The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, nor any other governmental or non-governmental organization.

Nor is anything written here necessarily drawn from my own views, opinions, and observations. Please consider all postings and pictures complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality. For legal purposes, please additionally regard the author as utterly imaginary.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I just returned from Paris and visiting my parents, which was amazing. I want to live there and read important books and drink coffee and eat cheese. Now I'm back in country and headed into the final stretch.

If the Peace Corps were college, I just started my senior year. After the two month training, K and I were sent to our site. We've finished 18 months of peace corps service, and we have 6 months to go. I'm not sure how I feel about it. My goals are still evolving.

Even a few months ago, I envisioned myself trying to build large, physical things. Doing projects that require sweat- digging holes and building churches and stuff. Just kidding about the churches. I thought, now that I've found a few good partners for development work, I can finally construct something 'real'. That may have been foolish.

Many people apply for grants at some point during their service. I don't really expect to do so. Using money almost seems like cheating to me, at times. Why should this town or this group of people get an injection of capital, but those others not get anything? Randomness. Living itself is to rage against randomness. Why work in development? Why put efforts towards any end?..

If I were to raise money from home, and then use it to create a physical thing, where does that leave me? People might thank me, but in many ways, I would just be increasing their sense of dependence upon financial help from others, and possibly exacerbating the feeling of victimhood/helplessness that comes with living in a developing country that has easy access to information. Building things with money from abroad, in a sense, simply extends and strengthens the same instruments that are responsible for the randomness that has left Morocco poor and America rich. Connections to wealth create more wealth. Connection to my randomly being dropped in this town, would lead to an injection of wealth, however small.

I am probably overly-rationalizing my own failure to identify a good school that could use some new toilets dug out. But what I really think I'm doing is coming to grips with the fact that it's perfectly okay to 'develop people', rather than build objects. That kind of 'aid' seems less capitalistic and insidious.

Over the last 18 months, the thing I am most proud of, isn't a thing at all. We have inspired a few people to help others. There are people volunteering in this town, leading workshops in middle schools, cleaning and looking after the youth center, and teaching English, who had never reached out and helped their community before. They are doing so because of us. I can only hope that they continue to do so once we've gone.

I don't dream anymore of digging the foundation for a new center for social enterprise in town. Instead, I think about leveraging the people in my classes to volunteer themselves and their time.

Newest idea: Add an hour of English a week for the adult beginners at the youth center. However, do so only on the condition that each pledges an hour of teaching, whatever their area of knowledge may be.

Apologies for any pretension - and no offense intended towards volunteers who are building toilets and computer rooms and so forth. Any improvement in health, freedom, and access to information is a net positive, in my opinion.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, I've been reading your blog, with great enjoyment, since Sam and Linda brought it to our attention a couple of months ago. You really tell it like it is, you communicate your thoughts and feelings clearly and directly.

    I found this post particularly interesting, because it gets to the conundrum of why so much aid from the west hasn't done nearly as much as it should have over the decades, and how can we do better? Your notion that the best thing we can do is incentivize local solutions, continuing local volunteering, certainly seems right. Here is a link to a recent article about how that is currently working in Myanmar:


    All my best, and Jan and I can't wait to see you upon your return,

    Tom Grahame



The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Nor is anything written here necessarily my own views, opinions, or observations. Please consider all pictures and texts here to be complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality, this one or any other. For legal purposes, please additionally consider the author to be utterly imaginary.