September 09, 2009

Volunteer Reporting Tool/Form aka VRT/F

There is considerable disagreement over the correct acronym. What the VRT/F is is an Excel spreadsheet all PCVs all over the world have to fill out every 3-4months to report on what activities they have been doing.

Not a bad idea. Bureaucratic & annoying but PC work can seem pretty fluffy and unquantifiable. Seems a good idea to try to figure out what we are actually doing to justify the tax dollars & time spent on it. Having said that PC constantly states that a computer is NOT needed for service....then they require us to fill out this computerized form a few times a year that can only be done on an English version of MS Excell(XP or better) and does NOT work on Apples(which a very significant minority of my hippy/straight-out-of-uni colleagues use).

AZ6 had to fill out our first VRT/F just last month. I've just recently met with my Program Director(Azerbaijani) & Program & Training Officer(2nd in command American) to discuss it and they seem fairly happy with what Ive been doing.

Since I'm too lazy(efficient) to summarize what it says I've decided to cut&paste most of what is written in this form. Some parts have been redacted because they may/have caused some offense or because its boring. In the ACTIVITIES section Ive left out the figures for number of people served vs number who succeeded in activity because its difficult to cut&paste that info. Also this is all completely out of order because I'm in a hurry. I need to design a seminar on entrepreneurship and complete 2 research projects by the end of the week and the internet here is.....sporadic at best.


Success Story

In a joint CED/YD project PCVs developed a pilot Career day session at one of the local schools. The purpose of which was to have successful community members speak with high-school aged youth about the local job market and about what they need to study and do to find jobs in this area.

Though the project met some initial resistance due to its unfamiliarity we gained support and were able to gain the agreement of a school to host it and a number of speakers. When the day came though most of our speakers were suddenly "to busy" to make it but with a few phone calls we were able to lure more speakers through a mixture of promises, cajoling and threats.

During the session the children showed an active interest and seemed to learn something about what it really means to find a job and to work. Perhaps more importantly all of our speakers were very impressed by the interest the youth showed and commented afterwards that their own thoughts on the challenges faced by the youth had changed and that they came away with more favorable views of this sort of community participation.

Lessons Learned

Nothing is as easy as it seems.

Nothing can be concretely planned.

"Planing" is impossible for any activity more than 12 week in the future.

If you use the word "should" in any of your planning assume it will go wrong.

Independence is more important to me than comfort.

Planned Activities

The Career Day pilot project was so successful that I have approached all 6 other schools in my community about doing it there. I hope to encourage the schools to make it part of their yearly curriculum. And am working with other PCVs to arrange it for their schools.

The Internship Program pilot project though less successful will be continued. A number of students who weren't available for the pilot have expressed an interest and we have worked out some of the kinks in our own planning & procedures. This will be continued and perhaps expanded over time.

I am conducting research & consulting with other PCVs, organizations & community members about developing "Capitalism Clubs"; encouraging youth to work together to create small businesses. We hope to begin work soon.

Work with PSCEP & QMC will continue. We are beginning to focus our projects & will begin to work on creating business associations & other work. I am pursuing training of modern business theory/practices with QMC staff & pursuing 3rd Goal activities with Chemonics staff, many are newly arrived to this country & fail to understand conditions & culture outside of Baku. Further Ive been asked to provide training for BDSs in other Rayons & facilitate work w/ other PCVs.

As the mainstay of the local economy, apples, comes into season I am trying to encourage value-added product production and diversification by introducing apple-based products from around the world. Also pursuing this with other ag-products.

*Note* Goal2 = To teach Azerbaijanis about America. Goal3 = To teach Americans about Azerbaijan.

Goal Two

I talk to community members daily, explaining that America is not just a faceless monolith of Christian imperial power & decadent wealth led by a "n@##$r", apostate or Muslim president.

*Note2* Lots of folk here call black people niggers. They learned this from the Russians/Soviets. It isn't always meant in the derogatory sense. Just as Americans might call British, Brits; or OR Brits call Americans, Yanks; etc....... its just the word they know for black folk and they haven't had the PC word police on their backs.

