Over the last couple weeks, I've been able to really reflect on my decision to commit two years of my life to volunteering in Benin. I've realized that effective change starts with people, not policy. That the desire to create a healthier community is more important than any treaty or list of actions written from an office continents away. That really living and understanding the problems on the ground can give way to sustainable development.
Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. After days of being sick with what I initially though was the regular course of travelers diarrhea, I was finally diagnosed with amoebas. As gross as it is, ingesting fecally contaminated food and water is a daily reality here in Benin. (and until I can prepare my own food and water it is hardly in my control). Open defecation, the lack of hygienic practices, unsafe food preparation and improper water treatment are all issues that can easily be ameliorated to ensure community health.
So that's why I'm here. While I have access to medications and modern amenities (sometimes and still not at American standards), that is not the world in which many rural Beninese live. But, I believe that with education and behavioral change activities, communities can lead better lives.
I remain an idealist. I continue to find motivation from the world around me. I am living the life I want to live.