I haven’t posted a blog in more than TWO months! That’s a record. I’ve been equal parts busy and lazy. Last week, we had our Close of Service conference which was my group’s last conference of our Peace Corps service. It was a great time but also bitter sweet. I learned that I will be finishing my service on June 12 which is less than three months away. It is crazy to think that after all of this time thinking about COS, it will be here in no time at the rate the last three months have gone. I’m excited to move on to what’s next and will be happy to leave certain aspects of my life here behind.
But the conference got me thinking about all that I will miss. This has been an opportunity unlike any other. In Georgia, by virtue of being a Peace Corps volunteer, I can throw out an idea and people assume it is a good one. They don’t see limitations or problems. They just encourage you to run with it. Because Georgia needs so much, it is filled with possibilities. I’m quite certain I will never find myself in another job so open to my ideas again. At the conference, I also started to really look around at my fellow PCVs and think about what a loss it will be to not have them all in my life on a regular basis. Once again, Peace Corps offers you an opportunity unlike any other to bond and build relationships with people you would have never expected. In the coming three months, I’m sure I will dedicate a part of or entire blog to the value of the friendships I have built here. For now, I will just say that I already sense the loss I will have leaving them all.
I’m swamped with work right now and have been since the beginning of January. Mid-January to mid-February were quite busy with projects for my organization which wasn’t ideal because I left our awesome winter GLOW camp (in mid-January) with a list of things to do a mile long. I thought that things would be quiet at my org and I’d be able to focus on GLOW for a bit. But alas, no. I was working on a concept paper for a grant opportunity with USAID. I hope to be able to work on the actual grant application before I leave. But now I’m scrambling to get things together for our GLOW Ambassadors conference which is a little more than a week away. In December, I won a grant from Peace Corps to put on this conference for the GLOW girls who have proven themselves the most active leaders in their communities, our GLOW Ambassadors. We’ll give them an opportunity to share their projects with their peers, do an intensive project design and management training, and also learn about working with community stakeholders like local government, NGOs, and media. We’re really excited and think it is a great addition to everything else we are already doing with GLOW. But it is a lot of work. Especially since it is a new event. So, that’s where my focus has been lately.
After the conference, I will shift my focus to other GLOW projects that I want to complete before leaving. I’ll be creating our first ever Annual Report. I’ll also be helping to develop a database that can be used to keep track of former campers, counselors, speakers, and partners. It has been a while since I’ve done any database work but it still excites me. I know. I’m strange. And last, I’ll be working to get our new small grants program up and running. The small grants program will provide grants of up to 500 GEL (currently about $230) to our GLOW Ambassadors for local community projects. These girls have already executed numerous projects and presentations in their communities with no funding. This program will allow them to write a grant (a new skill) to help fund a larger project that has the potential to have a greater impact than those they have done to date. After the conference, I will be working to develop the grant application and guidelines for the program. But at the moment, we are in the process of raising money to fund the program. On Monday, we launched a new GlobalGiving.org campaign to raise $5750 in only 11 days. It is a tough task, but hopefully with our entire GLOW team, we can find enough people to help us reach our goal. If you would like to support the project, you can do so here. I know I’ve asked for support a number of times in my service. But this, this is the one project I feel really passionate about. This is my baby.
Three of my fellow PCVs and I founded GLOW Georgia in January of 2014. Previously it was just a Peace Corps run summer camp for girls. In the past year and a half, we have grown it dramatically. We have a director, a board, and interns. This year we added a winter camp. We also developed the Taking GLOW Home program which encourages campers to take what they learned back to their communities through projects and presentations. Through that program, girls have done more than 70 projects and presentations across Georgia since September 2014. And 17 of those girls have been so active in their communities that we’ve named them GLOW Ambassadors. Next week we’ll be providing further training for these special girls through the Ambassadors conference. At that time, we’ll also announce the new small grants program which will enable them to accomplish even more in their communities. I’m really proud of what we’ve done. And I’m excited to see where GLOW Georgia will go. So, if you’ve never supported any of the projects I’ve promoted in the past, I hope that you will consider supporting this one. It is best thing I’ve done in my service and it is having an impact across Georgia.
I’m going to try to be better about posting over the next few months. I certainly have a lot to reflect on and share. To come…updates on my GLOW work, my long planned marshrutka post, my post-COS travel plans, and much more! Stay tuned!