(I had posts out of order, so I’m fixing it. You may have seen this already)
Before I talk about our 8 days of training, let’s have a passing mention of jetlag, delightful and unique volunteer colleagues (we’re a group of 6), and some logistical awkwardness. That done, on to the training content.
Peace Corps has been back in Rwanda since 2008, through their standard sequence of invitation from the country, visits, and negotiation. The programs in the standard Peace Corps option (or the classic? Two year version) are Education and Health. The Peace Corps Response (PCR) is a smaller program populated by returned volunteers and other individuals with specific qualification for particular assignments who serve shorter terms, in our case of 12 months. In Rwanda, PCR provides volunteers to NGOs with development projects not covered by the specific goals of the other programs. These posts also encourage bridging between their NGOs and the volunteers in the 2 year positions.
Rwanda had ambitious Millennium Development Goals and achieved a dramatic amount. That push has come to its term, and now Sustainable Development Goals are the new frontier. Perhaps I am mistaken, as my understanding of the history of aid work and development work over the decades is weak, but the new push seems to be a push for measurable outcomes that are monitored to determine effectiveness. This seems to typically lead to more effective programs and better efficiency in development work, within limits. More about the bitter and the sweet of this as time goes on.
Outcomes of the Millennium Development projects were assessed along the way between the gal setting in 2000 and the finish line of 2016, so at 2012 the proportion of the population that was living in poverty had already been reduced by 50%, infant mortality had already fallen to half the original rate, and so on. Rwanda instituted universal anti-retroviral treatment and HIV transmission dropped. In their battle against malaria Rwanda provided 100% of the population with insecticide treated bed nets (okay they were defective and didn’t last the guaranteed 5 years but Rwanda is suing the manufacturer so there may be money to try again on that). One indicator that was particularly unresponsive was the rate of child stunting. This became the focus of the agreement between Peace Corps and the Rwandan Ministry of Health. The health volunteers now work in community health centers on a First Thousand Days initiative that provides services to women and children starting before pregnancy. The participants are monitored and supplemental nutrition, exams, and immunizations are all included. The volunteers have also initiated a community-based WASH program, through a grant, to help Rwandans improve home food safety, handwashing, sanitation, and laundry methods.
Meanwhile in the education program Peace Corps folks like to quote the Minister of Education who was asked how many education volunteers would he like to have in the country. He said, “250,000.” So the volunteers are welcomed here and appreciated. There are about 110 two-year volunteers and will soon be 15 Peace Corps Response volunteers.
I’ll close by saying that we had the day today, Sunday, to be out and about, using the bus lines, visiting the big market. The pictures are today’s.