by Andrew Mulvaney

Throughout the month of May, I had the great privilege of being selected to co-facilitate the TEL Technical IST for CII-5 Volunteers. With the wonderful support from our TEL Program and Training Staff, together we carried out sessions in Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and Cartagena. In each city, both Volunteers and counterparts showed a high level of  professionalism, putting forth an enthusiastic attitude and participating actively throughout the training. For all of those present, these conferences presented a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the experiences we all share as both Volunteers and counterparts, as well as a forum to share best strategies.

In planning the workshops, the TEL Technical IST team and I had a few specific goals guiding our preparation in order to help enhance the service of CII-5 Volunteers and their counterparts. First and foremost, we sought to make the workshops as applicable and as hands-on as possible. Participants were able to take away concrete ideas, strategies, and activities that they could implement at their sites. In addition to this, another priority was for the conference to contribute to the participants´ professional development. A great part of this included practicing English as much as possible and doing so in a professional setting. By the end of the third and final conference in Cartagena, these goals had been accomplished. It was so motivating to see the positive attitude everyone had toward speaking English and working at their best level in a bilingual environment. It was just as rewarding seeing the relationships that had been forged personally and professionally at all the different sites.

Overall, it was an absolute honor to help facilitate these trainings. Aside from the goals we set out to establish, one of my biggest take-away experiences can’t be measured. One of the aspects of Peace Corps service that is sustainable are the relationships shared and developed along the way. In the training, it was beautiful to see the appreciation we all have for one another, Volunteers and counterparts alike. The heartfelt comments tugged at our hearts and we could sense that the feelings were genuine. One experience that stands out was when a counterpart wrote a note to the Peace Corps as a whole, saying that God continues lighting the way of our organization. The counterpart referred to her gratitude for Volunteers, leaving friends and family behind to make a difference in the lives of others abroad. She was tearing up in the process, and I can tell you, she wasn’t the only one. Just as heartfelt was the note a Volunteer wrote for her counterpart, remarking on how much she means to her. The note mentioned that counterparts become like family for us–our best friends–and that they need to know that we are counting on them to guide us.

Well into my second year of service, for me, this is the essence of the Peace Corps. Working hombro a hombro and uniting as a true team with our Colombian counterparts. A true spirit of service was on display throughout the trainings, and that is what matters as much as anything.

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