So as many of you know, as of March 6, 2013 I was granted my third year extension in my village here in Fiji! So this blog will just explain a bit about the process involved in requesting a third year, what is expected of a volunteer, and what this means for me.
So I officially sent in my request for a third year on January 31, 2013. As a volunteer you must wait to officially request the third year until 18 months of your original service have been completed. My original service dates run from May 2011 to July 3, 2013. Which means I could have sent in my official request as early as November but it really wouldn’t have made a difference.
In my official 3rd year request to my Program Manager I started with the projects that justify my extension for a third year here in Fiji. They want to know that the cost of keeping you on as a volunteer will ultimately be a benefit to all involved. The reasons I included for extension justification were as follows-
- Our Composting Piggery project funded through the UNDP GEF SGP.
2. Marine Protected Area Improvement
3. Water Infrastructure Development
Each of these 4 main projects includes a detailed project outline of what has already been completed, what still needs to be done with a timeframe attached to it, and lists the goals and objectives that each project covers for the Integrated Environmental Resource Management programme here in Fiji.
After justifying what reasons there are for me staying an additional year through these four projects, I went back and listed all the projects and workshops I had held or been a participant in that have gotten us to this point with the four main projects. The office basically wants to know that I haven’t just been kickin’ it in Fiji for two years and now, scared about the prospect of going home, making up some reason to stay. So my request letter goes on to detail everything that led up to these main projects being “unfinished” at this point in time.
Along with my official request, there has to be community support. The Peace Corps is all about sustainability and community integration and interaction. So if I want to stay, but my village could really care less, that really says something about my level of interaction and integration. I brought up the need for a support letter for my extension at one of our monthly village meetings. I ended up with 8… The village headman, the Chief, the Pastor, the leader of the womens group, leader of the youth group, some of the night divers, one of the kids who goes to library and helps with events with the kids and the leader of the committee I work closely with. I was pretty overwhelmed by the support. So when I went to Suva in February I brought along the support letters and gave them to my Program Manager (basically my immediate boss).
Then it became a waiting game.
I just have to tell you those 6 weeks in limbo were the worst of my service. I was afraid I would have to leave all these things unfinished, that I would be going home without thinking to look for a job or anything… I had already put all my hypothetical eggs in one basket. And it was making me a basket case. I had a hard time connecting with people for fear I would have to leave soon, I couldn’t motivate to start a project because I though I would just have to leave, it was terrible. So after some nagging, I got a text message from none other than our Peace Corps doctor… saying congrats. I was pretty confused so she asked me to check my email and I had a message from out Country Director who makes the final approvals on things like extensions along with a ton of other decisions for the post, saying that my extension had been granted. I just laughed! I was so happy and my mood improved instantly. I told Koli, my 14 year old friend who wrote one of my support letters first, then I went to the headman, then the leader of the womens group and got hugs and high fives the whole way. It was such a good feeling. I’m so happy to be staying here in this village for another year!
Now I know this isn’t good news for everyone hearing it. For obvious reasons, my family is saddened by the news. I just hope that in time people will see that this is exactly what I should be doing now. I’m proud of who I am here. I’m proud of the changes this village has already made and the changes that will come. In all honesty, I’m young too. This is the perfect time to do something like the Peace Corps. Let’s be honest, the job market back in America isn’t really ideal right now… maybe later it will be a little better and I will have an easier time finding rewarding work there.
So the question and answer section… where I pretend to be you and ask what I think a relevant questions!
So when will you come home?
My official Close of Service (COS) date on my original service was July 3, 2013. Now my official COS date is August 3, 2014.
Why is a one year extension 13 months?
When you extend for one year, you have a mandatory 30 day “home leave” where the Peace Corps pays for a plane trip to your Home of Record (HOR) before coming back to your country of service to complete your additional year.
Can you extend for less than one year?
Yes. Any number of options are available but only with the year do you get the trip home.
How many extensions are granted?
I think about 3 full year extension are granted per year and based on the budget a number of shorter extensions may become available.
Does everyone stay in their village for the extension?
No. A lot of third year extendees are transferred to Suva or another city to work with NGOs, government ministries, etc. It’s the choice of the volunteer as to where they want to extend.
So when will you be coming home?
I am planning on going back to the states from Mid-September to mid-October.
What will you be doing?
Imma see my gorgeous lil nephew of course!!! But other than that I have an invitation to road trip from Juneau Alaska back down to Bellingham/Seattle area with a college friend who works up in Alaska during the summers. I’ll also spend some time in California visiting family and friends.
What about your financial obligations- uhhh your student loans idiot…!
Well the wonderful thing about the Peace Corps is I can defer my federal loans for the length of my service meaning that for the remainder of my time here those loans will be deferred. My private loans are another story. As volunteers we get what’s called a “readjustment allowance” paid into a fund each month that we get on completion of service to resettle ourselves in America. As a volunteer you have the option of deferring 75% of those monies to pay monthly student loan payments. Which is what I’m doing. It doesn’t cover everything… but it’s a start.
I think those are all the questions I can think of, If you have any others feel free to ask away! My village gave me an extension gift the other day. I came home from some work in town and the men were sitting on a porch and called me over. They explained that my new bilibili (bamboo raft) had been constructed and was sitting in the water waiting for me to use! I was so stoked I grabbed my camera and ran straight out there. So here it is… my beautiful new raft! I would say in a coastal village getting your own bamboo raft is the equivalent of a 16 year old getting a new car… so I’m pretty stoked about it.
So cheers! To another year in Fiji!