Monthly Archives: August 2016

Affinity Groups

One of the biggest markers for success in any organization is to not only be diverse but acknowledging and supporting those differences. Peace Corps, as a global organization has since it’s conception has made strides to stay current, be aware of the growing diversity within volunteers and support those who are in need of support.

One example of that was the approval of an affinity group within Peace Corps Nicaragua. An affinity group is a group of people who come together to safely share experiences around specific identity markers (such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, etc.). As a member of the Diversity Committee, we’ve seen and discussed the diversity that happens within our race, gender, sexual orientation and life experiences within Peace Corps. Unfortunately, that’s not always highlighted.

Our first affinity group  was centered around race and how volunteers identify. We hope to have more in the future around sexual orientation, class, religion and even more. It was hard to plan and a lot of time and effort went into the invitation, the activities, and the overall spirit of the event but in the end, it was worth it. It was a huge success. We started with an icebreaker called, “What I want You To Know.” Each identity group had to write on a flip chart: 1. What we want you to know about our group, 2. What we never want to see, hear or experience again as a member of this group, 3. What we want our allies to do. Here’s an example of what the black female group wrote because there was no black male in attendance.

IMG_63602After that, we created norms/rules to govern the conversations and interactions for the entire day and every affinity group we’d have in the future. Of the rules, my favorite was “send love” and “address not attack”. We defined words and acknowledged the purpose before getting into reflection activities. Separately, each identity group discussed 4 topics: Identity, Discrimination, Ally, and Support. We asked questions like how they identify, what experiences led them to that identity marker, what the word ally means, what does support look and feel like within Peace Corps. After that, we had lunch together and overall relaxed, even more, getting to know one another. After lunch, we came together as one group and discussed the difference answers  from each question. Then we created an action plan from the answers. If this is what you need to feel supported, what can Peace Corps do and what can you do as a volunteer? We invited two Headquarter representatives who were in Nicaragua to lead staff through a week-long long diversity training, to attend the action planning. It was great to share ideas and come together with an actual plan to propose to PC Nicaragua and PC as a whole. Afterward, one young lady brought her keyboard and sung Hello – Adele, Change is Going to Coe – Sam Cook, Woman’s Worth – Alicia Keys and more. We sang along and ended the day with greater bonds than we had before the event.

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I am overwhelming proud of those who attended and thankful that my voice was used as a change agent. I am so proud of everyone who showed up and all the voices we heard. I am proud of my agency and I am proud to have been here to see the beauty in so many volunteers feeling heard, supported and empowered. Peace Corps’ main purpose is to promote peace and friendship between host country nationals and the United States. I don’t know a better way to do that than to acknowledge the differences amongst Americans, learn about the different cultures and share it with every Nicaraguan we encounter.

#squadgoals

#mypeacecorps

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Half Done Service

If this what life looks like from the halfway mark, it looks great!

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If you’ve have made it this far you really are the chosen few! By this time you have probably gotten sick, experience some form of depression, visited home or experienced the holidays the Nica way, lost several of your fellow PCVs to ETs, Med Evacs, and more. Most likely several of your fellow PCVs are in relationships or have had relations with Nicas and other PCVs. So let’s take a moment and reflect. What have I learned so far?
Amongst many other things, I learned selflessness, problem-solving skills, appreciation of my own culture and most importantly a better awareness of myself.

Unlike many volunteers, I had never been outside of the country before. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t speak another language, although I took many Spanish classes in the States and I was unsure of proper behaviors in respecting other cultures customs while maintaining my own. It was tough for me but not as tough as it could be, because I kept an open mind. I learned how to see life through someone else’s eyes. There is a lot of poverty here. Suddenly, things like brand new shoes lost their significant meaning when I could have my old shoes repaired for cheaper good as new. I began to understand my grandparent’s beliefs of using things completely up. I also found contentment in the little things. I never knew I would prefer the smell of fresh air in my sheets from drying on a line than the downy sheet used in the dryer. I also never knew having little can make a family have much. What I mean is that even though my family had to share the same towels and could only afford to eat three times a day, no more, they were happy with that. They were happy with a TV that was ten times bigger than a flat screen TV and content without a radio or iPhone. Their phones worked just fine and without many things to do in the town, the friendships grew deeper. You have to start over as a PCV, beginning as a foreigner, untrustworthy and without a true understanding of the language. Then slowly you became a part of the family and apart of the community. Little kids know your name and you know the hidden gems of your town. Without noticing, you’re referring to Nicaragua as home. You speak like a Nica and even foster many Nica gestures. Life becomes simpler, easier and altogether more worthwhile because you are accepted and appreciated. This is life at the halfway mark. A slow infusion of yourself with others and another Country to call home. You realize just how fast a year went by and realize the second will fly even faster. But all in all, you are happy and content in the moment should be appreciated as it is often very hard to achieve.

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Leon Cathedral. You’re not allowed to wear shoes up there.

Here’s to one year down and another one flying just as fast!