When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Make it Work!

So I haven’t been posting about work the past couple of weeks because things in village have been challenging. Many potential projects have fallen through and for one reason or another haven’t worked out.

So, I’m trying to channel the all encouraging and positive Tim Gunn (From Project Runway) and making it work, and carrying on!

For example, I wanted to build a garden for one of the primary schools. Last year there was a near food security crisis in my village and I wanted to do one after IST (inservice training). Long story short, my counterpart and I had it all planned out, and when I got back to my site in January, I was told that it was too late to start a garden.

So this year, I was able to get a grant from an RPCV group (SEMiRPCV) to do a school garden and a nutrition training of trainers (TOT). The APE (PTA) president and I went to my regional capital to pick up fencing and other garden supplies and were ready to start when we found out that we could not do the garden at our proposed site because of a last-minute construction project. We ended up moving our proposed garden site next to the Inspector’s office.

The downside of the new location is that there is not a well right next to the garden and watering it will take some effort. There is however, a broken pump. This pump has been broken for the majority of my service and is very old. Repairs are estimated at over 250,000 FCFA ($500) So people asked me, why don’t you get some money from Peace Corps to fix the pump? And I said, I can’t give you money unless you come up with a portion of it. I don’t want my village to become reliant on outside funds to fix things. It will be more sustainable if you set up a fund to fix it. If you solely depend on the volunteer and Peace Corps to fix things when they are broken that’s not an example of positive development. The other thing is that it takes time to get grant money and it could potentially be months until the money actually arrives.

I also wanted to work more with the (CEG) middle school this year, work with the English classes, do a volleyball team, and maybe a world map project…but for one reason or another those things are not going to happen this year…

It’s also been challenging with the affectation and re-affectation of functionnaires. Functionnaires are assigned to schools and can request transfers if they would like. Unfortunately the three teachers I worked with the most at the primary school put in transfer requests and were affected to other schools. The new teachers don’t really know me and I am currently unable to start where I left off last year with the previous teachers.

I was really frustrated…I’m an education volunteer and it’s not working out with the schools. What am I going to do?

Fortunately an opportunity opened up at the other primary school. The director there just had a baby and is on maternity leave until January. Right now there is one teacher responsible for teaching three different grades (CP1, CE1, and CM1) (1st, 3rd, and 5th grade). I asked my supervisor if I could help out there with reading and math. So, now I’m teaching CE1. I have a class of 15 students, 12 girls and 3 boys, and I work part time and teach in the mornings form 7:30-12pm. I feel so spoiled to have such a small class (by Burkinabe and American standards). It’s a lot of work and it’s totally exhausting but I enjoy it.

I’m a bit disappointed that this work is not going to be sustainable like other projects could be, but I’m serving the country and filling an immediate need, so that’s a good thing. I was talking to a fellow BF volunteer, LS, and she was saying it’s like the story of the sea stars:

“A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. – adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley” (story taken from here)


Yes, you may save only one sea star at a time, but you will make a difference for that sea star’s life. I know that even though this may seem like a drop in the bucket, those 15 students can say that an American taught them for the first trimester of CE1.

I also feel like a verse from a Rolling Stones song is quite appropriate to close out this post

 “You can’t always get what you want,

You can’t always get what you want,

You can’t always get what you want,

But if you try sometimes you just might find

You just might find

You’ll get what you need.”


2 responses to “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Make it Work!

  1. Linda Marcuccilli

    Hi Sara…..
    Your words of inspiration have lifted my spirits today….I was feeling pretty lost until I read this….you, and that little girl have touched more people than you can imagine…..thank you


    Sent from my iPad

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