Monday, February 16, 2009

a fruitless quest

15 February 2009

A month and ten days after starting at PSI, work is still painfully slow. Before I started, I was sent a letter that outlined the work I would be doing. Last week, I finally took the list around to the people responsible for the different tasks.

First I talked to Charifat, who is in charge of the program for sex workers. My list says I’m supposed to “help with presentations during film projections for sex workers”. I went to one session with Charifat, and while it was interesting, it was all in Ewe. I asked her how I could help, despite the language, and she said she didn’t know. She didn’t express any other needs for the program, so I moved on to Valentin, one of the guys who runs the youth program.

For the youth, my work list says I’m supposed to help with supervision, especially with the supervision of the girls’ program. The youth program, 100% Jeune, consists of PSI-trained peer educators in schools across the country, who are required to do a certain amount of presentations a month. I’ve attended two supervisions with Valentin, showing up at the school unannounced when the P.E.s had a talk scheduled. Valentin gave tips at the end of the talk; I watched.

When I asked how I could help, Valentin asked if I would be interested in going on supervision trips in the “interior” (what Lomé people call the rest of the country) with him and the co-coordinator. I said I would love to, but what would I do? Because if I’m just going to watch, sending me would be a waste of PSI’s money. Then he said I might be able to organize an International Women’s Day event at one of the schools, if they decide to do it. I have a feeling this won’t happen (which is ok, because I’m supposed to go on vacation that week). On to the next task.

Ephraim, who edits the youth magazine, which I’m supposed to help with, gave me a list of the topics for the next issue, which will focus on promoting the HIV/AIDS test. When I suggested we include a testimonial from someone who’s taken the test on the page where a “specialist” will explain the test’s importance and how it works, my idea was rejected. Ephraim said the information had to come from a specialist. Later, I decided he misunderstood my suggestion and wrote him a note. I’m waiting for a response.

Finally, I reported to John, the head of communications, and told him about my unsuccessful quest for work. I suggested he give me the publicity materials to develop or revise (first task on the list) so I could start on that. He told me I wouldn’t really be able to do that until after everyone in communications (except JT and I, we weren’t invited) got back from this training they went to on Thursday and Friday. K, thanks, John! And back to trawling the internet for future job and graduate school possibilities.

Most of my work has been coming from Peace Corps. Last week, I went to the training for new CHAP volunteers in Pagala to talk about PSI’s family planning program. I got a ride Wednesday afternoon with the PC country director, thinking my presentation was on Thursday evening. Oops, no – no one bothered to call to tell me it had been moved to Friday morning. So I stayed in Pagala for three nights to give a 20-minute presentation. It’s ok, though – I saw friends and got free meals.

On Wednesday afternoons, I’m working at the PC office, helping with Friends of Togo (FoT) requests. FoT is exactly that – ex-volunteers, their friends and families, raising money for small Peace Corps projects in Togo (if you’d like to become a member, more information is available here, I think). My new job is to keep track of how much money we have, send volunteers the application, answer questions, call them if their projects are approved and keep a database of current, pending and completed projects. It also seems that if I don’t have any FoT work, I’ll be doing other busy work, like updating bulletin boards. We’ll see about that – I agreed to help with FoT, not busy work.

So that’s work. Yesterday, JT and I did photo and video for a PSI presentation for women at a factory. It was the usual HIV/AIDS prevention presentation – test promotion, male and female condom presentations. There was also a quick word from HIV-positive woman. I took photos, and with any luck, I’ll be able to do the same at Monday’s event at the port.

Last night, I went to another work-related event. PSI has different target groups – youth, sex workers, religious groups, truck drivers, the workplace and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM). Worldwide, PSI uses marketing and sales to tackle health problems. They sell products, from condoms and lube to multi-vitamins and mosquito nets. Peer educators for each target group educate the population on health issues and promote these products. The idea behind selling products is that if people buy them, rather than receive them for free, they are more likely to use them instead of resell them. Ok, that was a very long tangent.

Anyway, so I went to an MSM event, a Valentine’s Day party at a night club near my house (unfortunately, globalization has brought Valentine’s Day to Togo, to a certain extent. I’m sure it has yet to reach small villages). When you go out at night here, you don’t go out until about 11. We left for the club around 10, and because it rained, out of nowhere (it’s dry season), JT’s friend came and picked us up in his car. The rain delayed the start of the party, but by midnight or so, the club was very full. It was fun to see all the boys, a few girls, and a few boys-as-girls, all decked out in red and white (as a straight, white woman wearing purple and brown, I was the epitome of out-of-place). But by 2:30, I was all danced out and was falling asleep. Rather than risk getting mugged on the eight-minute walk home, I climbed into the back seat of the car and slept until 5:30, when the party ended and it was safe to go home on foot. I’m embarrassed that at 25, I can’t even make it through a whole night without dozing in the corner.

I have goals to strive for before I leave – one all-night party and finding some work.

2 comments: said...

wow thats a lot of stuff to keep you busy. where is Valentin from ? that doesn't sound like an african name to me.. its been a while since i read your togo blog .. there were a lot of adventures to catch up with + your books read list has like tripled! Anyway Linda you are awesome i feel like you deserve a gold AfricanSwissUSAnian citizenship award. Keep up the good trabajo!

Gustavo Bonato said...

It must be disappointing to be trapped in that kind of bureaucracy.