This past month, not only did I have a training on Monitoring and Evaluation (see dancing graphs below!), I had to fill out my first VRF (Volunteer Reporting Form), a report of all my activities at post thus far, which ends up in my country’s report to HQ Washington and eventually to Congress as proof that you tax dollars were not all spent on me making jam, hiding from children, staring at my ceiling, etc.
In that sense it was nice–“Oh, I have done something these past several months!”–but there’s a hitch: not everything is “counted” because we have specific indicators under our framework. These indicators allow Jean Claude (a delightful and energetic human being), Peace Corps, and other organizations to see the big picture patterns and view overall progress, but only for a few select data sets. In theory this makes sense, but the framework is broad, our posts are unique. Cameroon’s nickname is “Afrique en miniature” and headed to IST this past February, I was amazed at the difference in development from the Adamawa to the West to the Northwest (“other villages have working water pumps?” Meanwhile, chez moi, I woke up to find my well crumbling in.) And this leads to the eternal delimma: Do I work strictly according to the framework or according to my village’s needs?
For example, according to the data I collected at my health center, about 15% of cases in 2014 were caused by a lack of proper sanitation and clean water (i.e. diarrhea, parasites, worms, amoebas, cholera, etc.), but sanitation is hardly mentioned, only teaching hand washing to mothers with children under 5 as a method of making a proper meal counts.
Or take malaria, if I teach someone something about malaria, it does not count, but if I teach someone to teach others about malaria it counts (which I suppose in the long run is good for sustainability).
Or take PEPFAR (The Presidential’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Is there really any point to focusing on these indicators since they consolidated and pulled money out of most regions, specifically the Adamawa?
Lastly, trees. I can count every tree that I plant. Ergo, maybe I should just focus on planting trees. (I can even count if they survive one year! (but not on my VRF…))
Furthermore, the framework is clearly lacking some critical indicators that would fully capture the “Peace Corps Experience™” (Follow us on Facebook and Instagram today!) such as:
-Children named after you
-Cups of tea consumed
-Amount of couscous and sauce your neighbors force feed you
-Goat population of village
-Books read during service (NOTE: Working on it here.)
-Obscure illnesses caught (NOTE: This might function better as a BINGO card with a free trip to Yaoundé as the prize/ cure)
-Hours spent waiting for grands
-Hours spent waiting for people to show up to meetings
-Hours spent watching Broad City
-Kg each arm can carry and for how long