Making the Video: “A Peace Corps Song”
By Erica Burman on Monday, November 8th, 2010
In our next installment of “Making the Video”—where we give you the backstory to some of the entries to our My Piece of the Peace Corps YouTube Video contest—we hear from second place winner John Garvey, whose infectious and endearing “A Peace Corps Song” brings a smile to the face of everyone who hears it.
John, an education Volunteer, arrived in his village in Burkina Faso in late August and had only been there a month when he shot his video. “Needless to say, I was (and am still) adjusting to life here, so it’s the silly things like using latrines and taking bucket showers that were on my mind.” With school starting on October 1, he had some free time to do two of his favorite things: write songs and make videos.
He did most of his filming inside his house and courtyard because he didn’t yet feel integrated enough into the community and didn’t want to feel like a tourist. “I hate the idea of showing off my relative wealth, and having a cool camera around does just that,” says John. “However, because of the guitar playing, Frisbee throwing, and … well, basically me doing anything…I routinely have large groups of children in my courtyard, and they were (unsurprisingly) very excited about being filmed. Actually, I get asked daily if I can take more films of them.” In preparation for future filming, he has painted the inside of his house green in case he needs a green screen for special effects.
One of the things John really likes so far about the Peace Corps is the flexibility of the Volunteer position–that he isn’t restricted to only one specific role.
“I’m really excited about teaching math and computers here at the lycée. The kids and students are great. But I’m also excited about using videos/music/the Internet to show off Burkina and the Burkinabe… I think in a lot of organizations I might get told ‘You play guitar? Ok, that’s nice…Now get back to grading papers.’ Instead, I feel very encouraged to use my skills/passions (weird though they may be) to work with my host country in different ways.”
John’s village borders several national and international game parks and nature reserves and there is a small conservation-based tourism industry in the region. (On his first site visit he encountered an elephant!) The villagers realize that if they protect the wildlife and can do some advertising, there is the potential to bring more resources into their community. Putting his Internet/video/music skills to good use by advertising the ecotourism potential of the area is one idea that’s rattling around John’s head.
But it is still very early to be thinking about a possible secondary project. For now he is focused on his primary assignment, teaching. “I teach the equivalent of 6th graders,” says John. “One of my classes has 115 students, and the other has 99. In the afternoons and evenings I work with the professors on teaching them computer basics like Microsoft Office, using the keyboard and mouse, saving files, etc.” Time for songwriting has become scarce, but he reports that he’s currently at work on a bilingual song that will teach Americans some French and the Burkinabe some English.
At first John found it hard to get used to the idea that he would be living in Africa with electricity, cell phone connection, and—through a USB cellphone-Internet-key—the Internet, but since arriving in country his thinking has shifted. “I think it’s a misconception that you have to give up everything you are used to [in order] to have an effective and worthwhile Peace Corps service. Thanks to the NPCA, I now have $1000 to use for my village that I wouldn’t have otherwise if I didn’t have a computer, electricity, and the Internet, so…why not use the resources I’ve got?”
Why’d I come here? I could be eating Ice cream sundaes
Where are my friends? Over oceans, I left them so far away
When I shower with a bucket or I’m pooping in a hole
That’s when I’ve got to remember our three goals.
1. Help out the country that I am in
2. Share US culture with my new friends
3. I’m doing the third goal as I sing and I share
All of the new things that I have seen here
That’s why I joined the Peace Corps
That’s why I’m in the Peace Corps