I arrived back at the Chongwe training site on the 13th of July 2013. It was a quiet Friday, and I had my gear tucked into the back of a Peace Corps Landcruiser. I was ready for a little bit of an adventure, excited to meet the new trainees, and couldn’t wait to settle in to my new home. I mentioned before that I’d been pulled from site, and that I wouldn’t get the chance to return there again. I think I’ve also described the Chongwe site, but just in case I’ll give a brief description of it.
Chalimbana Farmers Training Institute (FTI) is an agricultural college located next to the local government school and buildings about 7km down a dirt road in Chongwe district. It’s about 8KM outside of Chongwe town, which is approximately 46KM from Lusaka city limits. The school itself consists of two large administrative buildings, a series of conference gazebos, a conference hall, and two large dormitory rooms. It has housing for teachers and administrative staff.
As a Peace Corps Technical Advisor (Volunteer Trainer), I was stationed in one of the dorm rooms in the “new” dormitory. Consisting of eight rooms (four on each wing), which each housed two beds a small table and a closet the dorm rooms were relatively comfortable.
I dragged all my gear in, unpacked a little, and then changed into more appropriate clothing. I’d arrived in just at Lunch, and by the time I’d gotten settled the trainees were in session. I joined in the discussion as the sessions continued on and started my new assignment. I’d be a technical trainer for the next 50 days. It’d turn out to be a great experience, although at the end I’d be 100% ready to move on to the next part of my service.
As the weeks slipped by we covered a variety of material including: Cross Culture, HIV/AIDS, Malaria Control, Nutritious Cooking and Child Nutrition, Hygiene and Sanitation, Designing and Facilitating Sessions, Combating Substance Abuse, Appropriate Technologies, and the necessary skills, attitudes, and knowledge that the trainees will need in their next two years of service.
Sometimes it was difficult to get the trainees to recognize the importance of some information, and at other times we struggled to get them to focus in on the technical information that would be useful at a later date but didn’t have immediate application. The cookie cutter styled mandatory Peace Corps Washington Global Core courses didn’t help. We brought in as many experiential modules as possible, and worked with the local branches of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, to identify sites and communities we could go and visit to expose the volunteers to working conditions. We had them out to two clinics, and two schools teaching, visiting, and getting hands on experience in the field. It was fantastic to help them have that experience that we were missing during our training cycle.
The informal atmosphere of the training facility didn’t help either. Located in outdoor gazebos, and compounded by livestock, children, and adults walking through and by the training facility, it was difficult to keep the trainees focused in, and to keep their attention. There were some serious behavioral issues, but we were able to work around them, provide support and mitigate them. As a training team we worked very hard to be flexible, accommodating and understanding of the major stresses and difficulties faced by the trainees as they adjusted to a completely different lifestyle and environment. We managed to make it through our programs, and without too many issue’s we had 100% pass their exams and wear in as Volunteers.
At the end of training, due to a couple of issues and my extension commitment I left training a week early, and started the PCVL training program that would help prepare me and give me the essential information I will need as I move into my work this coming October.