Thursday, September 13, 2012

Site Replacement


Peace Corps is most effective when new volunteers replace old ones, building a legacy of interaction with the USA in a small community.

My input group had around 70 volunteers because Peace Corps was receiving excellent funding at the time of our recruitment. Our large group expanded the presence of Peace Corps in Rwanda. Most of our sites (the villages where we work), had never seen a volunteer before.

However, once I was installed at my site, I learned that the input groups of future years would be smaller, around 20-30 volunteers per year. Some of the sites which had never seen an American before might not see one again anytime soon, and their Peace Corps experience would be just another bizarre interruption from the western world. That is why, until today, volunteers have been waiting anxiously, hoping to hear that they will receive a replacement at their site.


I received a text message yesterday that was written in Kinyarwanda and addressed to my headmistress. I could tell that it was about site replacement, but couldn’t determine the result. I didn't get a follow-up message in English, but I didn't hurry to ask about it because I was afraid of hearing bad news. I slept on it for a night.

Not being replaced would have a small impact on my life, but it would be a big disappointment for my school and community. My headmistress had asked me last week: if they could pay me next year, would I stay? In light of this, it would be incredibly saddening to hear that there would be no volunteer here when there was so much interest in having one.

Other volunteers began asking me about my replacement status, so eventually I texted my program director and asked.

Mibirizi will receive a replacement volunteer.

The next batch of volunteers will arrive in late September to begin their training. The training and program staff will decide which volunteers will go to which sites. After a volunteer is chosen for my site, I get to write them a letter about my site. This may be the only communication I have with the next volunteer, unless I participate in their training.

For those volunteers who didn't receive a replacement, the news isn’t entirely bad. Their villages will still be potential sites, and may receive a volunteer in the coming years. The extra sites are good for our program, too. If a volunteer has any problems at their first site—housing or safety problems, for example—Peace Corps can send them to one of the old sites, rather than having to send them home.

1 comment:

  1. With the end in sight it is my hope you've had an experience that will inform the rest of your life Ian. Well done to you.

    I've got some ideas on how to be active supporting Rwanda over the next few years. It should become clearer over the next week or so but, hopefully, I'm going to be fundraising to set up a building project. The only fly in the ointment will be if I can't get young people over there to help out. Then it would fall through and we'd pick somewhere else in Africa. The group I'm working with have been to Rwanda before though so I'm optimistic.

    Hey! As well as meeting some Americans the locals may get to meet a few Brits. :-)

    John Poulton

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