Friday, May 17, 2013

The End of an Era

April 16th, 2013

My Peace Corps service is rapidly coming closer and closer to the end, and today marked the end of a project that has truly defined my service. 

We held out very last ESL (English as a Second Language) class at the Refugee Camp.  Technically it wasn’t even class, it was a certificate ceremony that we have after every completed 12-week term.  This was our fourth and final term.  We wont be able to start and complete another before our service is over.

It didn’t feel like the end, but I am sure it will soon enough.  No more trips to Mpaka every week.  No more meeting to plan our lessons with our co-teachers.  No more assessing new students and re-assessing current students to mark their progress.  As much as I will get sentimental about this project ending it feels like the right time for it to end. 

It was a great project, but all of our students are moving on in life.  Working with refugees we got used to our class roster changing every term.  Students would leave for new places or home countries and as of last term students were getting jobs in Manzini.  I like to think we helped with that, giving them more confidence with speaking English.  My co-teacher Amnesty even got his official refugee status and got a job.  Everyone is starting to move on to better things so it feels right that classes are over and I’m moving on to.

All in all I think this is the project I am most proud of here in Swaziland.  We listened to what a community needed.  We found ambitious, hard-working, motivated counterparts, we reached out to get them trained and together created, developed, and implemented a English language class that taught people of various proficiency levels.  We had no idea what we were getting into that first day we gathered everyone, but we figured it out, and it was a success.  Students that would not even say hello to us on the first day are now having a conversation with us every time we see them.  Down caste eyes and embarrassed mumbles have turned into proud handshakes and greetings with a smile.
It makes being here that much easier when you can see the difference you have made.  And to top it all off, we know that this learning can continue after we leave.  There are trained people who can write a lesson plan and implement it.  The Refugee Camp will be getting a library full of books within the next few months to help with continued language learning, and we have shown the refugees that they can use each other as teachers.  Yay for sustainability!  Yay for English language learning!  Yay for successfully completed projects!

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