PC Volunteers often feel like Kramer in this clip after they are posted. And in fact that is one of the biggest critizisms of Peace Corps in general; that we are sending people out to do things they are not trained to do.

As business volunteer, my professional experience in the US differed greatly from what I was to find in Africa. I had never worked in a microfinance bank, I had never done community development — I had never even worked with an African before.

However, even with the differences and challenges, there have been some successes along the way. I will mention some of them, not to boast or give myself more credit than warranted, but to highlight the positive aspects of Peace Corps and encourage other volunteers and future volunteers.

For example, since getting here, the microfinance bank that I am partnered with went from a 3 million cfa loss to a 3 million cfa profit. Where there was no financial analysis, I introduced MS Excel reports and charts to track loan recovery, financial ratios and the overall health of the bank. I’ve then trained the bank employees to edit and create these reports themselves on a computer I was able to get donated to the bank.

I have helped a clinic run by a doctor keep track of its finances and come up with a marketing strategy to bring more clients and increase revenue. Simple things like a sign, business cards with a promotion on the back and forms to track debtors.

I ordered a water pump for a bulldozer that is impossible to find in Cameroon from the US. We sent the pump thru a volunteer who was in the US on vacation. When they received the pump, Aladji, my cultural counterpart and others echoed, that this was probably the biggest thing any volunteer has ever done for Bangou. The bulldozer has been parked in the same place for years and often, it stays that way. Now that they have the missing piece, they will be able to fix it and bring millions cfa in revenue as well as provide jobs and improve roads and other projects with the bulldozer.

Although I am the third volunteer in Bangou, I am the first to participate in many of the Bangou development meetings in a major extent and encourage and motivate the people from these meetings to think big with their ideas and come up with simple solutions. From these conversations, these Bangou development meetings have begun to become more cohesive and pull together resources for large development projects that one group alone could not undertake.

We have begun an American-Bangou Association and partnership where we have an interest in the development of Bangou. This partnership has enouraged talk about development, built goodwill towards the US and the Peace Corps and helped give the push needed to bring projects to fruitition. It has grown the understanding of Cameroon to Americans and vice versa. Americans come in all shapes, colors and sizes, have different backgrounds and political and social views, and different skills and talents — And so do Camerooneans.

Peace Corps and development organizations in general have been critized, often for good reason, but if volunteer work is what you make of it, I think I at least have some successes to look back on.

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