Encore Volunteer says “I’m ready to go again!”
By Anne Baker on Thursday, November 17th, 2011
Are you considering volunteering again with Encore Service Corps International?
Encore Volunteer Larry Badger (Azerbaijan 2005-2007) would tell you: “Do it!”
At this time last year, Larry Badger was a volunteer with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), based in Nairobi. (See earlier blog report here.) Here are some excerpts from his final report.
There was a fairly comprehensive guide to the project that was laid out for me with IFDC. It was clear that I was going to be helping them in the implementation of the training of farmers and the use of proper fertilizers and techniques to be used in farming. Training the trainers, as it were.
Major Duties and Accomplishments: Things began to change, almost at the time of my landing in Nairobi. Richard Jones, the person in charge of my work assignments and stay with IFDC, began to re-think my responsibilities. There were reasons for this:
There was an independent contractor from Santa Barbara, CA who had done work for them in the past and he was going to be in Kenya for a few weeks. It turned out that he and I had similar backgrounds in film and video production. During my Skype interview with Richard he learned of my film/video production background and my experience of running my own company for twenty some years. I think things may have begun to change in Richard’s mind as to how best to use me. To make this short, Richard asked that I make a video on the use of hazardous materials by farmers to be shown to agro-dealers in Uganda. I hired an African photographer/editor and we went to work. When that was completed, Richard said he would like me to make a film on the PREFER project in Rwanda and another film about the IFDC effort in Mozambique. Both of these were mostly shot before I left. The Rwanda video was about 80 per cent finished at the time I departed. I finished it here in Oregon, and it is now on the IFDC website. The Mozambique video still needs some more shooting and IFDC is trying to get that done. Once that is completed I can finish editing, writing and voicing that video here in Oregon.
Office space was made available with everything required to be productive. Staff was friendly, accommodating, helpful, and inclusive. I can’t honestly imagine a better working environment. Anywhere!
Cross-Cultural Adaptation: There was none. It just all flowed naturally. The only embarrassing moment came when I hugged my Italian landlady, when she clearly was expecting an air peck alongside the cheek. As my first wife used to say, “You can’t take him anywhere.”
Assessment: I believe we met the goals of my experience with IFDC in East Africa. We are still working to complete them, but they will be completed. I believe these videos will work well for IFDC in helping to explain its function in East Africa. For me it was a challenge. It is always difficult to select and work with people you do not know. You don’t know their skill levels, their personalities, they’re work habits. So the learning curve is high in a technical and creative profession that has its share of sensitivity. That’s just in the U.S. It multiplies when working in other cultures and languages. You just have to slosh through it as best you can. There is an African learning curve for film and video producers. I have learned a lot.
Impact: IFDC and East Africa definitely left a mark on me. I love to work with people who use their hands and brains to produce something, whether it’s maize or rice, film or video. It doesn’t matter. Language doesn’t matter. A Masai herds his cattle differently than a rancher in Montana. They each herd cattle. A farmer in Mozambique works his hectare of maize. A farmer in the Willamette Valley of Oregon grows 200 acres of corn. They each worry about markets, weather and pests. They all want the best for their families.
People who work in film and video are a creative lot. They are storytellers. By nature, they are inquisitive, emotional, understanding and loyal to their craft. They respect talent, and story, wherever it is found. Encore was no exception.
You have at your disposal, the greatest of all assets, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. We are masters of the change of direction. Those of us who have lived a little longer might have a deeper reservoir to call upon. But twenty-something RPCVs have done a pretty good job of improvising as well.