During my first five months in Boly Serere, I had been approached by several people, on multiple occasions, asking if I could help get a garden in the village’s elementary school. Originally the garden seemed to be reaching for multiple goals: sustainable and generating enough income to make small improvements to the school’s structure, being an agriculture and agribusiness educational tool, and a source for a school lunch program (canteen). There were many points of entry into the project, and when the 3-day Peace Corps training on “Linking Nutrition and Agriculture” came to our region in October, I thought this would help better prioritize the Action Plan we had tried to create earlier. I requested my counterpart (CP), Birame Gueye Faye, an elementary school teacher here in Boly, go with me – thus, this training became our first official step in getting a garden started.
The training he and I received help reinforce the nutritional and health educational importance a garden has in a school environment. Afterwards, we reevaluated our original Action Plan and created a new one. Immediate and mid-term goals focused on extending the same information he received to his fellow peers and figuring out how to build a garden that can strengthen Food Security, the Social Environment and Public Health/Hygiene within the school’s existing system. Discussions about technical and financial ambitions for the garden were deemed more long term.
It’s important to note my counterpart (CP) played an instrumental role in extending this particular training to others. Very rarely did I feel overwhelmed or burdened; we lead each other in areas the other is weakest (me with language and culture, him with logistics and project management), and rarely did I have to remind him about something I asked him to do. Whenever we had a formal or informal meeting, he came prepared with notes and questions, of his own volition. He was open to new ideas about our training, enthusiastic about teaching it, and always showed up (sometimes early) asking questions about what else we could do to improve. This type of person and personality makes all the difference for the PCV tasked with facilitating the preparation and execution of a multi-day training like this.