Their Homecoming

In Home Life, International Development, Niger, Peace Corps on April 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I got a great email today from the program manager at VIA, the NGO that managed the Nigerien students exchange program.  He had forwarded an email from the US Dept of State contact in Niamey who managed the Nigerien portion of the exchange program.  Apparently the students were really jazzed up about their trip.

He said, “They were so clearly moved by the program.  I think we could have saved the airfare because they were already walking on air.  One of the students gave a very nice statement to the press at the airport.  She was noticeably more composed and well spoken than before the trip.  These kids will be the leaders of tomorrow, and they will certainly always carry with them fond memories of the United States.”

This really made me feel a whole lot better about the whole experience.  Almost like a very brief continuation of my Peace Corps 2nd goal work – to broaden the understanding of America on the part of my host country’s people.

Also, I want to state here to my readers (and there are now at least 4-5 of you!) that Visions in Action, the NGO that handled the trip – is a fine NGO.  Yes, Andrea and I were frustrated with their communication during the Volcano airline delays, but I chalk that up to unique circumstances, totally unforeseen and forgivable.  I also think they’ll learn from their mistakes.

I have two suggestions for their next group of students.

First is to make the host family aspect a little more deliberate.  Keep the kids in a hotel for one extra day after they arrive, spend the first couple of days acclimating the kids and giving them real lessons on how to live in a host family environment – things like cleaning up, using the phone, all the little things that are different here in Ameriki that they need to pay attention to.

Secondly, they need to create a deliverable around the host families – assign the kids to study us.  Make them write essays or give a little presentation about their hosts.   Have them commit to spending a normal day with us, including coming to visit one of the workplaces.  I would have been happy to bring one of the kids to visit my NGO, but by the time there was some space for it the relationship was kind of strained.

Time heals, and I know all these silly things I’ve complained about will become exactly what they were, minor inconveniences.  Life is full of them.   What matters is that we had the opportunity to be of service and we were again able to contribute in some way to helping Niger.

There, I was self congratulatory about it.  I told you so.


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