We started on Sunday night, but really we started much earlier in Hohoe before the All-Volunteer Conference got underway in Ho. I had a trickle of volunteers come and go last week prior to all of us traveling to the regional capital Ho on Sunday morning. Many volunteers were making their way to and from a few places so the house stayed busy over the course of five or so days with maybe twelve visitors in all. Upon returning Thursday I realized how much cleaning I have to do.
The All-Volunteer Conference (All-Vol for short, but for some reason we do not use AVC even though it is a Peace Corps-sanctioned event) is a time for every volunteer currently serving in the country to meet up at one place and learn about programs, PCV-led initiatives, committees, and gobs of information regarding HIV. It was great to get there a bit early, enjoy the pool, and see some very familiar faces stroll into the hotel compound where we were staying. Of course everyone was there from the group that I traveled and trained with, but this also includes the volunteers who have been here more than one, two, and three years. Lots of PCVs and plenty of catching up to do from all areas of the country.
The major funder of the event is PEPFAR (see, acronyms) which stands for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which meant that each day we devoted a majority of our conference time to learning about HIV and AIDS by way of reviewing ongoing projects that are being down by other volunteers in the field, and what type of funding can be obtained through PEPFAR grants. Towards the end of the day on Wednesday, all of us could no longer hear the word PEPFAR as an acronym but rather, it became a sentient being unto itself with eyes and ears and a dry sense of humor. PEPFAR could be very subtle at times.
Humor aside, most of the conference presented all the PCVs with a pretty thorough understanding of what is being done and what could be done in the communities in which we serve. To put it mildly, the bulk of the subject matter would not make for good web logging material as it pertains to very particular details that only matter to us here. It did help to have a good night's sleep though before the day started to make it all the way through as some topics might are far from whimsical and light.
Beyond the HIV component, we were given many opportunities to learn about PCV projects in a variety of disciplines running the gamut from girl leadership camps to how to set up a computer lab. If there was time to fill, many participants were eager to speak about what they had found to be successful in their areas. We had very little time where we just sat and stared at each other with nothing to do.
Another chance to meet with the Volta volunteers happened at our regional VAC (Volunteer Advisory Council) meeting. We got together and went over the minutes from our last meeting and voted in a new representative for the area. I don't know how close the vote was but somehow I got the nod for the duties which are just a few, and then was briefed a bit on what it might entail. It seems to be just a bit of travel and making sure that all the suggestions from the volunteers make it to the regional meeting which also needs to be scheduled by me. Sounds familiar to a few things that I have done before, so it should be fun. A Robert's Rules of Order refresher is on the horizon.
Actually, after that meeting all of the new representatives from the eight regions of Ghana got together for the national VAC meeting. We went through the concerns and addressed them in a way that seemed to suit all assembled. The last order of business was to set the new Chair and Secretary for the national group where I got a nomination as did another PCV, Jonathan Schatz. When the votes were tallied for Chair we had an even split and after some discussion, it seemed easy enough to just rotate each meeting between Chair and Secretary between the two of us. I got the Secretary spot for the first joint meeting between VAC and our Country Director and the Director of Program Training. It seemed like a decent meeting and something that I am happy to take part in.
Lastly, after serving in the group that helped plan this year's Pre-Service Training back in April, I put in my application to become a Peace Corps Trainer (yes, PCT for short) and when the conference was closing on Thursday morning I found out that I had become a trainer. There were many named so I now forget who I will see at various times, but I am sure more will be revealed as the weeks pass by.
All told, things worked out fairly well and no one was injured during the conference which was a prime objective of those organizing these events. Everyone had a lot of fun and we got to say our good-byes to those who will soon be closing out their service in just a few months. “Alls-Vol” was a resounding success in my book.