I often feel like my voice is unheard among my American Village mates in Alapars. I feel like what I say in not really considered. There are 6 American boys in my village and only 3 girls, so we are clearly outnumbered. I furthermore feel outnumbered because on top of being a girl, I am a girly girl. I am the only American in my village that wears makeup. I am the only one who doesn’t go and play Frisbee or soccer at lunch, because quite honestly I don’t want to sweat and then have to sit in class for 2 more hours stinking and unable to shower for a couple of days. The fact that the peace corps attracts so many different type of people, is one of the greatest things about it, however sometimes it’s a little rough being the only conservative girly girl.
As I have mentioned before one of the greatest reasons why I joined the Peace Corps is because I wanted to work with community development. I want to make a positive change in the communities where I live. This has always been something that has been important to me. It was why I volunteered in the States and it is why I am here in Armenia. So when our task to create a short term, but sustainable community project was put in our hands, I was excited. For the past few days I have been thinking a lot about what my village needs. It’s easy to look around Alapars and see that the litter needs to be cleaned up, or the road needs to be paved, or at least evened out. It’s easy to see that repairs need to be done, but what is not so easy is that we have no money to do a project. What’s also not so easy is that if we clean something up, it would only be a matter of weeks for it to get littered again. So for my group to do something sustainable is a difficult task.
All week in our group we have been brainstorming what we want to do for Alapars, and mostly what has been thrown out there has been a community game day, or soccer tournament or something of that nature. I think a community day is a fun project but I also feel that it is not what I joined the Peace Corps to do. Sure having kids run around is good for their health, but one they don’t know that or care about that, and two they won’t be able to do anything with their lives just because they learn how to play Frisbee. So knowing that my group really wanted to do something of that nature I wanted to try to add a health aspect into the equation. As some of you may know, a few years ago I found out I have a heart dieses, and while it is not life threatening or anything of that nature, it was still a really scary and testing time in my life. In the United States heart diesies is the leading killer of women, and yet many women are not aware of the risks.
This is why I am so excited to tell you all that my village will be putting on a community health and fitness day. My group went to the Alapars community center and spoke with the nurses of the village. They told us that heart dieses is the number one killer of people in Alapars, and it’s easy to see why when everyone smokes, all the food is cooked with heavy oil and butter, and no one does any aerobic exercise. We figure we will target the kids in our village who copy everything we do anyways, and invite them to the school to have a fun day of games, sports and work outs. At the same time I am going to put together a pamphlet about heart dieses and ways to improve heart health. We know that we cannot make adults change habits, but we hope that we can educate children and they will make better decisions for their own lives. If one kid learns that eating salty, greasy food can cause him to have a heart attack like his father did, and decides to eat better, it’s a good start. I am so excited that my group decided to take this direction. I learned that being heard sometimes means you just have to speak a little louder, and offer alternative solutions. I would have felt like a major failure if all we did for our community was hold a soccer tournament.