• ½ kilo of flour
  • 150 mL of water
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • ½ Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 2 Tbs yeast

Put flour in large bowl. Make a well. Stir in all ingredients with water. Work in flour. Add additional 150 mL water, work in. Flour bowl. Cover by heat 30-60 min. Punch down, flour again. Bake in oven. You didn’t forget the yeast again, right?

My baking has improved. It’s incredible what a little help from Jamie Oliver can do. (Don’t tell Peace Corps I’m using a Brit’s recipe.) I’m learning to put all the ingredients together in just the right ways and let them work their own magic.

I was talking with my Grandparents on the phone this past weekend, telling them about the different projects I have going this semester and how classes have started. I’ve started to get a handle on how to delegate, which is amazing since it’s something I should have come in being able to do. We’re inundated from Day 1 with words like “sustainability,” “skill transfer,” and “capacity building.” Every era has its code phrases—you know, the ones you want to list on your grant applications for high visibility—and these are the ones that we’re immersed in even before we meet the culture. Delegation would seem to be step one in these code-word endeavors, yet there are several things that make delegating difficult.

It is really tempting to want to do everything yourself. When you do something on your own, you don’t have to try and explain it to anyone—in English that is, much less another language—nor do you need to depend on someone who might not come through with their end of the job. When you work by yourself, you’re the boss, middle management and common laborer and no part of the vision gets lost in translation. (Figuratively and literally.) Delegation can also be difficult because sometimes you assign tasks to people who don’t care about the project at all. And then there’s the amount of time to consider. If you delegate work out to someone, it might take a week for the task to get done when you could have done it in an afternoon.

This all might seem like a waste of time at first, but in the long run you are going to be able to accomplish not only a lot more in terms of volume but in efficacy of your projects as well. There are two things at work here: felt need and ownership. On some level delegating can seem like “kindly forcing” but when done correctly the delegator should be a catalyst for already existing potential energy.

First do your homework. The Peace Corps calls this “Participatory Analysis for Community Action” which is a complicated way of saying, “Ask a lot of questions.” Who are the movers and shakers in the community? If you’re doing a project at the school, what’s their calendar like for the year? Are there times where people will be on vacation? Harvesting potatoes? How is the community physically laid out? Can mothers get their children to the proposed kindergarten and pick them up again? What are the priorities? Does anyone even care if the volleyball court falls apart? This is how you discover what the members of the community want to do, not what you think it needs after your initial bleeding-heart dash through the neighborhood.

If you set this up correctly it will be much easier for the community to take ownership over the project. I used to say, “Oh, I’ll do that, don’t worry about it.” But then I would end up with a business plan in English and an owner who couldn’t read it, or a teacher who couldn’t check her e-mail account because I was gone on vacation. Spend the extra agonizing hours helping your counterpart double click icons and type in her password and I’m telling you, it’s going to pay off. Not only will you be able to say, “Hey, can you check on that e-mail?” and it will be taken care of, but after you leave she’s going to keep doing it on her own for her own purposes.

Which is the entire purpose and point of our existence as Peace Corps Volunteers. We fall out of a plane, wander around in the woods for awhile, then barely after finding our bearings are spotted and pulled back home. Two years can seem like a lifetime, but when compared to the actual lifetime of the people we serve, it becomes a brief window in which to get anything done.

That “anything” turns out to be not what projects you can lay claim to after you’re gone, but the skills your counterparts gained, the knowledge your students gleaned, the confidence of leaders, and all their own personal successes that will give them a better chance at actualizing their own dreams.

“It’s like leavening bread,” my grandpa said over the phone, “All the ingredients are there. You just have to make it rise.”

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