworking project for them. He also helped Anthony, the young boy who lived downstairs, with his homework almost every night.

Then in March of 2012, Steve was asked to participate in rewriting the Community Health Worker training manual, and he brought me on board. Writing that manual was quite a challenge, and we are both extremely proud of our work with the Ministry of Health. We completed the last of the drafts in January of 2013. Although we were challenged and happy with our work product, the work was not fulfilling in the way that working directly with Belizeans would have been. Basically, it was a sit-down job, researching, writing, and creating illustrations. Contact with the MOH was primarily through email and telephone.

Once the "book" was complete, we felt it was time to come back to the United States. Our country director was very understanding and sympathetic to our situation, and was able to obtain an exit status of "Interrupted Service" which will allow us to work with Peace Corps again if we ever wish to do so.

So . . . these last entries are a short recap of our last few weeks in Belize. We'll start with a description of our last official Peace Corps meeting - the COS Conference.

SteveThe Close of Service Conference is a time for reflection of what our service in Belize has meant to us. It is also a get together with all the volunteers and all of the Peace Corps staff people for some “thank you” and some “good-bye” talks with each other.

It started with a cook out at the home of our country director. This was an all afternoon thing, and I think we all ate way too much delicious food. The next day we caught the bus to Cayo (San Ignacio Town) and checked in at the Cahal Pech Resort. It is right next to the Mayan archeological site with the same name. The manager of the resort smiled a special smile each time she told Cathy and me that we had the honeymoon cabana.

We had sessions to talk about our milestones as well as sessions about making the transition back to life in the US with gainful employment for some and graduate school for some. There was also a session where the top staff people went around the room and said something special about each of us in the volunteer staff.

Cathy participated in a role play as an interviewer.

We also had a surprise for the staff people. At lunch the last day we staged a flash mob. The director thought at first we had lost our minds. We used a mash-up of four songs (Hot Cheetos and Takis, Summatime, Gangnam Style, and We Are the World 25) that we could sing and dance to. We finished with “We are the World” after we went out and fetched each staff person to come and join us in a circle.

Twenty-five PCVs plus staff
Basically the entire three days were one gigantic “warm fuzzy” for everyone with lots of hugs and some tears (of happiness).

The Ambassador and his wife joined us one night for dinner.

Mrs. Thumalapally is every bit as qualified as her husband!
These are the education PCVs who worked with Mrs. T.

Our good friend, Shaz, participating in the "fun fact" exercise.

People participating in the photo scavenger hunt.

Some fun during a break

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