One of my favorite movies as a teenager was The Butterfly Effect. Although it wasn’t a box office hit by any means and probably a poor execution of the idea, the concept that small causes can have large effects and how making one small change can drastically change the future is intriguing to me.
Applying to the Peace Corps at the age of 28 and moving to Namibia to serve at 29, makes me think back to my late-teens and early 20s, you know, back when I was a baby adult? From college to marketing internships to corporate America to college to nutrition internships to Peace Corps, makes me wonder how things could have changed if I made one small change.
What if I would have never signed that letter of intent to play college soccer?
What if I would have chosen a different major?
What if I would have gotten married?
What if I would have stayed at that job that was not fulfilling to me?
When I was 21, I was chosen by my university as the female Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative for the Lone Star Conference. I was the co-captain of my varsity soccer team, and honestly, I think I was chosen because I had stayed in the town for the summer to work and workout. To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled about doing more “work” during my last week of summer vacation, but when you tell a college athlete that there will be free food, it doesn’t take much more convincing.
SAAC provides insight on the student-athlete experience and offer input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes’ lives on campus. Through this opportunity I was able to meet other student-athletes within my conference. Some of which I have remained good friends to this day.
Our main topic during the 2008-2009 athletic season was sportsmanlike behavior- from the coaches, fans, and athletes.
Skip to 0:18 for my mini celeb debut.
Over the years, I have had several opportunities to take on some more leadership and advisory roles. But, I never thought these skills would come full circle when I joined the Peace Corps.
This past week, I was invited, along with a group of six other volunteers, to serve on a Project Advisory Committee (PAC). This was an opportunity to sit down with Peace Corps Namibia and our host organizations to provide valued feedback, collaborate and recommend ways host organizations can best serve the volunteer, as well as how the volunteer can best serve their host organization.
For me, this could not have come a better time. The overall morale of a health volunteer in my country is at an all-time low. Recent changes and adjustments within the program, leadership, and clarity of our direction has been a challenge that has been difficult for some of us to shake.
As a PAC representative, I was able to share my concerns as well as the concerns and suggestions from many volunteers without holding anything back. I learned in the same way volunteers may struggle to add value and feel validated, are the same struggles our host organizations deal with on their end.
Why am I here?
The Peace Corps is all about sustainability. But, that’s not always tanigble. Capacity building, which is intangible, can be thought of as sustainable. Introducing a person to a new idea that may be more effective and efficient, and the ability for for them to teach others can be sustainable. This is the challenging part. Finding motivated people amd keeping them motivated throughout the entirity of a project is challanging when most people have a “seeing is believing” mindset, and that’s not just in developing countries.
Sometimes projects fail.
Sometimes people don’t show up.
Sometimes I do more than I should.
Sometimes I want to do what’s best for me.
After having time to sit and think about my role as a PCV, here’s where I feel my duty lies…in a soccer analogy, so be prepared:
My role as a PCV is analogous to a role on a soccer team. I am the goalie. My role is just as important as the striker, midfielder, and defender, but I have a clear view of the entire field and see the entire play unfold. I can see the gaps in defense and opportunities for attack. From my view, know when we need to hold onto the ball and change the pace of play or even change the direction of the attack. Sometimes throughout the game, unforseen events happen in which my team may have to play a person down. If my team is strong, they will be able to play without me. My team can still protect our goal. My team still has a mission and a purpose.
The reality is, in two years, I’ll have to step off the field, and the game will continue on.
So, what if I would have never signed that letter of intent to play college soccer?
So, what if I would have chosen a different major?
So, what if I would have gotten married?
So, what if I would have stayed at that job that was not fulfilling to me?
I can’t tell you the answers to these questions. But, I’m always certain my view wouldn’t be this clear.