Friday, April 15, 2011

The Cave

For the Women of St. Vincent & Any Volunteer Who Has Served or Will Serve in the Future

Having lived in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for almost two years, I grew to know (and love) the culture. For the most part, the people are loving and giving. They are honest. They are hardworking.

But there is a large part of the culture that is obsessed with sex. From the music to the cat calls, everything is infused with sex. Children are exposed to sex at an early age & that level of exposure doesn't ever seem to stop.

In 2007, the United Nations reported that St. Vincent and the Grenadines had the third highest reported cases of rape in the world. This statistic does not surprise me. The UNHCR reported that a citizen in St. Vincent was 98% more likely to be sexually assaulted than a citizen in America. Again, no shock to me.

So what do we do? (hint: the answer is not blame the behavior of the victim).

I am challenging us as Peace Corps volunteers and staff to start looking at sexual assault against volunteers in a different light. Women and men who have been assaulted or raped in the past, you did nothing wrong. Let me say that again, you did nothing wrong. Preventing rape and sexual assault against predators is nearly impossible. I will say that again too: it is nearly impossible.

Volunteers have been raped while in their homes. They have been sexually assaulted while riding vans. They have been raped at parties, while coming home from clubs. They have been raped by friends and boyfriends. They have been sexually assaulted by strangers.

I challenge us as Peace Corps volunteers and staff to find the constant in these incidences. Because it is not drinking. It is not being out late. It is not the level of our integration or our own personal behaviors. And attempting to blame the situation on any of these reasons is ignorant and purposefully damaging to the victim and the country in which we reside.

Our job as Peace Corps volunteers is to make a difference in our host country and within ourselves during our two year stint. And I can guarantee we are further handicapping our host country and ourselves by blaming the victim.

Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men. --Boondock Saints

Thursday, March 3, 2011

But When You Go Hard, Your Nay's Become Yay's

A month I wrote a very positive blog post. It was full of high hopes and motivation. It was just a month ago. Now, as I reread the post, I can't help but laugh. I am in a completely different mindset today. Things that I thought were going to work out, haven't. Money that I thought was there, isn't. And support that I once had is gone.

I feel my projects have been abandoned not only by the community, but by Peace Corps as well.

But I think this is a good thing. Plunging forward into things that I consider important only supports my forever growing ego. Instead, I think this is God's, Allah's, Jah's, the Universe's or whatever you want to call it's way of telling me to slow down, look around. Realize that this isn't about me. What works out, will work out. The rest I have no control over.

So here's to drinking a cold beer, enjoying my house on the Atlantic and letting the exterior worries go. Cheers.

Sure, you can come live with me. But I think that where ever you go, you will always miss your mom.--Mitzie Lindsey

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where You Invest Your Love, You Invest Your Life

I have not written in a long time for many reasons. But mostly because I have been stuck in limbo, not moving forward or backward, but finding myself simultaneously looking both directions wondering what my next move will be.

Home helped to clarify my future a little more. While I was in the States I realized what had been missing from the past year and a half in St. Vincent: my family. One night, in a hotel room in Jackson, Mississippi, my mom, sister and I sat up talking until three o'clock in the morning. I had never felt closer to anyone in my life. And I realized that I didn't want to give that up anymore. Two and a half years was enough time. But when that's finished, I need to come home.

Deciding to complete my service and return home completely changed the way I was viewing my current service in-country. It re focused my goals, which in turn really motivated me. There are several projects that I am really excited about for the upcoming months.

Thankfully, we have solidified enough local sponsors to keep the volleyball program running long after I am gone. So I have been able to create and assist in other programs though out the island.

My neighbor, KC, has been asking me for months to start a beach clean up on the Georgetown beach. But instead of just doing one beach for one month, we decided to do beaches all along the coast. And instead of making it a small project, we decided to make it big. We want dumpsters, trash cans. We want volunteers from all around the island. We want laws against littering on the beaches. We want signs. We, like Barack, want change.

Another project that I am excited about is one that my fellow volunteer, Kellan, initially came up with: the creation of an SVG Peace Corps website. St. Vincent is on the cusp of a technological revolution and it is imperative that Peace Corps moves with this change. Using spoken word and handwritten letters is no longer an effective way of mass communication, and it is necessary to communicate on a larger scale. Volunteer profiles, community programs, upcoming events, blogs, links to other SVG NGO's and organizations will all be hosted on the website. This will allow Vincentians a better opportunity to become more involved with the Peace Corps as well as their own community.

The only hold up right now is funding for the domain. It costs $US15.00 per month. We need foreign donations for the first six months, and then local funding will take over from there. If you are interested in donating (even for just one month), please e-mail me. Your donations will be much appreciated.

So for the next nine months I will be pretty busy creating, assisting and finalizing. I have a good feeling about these next nine months. I am ready to finish up my service with a bang.

I want to warn anyone who sees the Peace Corps as an alternative to the draft that life may well be easier at Fort Dix or at apost in Germany than it will be with us. --Sgt. Shriver