I have lived at Richmond Vale Academy, on the Island of Saint Vincent, for about three and a half months. Myself and two other people started the Fighting Poverty program at the beginning of April 2016. The program lasts 18 months and is full of outstanding experiences. These range from a week-long Agricultural Investigation, to planting trees, to teaching people how to work the garden and kitchen for common action. You can read plenty about these experiences on our blog. However, what I really want to tell you about is the first period of the Fighting with the Poor program.
The first six months of this program are the study period.
In the Fighting Poverty program, we devote a decent amount of time to our studies. If you take them seriously, the study and research you do will give you a perspective that can't be bought or sold.
During the first three months, we focus on the Contemporary World. In this unit, we study how society became what it is now and why it favors some while neglecting others. The Contemporary Studies earn us credits at One World University. Their main purpose, though, is to prepare us for our Service Period. They give us the knowledge and tools to contextualize the difficulties people face in developed and developing countries.
The studies take up approximately a third of our time, however, this seems like much less because we are fully involved in the school. What is more, the tasks we execute help us develop practical and social skills insides and outside the school. This is one of the most important parts of the study period because as a part of the Fighting Poverty program, we will eventually take on a lot of responsibility.
The main responsibility areas are clearly outlined; the kitchen, garden, promotion, etc. are all core parts of the school and what it does. My team and I have taken on more and more responsibilities in these areas and in smaller ones as time goes on. Learning to take responsibility, organize, brainstorm new ideas and act are all important parts of our experience. At the same time we are working in these areas, we are also engaged in the organization of other events, such as kids' days, open days and school culture nights. All of this preparation will be invaluable when our team goes to Ecuador.
When I first arrived here, I wasn't very sure of what this meant. However, after a while you realize that the community lifestyle is the pillar of the school. We spend a lot of time together and we decide everything as a group, at any level! Be it a decision that concerns just your team or one that affects the entire school at the level of the Common Meeting. This is how the school runs and it is a valuable life lesson.I would go so far as to say that if you want to succeed in this program and live the most fulfilling life possible, you must internalize this.
The RVA lifestyle is based around the idea that we all need to work together to improve our community. We use our individual strengths in unity, instead of letting divisions and our personal weaknesses bring us down. This means being consistent and clear with our words and actions. It means being honest with everyone and acknowledging that all of us have so much to offer. But first we must come together, loving the people and the environment.
Myself and two other people are team #9 in the Fighting Poverty program. These are the people who started this journey with me. I still do not know how good our dynamic will be under high-stake situations, like Ecuador, but it is entirely up to us.
We learn as much as we want to learn, we take as much responsibility as desired. We are the only ones responsible for the success of the challenges we've undertaken. As such, we are the only ones who can get things done in our project within the Fighting Poverty program.
Self-discipline, hard work and compassion go a long way. As a team and a community member, they are what you need to take on the challenges of this program.