I am sad to admit that I lied to you. I promised that I would write a longer post explaining my thoughts on my first year in Peace Corps, and here we are: four months have passed by without word from Danfili Phoebe. What’s happened?
In December, I conducted a training for Danfili’s health mobilizers on HIV risk reduction and barrier analysis. After the training we held a two-day HIV testing campaign that involved traveling to three nearby villages. We had a great turn out, and I will write more about that this week (Pinky Promise).
I celebrated Christmas Day in Danfili with my Christian friends in town. Its not every Christmas that you find yourself living with a Muslim family, so I took the opportunity to play Santa and surprise them with presents in the morning. Hawa and Da’a received new head scarves, socks, and some small candies. I then went to a lively church service where the kids danced and sang as parents stuck coins to their foreheads. Afterward, my friend David led me from home to home where we were fed chicken, couscous, beef, rice, fish, pasta, potatoes, cassava, popcorn, croquettes, beignets, cake, soda, beer, palm wine, etc. until I couldn’t move I was so full. In the evening I danced with my coworkers before going home to rest.
In January, I returned to Yaounde to meet my training cohort and share our work with one another. I am so impressed with each of them and proud of all we have accomplished. One volunteer created a women’s group for young mothers to mentor girls to finish school, know about reproductive health, and prevent HIV. Another volunteer created a garden club to show mothers how to add more variety to their field crops to improve nutrition in their households. A few volunteers use a Grassroots Soccer curriculum to teach kids about preventing malaria while playing soccer. One volunteer noticed that youth weren’t buying condoms from the health center, so trained motobike drivers to distribute condoms more casually after hours. I could go on! Hearing about the creative ways other volunteers work in their communities to carry out our work has challenged me to be more resourceful in my own projects. I returned to post excited to get year two off to a good start.
In February, I had quite possibly my busiest month in Cameroon. While fully participating in two committees for Youth Day festivities, I also prepared my counterparts and a group of women for a very special Peace Corps visit from the Feed the Future team in Benin to feature my nutrition project at an upcoming conference to show an example of how Peace Corps volunteers combat malnutrition. (Video will come soon). The day after the filming crew left, I traveled by road to Baffousam to share the new group of health volunteers my experience planning an HIV testing campaign. Within twenty-four hours I was on the road again, headed to Yaounde for a more leisurely return trip to post.
March has not proven to be more restful. The weather is hot, and everyone is holding their breath for the debut of rainy season. Women’s Day wasMarch 8th and involved many activities (lots of reflection too, heading your way). I traveled again to Yaounde for a program meeting, and couldn’t resist the opportunity for Turkish food, a milkshake, and French pastries. Despite my computer malfunctioning in October, I am ready to recommit to writing regular updates to you all. I am so proud of the work I am doing, and cannot wait to share it with you, but I think I will stop now, and space it out over the month.