This time last year I was at stage (the French word) or PST (the Peace Corps acronym- which stands for Pre-Service Training). This year I’m at the same training but in a different capacity. I am a PCVFP (Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitator Permanent) for this new training group. Basically this means that I helped design the training calendar and figured out what the sessions would look like, etc. I also get to spend three weeks with the new stage working with them and helping them as they go through nine weeks of training.
I guess it’s best to back up and start at the beginning. Sometime in the middle of September I went to Ouaga for three days with two other PCVFPs (we’re three in total) and met with my direct supervisor, and the technical trainers to go over the health program. A week or so later we went to Leo (a village in Burkina Faso and pronounced lay-oh) with all of the PCVFs (Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitators), tech trainers, language trainers, and all the supervisors of the programs to participate in a week long training about Peace Corps policies, what and what not to do/ say around the trainees, and to plan the actual sessions- who would say what, how long each session is going to take, etc.
The process, while straightforward and not conceptually difficult actually was slightly challenging. First of all trying to follow standards set by somebody in a country 4,000 miles away- who isn’t actually in the country is difficult. Also knowing what you’re going to say and the supplies you’re going to need sometimes two months before you need them is tough too. Also, the lesson plans are being standardized but they’re still supposed to be unique and reflect the situation in that particular country. Not that those are inherent contradictions but still, it can require some finagling and creativity because you want the sessions to be informative but also entertaining otherwise people aren’t going to listen and take something away from the session.
Perhaps the best part of the TOT (training of trainers) was seeing how invested the members of the bureau (Peace Corps office) were invested into the program. Everybody wanted the trainees to succeed but just seeing how above and beyond the staff were willing to go (especially the language trainers and the technical trainers) was amazing, and really energized me as well.
This is the first time that PST will be in Leo. I did my training in Sapone (as well as the stage before and after me). Needless to say I think the Peace Corps got pretty comfortable there. Leo is a little bigger than Sapone with more widespread access to electricity. At the same time there are more material items that you can buy which is a bonus for the trainees. Also, there’s a pool. You can imagine which one I’m most ecstatic about.
The bad news is that you don’t get paid a whole lot during training so in reality you can’t often enjoy all of this- especially when you’re in class from 8AM to 5:15PM. But it makes the weekends nice I’d imagine.
Right now, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “If the trainees have all of these amenities, won’t it be more difficult if they get affectated (posted) to a small village where there isn’t such easy access to such things?” And yes, but the trainees aren’t living in Leo- they are split up into three smaller training villages (for lack of a better term). Two villages for the health and one village for DABA (think agriculture and kind of/maybe/sort of business). They live with host families in this village and then bike the 10 or 14 kilometers into Leo almost every day. This might seem daunting at first but hopefully gets easier as time goes on. For a point of reference I biked roughly 7 kilometers to get to my training center and that was one of the longer bike rides for the trainees in my group.
So, now I’m in Leo again. A month after that training (TOT), a month after the trainees arrived, and right in the middle of things. All in all, it’s a good place to be.