A few months ago, I wrote about my struggles with work in village. I’ve felt like I had done too little compared to others and my own expectations. My fear wasn’t that it was my community’s lack of my motivation, rather my own drive to actually do something.
My amazing friend Mason, who I served with in Niger, reminded me that Peace Corps is not about the buildings you build or the amazing projects you complete, rather it is about the relationships you develop. He also told me that this experience is primarily about learning to fail and never doubting your passion.
After several attempts at small projects and community groups, I’ve been afraid to start anything, assuming it will eventually die. That is a terrible attitude, and one that gave me guilt as the school year closed and I would be forced to turn to secondary work. My potential for work seemed bleak without daily classes and lesson planning, but I refused to spend the entire summer shaming myself for being a bad volunteer.
So, on a complete whim, I put up posters for a girls’ club. I asked a few students if they would be interested in such a group – they said yes – and then I set a date and told them to bring friends.
We had a first meeting this week and it was wonderful. I wanted a light atmosphere so I set out cookies, nail polish and a stack of “PEOPLE” that my mother sent. We introduced ourselves and talked about girls’ role in the village. We also briefly touched on gossip – why it can be harming, how we feel about it and how to stop it. We finished with freshly painted nails and giggling at pictures in the magazines. It wasn’t much, but it didn’t need to be.
I have no idea what the future holds for this club, but I refuse to worry about that now. Instead of planning great projects and then being disappointed when they do not come to fruition (for whatever reason) I plan to commit myself to the next meeting as long as the girls do. Because this is my job, creating and fostering meaningful relationships. Even if the club falls a part after the second meeting, I’ve done something by just hanging out with the girls for an hour. If it fails, then it did so with passion.
I finally understand that the time together is more important than the work. And, with that knowledge, I feel more comfortable and confident as a volunteer than ever before. I accept the losses they come but will focus on the relationships gained. In the end, they will define my service.