Saturday: Today we split up into our regional training groups. For the next 10 weeks, we will all be continuing Pre-Service Training (PST) in various villages/small towns less than an hour away from Almaty. This year for the first time, the Organizational & Community Assistance Program (OCAP) is being split up into two groups: Youth Development (YD) and Organizational Development (OD). I am in the latter category, which does both NGO and Business Development on a more organizational level.
Our schedule for the next 10 weeks of training is very well thought-out, and seems to contain a lot of really great “technical” organizational information with many chances to practice application in the field. Though I still won’t know what precisely I’ll be doing for awhile, it is at least comforting to see a very coherent plan of action take form for the next couple of months’ time:
The “gymnasia” (elementary/middle school) that we are training in.
Week 1: Community entry assignment, where my group will be visiting a regional government office in Issyk that works closely with NGOs in the area. We should find out useful things about the relationship between the Kazakh government and the non-profit sector, and the type of support and grants we may be able to scope out. Two other OD groups will be visiting a business as well as an actual NGO itself, and we’ll trade impressions. This week is also a “Hub Day” in Issyk where all the volunteers (OCAP and EDU alike) get together for group-wide logistics, more vaccine shots, etc.
Week 2: Practicum begins. From what I understand, this is a project for ODs to work continuously with one organization for the duration of PST, once a week on Wednesdays. We will bregin community assessment and project development projects, and this is also the week of our Almaty excursion (back to the largest city in Kazakhstan, which is about 40 minutes away and where I may finally be able to meet my Harvard friends and get some wireless internet!).
Week 3: NGO capacity development, and a Hub Day at the Peace Corps headquarters in Almaty.
Week 4: Peace Corps Initiatives, led by current OCAP PCVs who will come tell us about their NGOs. Another Hub Day in Issyk.
Week 5: NGO leaders from around the country will visit, and we can find out more about potential sites and try to formulate our preferences.
Week 6: Field Trip! We will divide into 3 groups, one of which I hear may be going all the way to the middle of the country (Karaganda)!
Week 7: SITE ANNOUNCEMENT (exciting), visits from Almaty NGOs, and another Hub Day in Issyk.
Week 8: Project Design & Management (Practicum ends)
Week 9: NGO Training, which we prepared for our Practicum organization
Week 10: Counterpart Conference for the whole week, with our local counterparts from our actual assigned sites. J This week on October 31st (Halloween!!), we get sworn in as volunteers and then depart the very same day for our permanent sites.
During this time we will be expected to develop competency in our OD program goals, strategic and operational planning for orgs (progress reports, cultural context), capacity development (human resources, motivational tools), sustainable and social entrepreneurship, communications and consultancy interviews, grant writing, project design & management, web design, and grassroots and community fundraising. As you can see, it’s a full plate of really great skills, and our trainers are also amazing – each has many years of experience running or helping to run international and local NGOs.
Also though, for the first time there is no pre-site visit this year, where volunteers used to visit their actual site for the first time and bring half of their stuff with them so they could make two trips. They cut that for travel budget reasons I assume, which kind of sucks (but instead we get field trips in Week 6). I hope our counterparts will help us carry all our luggage when we move…!!
As for our daily schedule, it is also jam-packed and very efficient. We work on Russian language for half the day, from 8 a.m. until lunch at 12:30 (I’ll prob have a mix of self-studying, individual tutoring, and sitting in for review on some of the group grammar lessons). We then all get together in the school yard to share lunches, which is an exciting venture given the varied backgrounds of each of our host families (inevitably there will be an eclectic mix of Kazakh national dishes, Russian foods, and even Uighur fare!). Then we have free time until 2, when we have our “technical trainings.” That is the material outlined above, where we learn the professional skills that we will be utilizing in the workplace, and sometimes have neat guest speakers or trips. We finish up the training day at 5:30 or 6, and several of us live in the same microregion so we walk home together to eat dinner with our host families and relax in the evenings. At night, we try to avoid the ridiculous sounds of howling and barking dogs on the street, and get up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready and leave again for the 40 minute walk to school! At least I’m going to get good exercise.
Me on a street in Issyk, with a view of the hills.
So far everything has gone off without a hitch – I’m staying busy, having fun and hopefully learning a lot. Miss you all; send me your addresses and I’ll try to buy postcards (maybe in Almaty, since I doubt they have them here)!
PS: please leave comments on this blog, beccazsky.blogspot.com, and not the imported facebook notes. For some reason facebook is sometimes funky to access here. Thanks!