While being a Peace Corps Volunteer comes with a plethora of exciting opportunities, one of the most rewarding aspects of service can be working on long-term projects with our communities.
Projects come in all different shapes and sizes, and as PCVs, we are able to apply for and receive grants to facilitate our work. Volunteers are generally allowed 12-17 months to apply for grants, and while that might seem like a long time, between the rigorous application, implementation, and close-out processes, it goes by really fast.
In Costa Rica, grants are funded through various sources including World Connect, CRUSA, and private donors that generously contribute to Peace Corps projects. The application is meticulous and requires lengthy justification for the project and how it will be supported and sustained by the community, measurable goals and objectives, an itemized budget, and a strong capacity training portion which ensures that our communities are gaining new skills. While it can be a pain in the butt to apply, learning how to write a grant provides volunteers with a rewarding professional development opportunity that allows us to leave a lasting impact in our communities.
Training in financial management (left) Beginning the construction of the cabin (right)
As I’ve mentioned before, I work with a women’s group in my community that has a rural tourism site. They built the site up from an empty field with just their hands and a machete and today the site has several attractions and is open to the public on the weekend. That’s right, karaoke and dancing every Saturday and Sunday.
During my first year of service, I worked with the women to develop a one-year plan to improve the infrastructure and organization of the group and their rural tourism site. Eleven months ago, the group and I finally reached a comfortable spot to begin working on a grant-funded project. After doing a needs assessment, the group decided that they wanted to pursue tourism from outside areas, so we started working on a project to:
- Construct a cabin to provide lodging for out-of-area tourists
- Provide trainings that would enhance the women’s customer service, marketing, and financial management skills to cater to outside tourists
For months, we revised and perfected our project application and were rewarded a $5,000 grant in October 2017.
After five different trainings and the two-month cabin construction, we FINALLY completed our project this month, almost one year later.
We had to carry out the trainings from 4-8pm because the women are busy working and taking care of their families during the day.
Finishing this project was a huge milestone for us and it couldn’t come at a better time – just one month before my close of service date, April 20. The 4-person cabin turned out beautiful and the women have started to develop a social media strategy to promote their rural tourism site to outside visitors.
In the eyes of a project that aims to create sustainable change in a community, I have come to understand why Peace Corps service is two years long. The process of change is never easy nor is it fast. It can’t be seen from one day to the next but after 24 months, 730 days, long nights of training, 4-hour meetings, and early mornings at the farm, it’s all starting to make sense.
I couldn’t be more proud of to be a part of this women’s group for the past two years. With the group’s project finally gaining momentum and the new skills that have been developed, I finally feel like I’m at the perfect place to say goodbye in just three weeks.