I’m not going back for a whole other two years of normal Peace Corps Service. I’m doing something called Peace Corps Response (PCR). It’s a program wherein partnerships are made in-country with specific government ministries or NGOs to work on a specific project sponsored by that organization. We are technically still Peace Corps volunteers, but directly with the organization instead of having a boss in the Peace Corps office who supervises us. These positions are open to returned PCVs who have already completed two years of service and have applicable experience and skills. You can see some of the different types of positions here.
In my case, the project is an initiative of the Guatemalan government called Pacto Hambre Cero (Zero Hunger Pact). It’s an extension of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative, an effort to reduce malnutrition and hunger among women, young children, and communities through improved local agricultural production, health education, and all that fun stuff. Four Peace Corps Response volunteers are going to be working as Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistants, each in a different municipality working with local representatives of SESAN, the ministry of Food and Nutritional Security. Our work will be broadly to assist in setting up a system for monitoring and evaluating the progress, effectiveness, and outcomes of the Zero Hunger Pact project. I’m curious to know exactly how that’s going to play out, but getting into the business of how you measure outcomes of development projects is very intriguing to me, since so much of the money that gets poured into international aid doesn’t actually have its intended effect, due to incompetence, corruption, and all kinds of systemic problems that are nobody’s fault (read: somebody’s fault).
So far, the food security volunteers in Guatemala have been agriculture volunteers, working one-on-one with small communities to teach sustainable agriculture, value-added techniques, etc. For this M&E position, they were looking for someone with experience in evaluation and data analysis, and my work will get to address the main objective of these investments in agricultural infrastructure and education: maternal and child health and malnutrition.