Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In direct

Its not a Peace Corps volunteer's job to be in the spotlight.  If anything it's a PCV's job to not be in the spotlight, to sit back behind the scenes and work with host country nationals at host organizations to empower others to make positive changes in their communities which, at times attracts some spotlight to the organization.  That spotlight is seen as a good thing.  If you've ever seen the Michael Moore documentary "Bowling for Columbine" then you realize that its much better for NGO's, school teachers, religious organizations and even large corporations to be shown in the media doing good things in their communities than the constant violence and scandal that we see so often view in news, shows and movies today.  The good deeds represent a breath of fresh air and a small 30 second break from the much larger advertizing breaks convincing you to consume, and news program filled with negativity.  I knew that moving to the capital city would get me a bit closer to the media hoopla but I never imagined that people would one day be coming up to me telling me that they saw me on tv. 

In previous posts I have spoken of the reoccurring instances of a volunteers having to step out of their comfort zones where they end up learning more about themselves and potentially contributing to positive change in the process.  Often times volunteers end up in news clips speaking both about Peace Corps and about their individual projects.  I believe for the most part that the awareness and consciousness that the media provides in this case is good, if not only to give the viewer a sense that there are good things happening aside from the violence and scandal that they would normally be viewing. 

Despite the occasional PCV making their way in front of a camera I never really saw myself managing well in such a position and during my first two years of service in Petrosani I managed to avoid it for the most part.  Working for a pretty high-profile NGO in the capital hasn't afforded me the same level of comfort.  Since being in Bucharest I can count a few instances where I could have been seen by the masses.  A couple of Fridays ago I found myself speaking in front of a camera twice in a day.  The first instance was an unexpected interview at a recycling event where I explained some of the goals and projects of the non-profit that I work for.  The second instance was a nerve-racking spot on a nationally televised tv program entitled "Trezeste Romania" which translates to "Wake-up Romania".  The goal of the program is to show Romanians that make a positive difference in their communities.  Though I'm not a Romanian making a positive difference in my community I was there to support my host organization in promoting volunteerism for the environment, their mission statement. 

I went to the program in a van filled with some of our most active volunteers, people who give up their weekends to help my host organization, MaiMultVerde, effectively conduct large scale tree-planting activies or help us raise funds for such actions.  Just minutes before the program began I was notified by the host that I would only have to answer a couple of questions easing my nerves just a bit.  Regardless, the setting of bright lights pointing in every direction, numerous cameras moving around the room, and the thought of speaking Romanian to a national audience boosted my anxiety as the moment approached. 

The experience was one that I won't forget but one that I despise watching.  I was once before on a different program and I couldn't bring myself to watch it.  This time I did take some minutes to watch the program the following day and I realized that it was the first time I have ever heard myself speaking Romanian.  Now I realize why so many people make fun of my accent, which is something that I can laugh about.

The MaiMultVerde team with the host of Trezeste Romania

You can see the program in the link below but keep in mind that the program is in Romanian and I only say a couple of phrases.  Aside from speaking to MaiMultVerde, the host presented a Romanian peace-worker and a rugby player who lost the use of his legs in a tragic accident on the field.  The rugby player's story of perseverance in working to regain as much mobility as possible inspired a stranger to present a pretty meaningful gift on the show.


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