But, more often than not, it is used derogatorily. I'll write about racism in Azerbaijan another time, maybe. The contrast between what racism means here, in Japan, and in the US is interesting.

Rather that we are an extraordinarily diverse country full of people rich, poor & between, of all shades of color & ethnicity, where almost all the world's religions are represented and that we all live together in relative peace.

Goal Three

I write a blog, host many visiting tourists & international experts and occasionally write to newspapers "comments" sections for Azerbaijan related articles.

PC Initiative Area

Youth Dev

Most of the activities which I have organized or been part of outside QMC have been YD in their nature or YD related.

Materials Created

Ive been working with other PCVs to transfer skills gained thru my previous experience working in schools to train them for TESL teaching, providing/creating materials & activities.


KSAs(Knowledge, Skills, Abilities)

I would like to learn at least basic Russian & Lezqi, two very important languages that are used on a daily basis in my area but PC has provided little to no resources in this area.


This report was nearly impossible to fill out for a variety of reasons. First, it is incompatible with any but the most recent version of Microsoft Excel and even then the security/settings requirements require the use of an English version or the assistance of a computer literate local who can navigate local(pirated & virus filled) Russian versions. This is a problem because most PCVs are using Macs(incompatible), local computers(invariably Russian & insecure) or like myself using OpenOffice a free open-source version of the Microsoft software which is fully compatible with everything except macros. Secondly it is PC policy that computers are not required for PC service, yet this required activity necessitates a computer.

Also, the reporting tool lacks the flexibility to select multiple Objectives when a single project overlaps many.


I have applied for no grants. All of my projects can be completed in community using resources provided in site.

PCV Feedback

The policy of Peace Corps is to pay volunteers a stipend such that they can "live at a level comparable to their counterparts". We in Quba, and indeed most of the regions, do not get paid sufficiently to maintain this level. Since AZ1 there have been many years where inflation ran 10-20% yet PCV pay has not in any way matched these price increases.

My counterparts can afford to eat meat daily. I have become a very unwilling vegetarian because I cannot afford meat nor many of the other things my counterparts take for granted. I have lost a significant amount of weight and muscle mass during my service here.


Was asked by local media at the Novruz festival in Quba to provide an interview concerning PC activities in Azerbaijan but at that time we(PCVs) were of the understanding from Zoltan (*Note3* Zoltan=former Country Director) that we were not allowed to speak with media without prior approval & guidance from the Country Director. Hence, I & other attending PCVs refused and referred the reporter to PC-Baku office.


*Note4* This is the most important section of the report. Here we write about the activities we have been doing and provide info on the numbers of people who participated and who learned something from it.

Writing Olympics

Acted as a proctor & facilitator at the school and worked as one of the essay judges in Baku.

International AIDS CandleLight Memorial Day

Participated in this event organized by YD PCVs in Quba & helped facilitate.

Womens Association & Gender Training

Participated in a Gender Training and invited local people to participate. Though only one man attended for a short period the women considered this to be a very successful meeting and have asked to meet regularly and create a womens organization.

Hiking Club

Go hiking weekly with youth.

QMC Brainstorming Session

Quba Marketting Center asked for assistance in finding new income generation activities and exploring the economic situation in the northern area. I organized a meeting of QMC staff, all CED volunteers in this area & the YD PCVs in Quba.

Career Day

Organized an event where respected & succesfull members of the community came to speak with upper-form students about how to find work in Quba, what to study & prepare for finding employment and other advice. Students where able to ask questions & voice their concerns.

English Teacher Training

Provided a seminar and training to all interested PCVs in northern area on how to teach TEFL & organize Conversation Clubs.

Virus Protection Strategies & Technology consulting & training

I provide assistance, advice & informal training on technology(particularly virus protection & alternatives to pirated software) to a variety of organizations & individuals including Ministry of Economic Development, Transparency, QMC, schools, etc.

Writing a blog.

3rd Goal activity.

Training & assistance in writing CV/resume

Have provided training & assistance in writing CV/resumes to interested community members.

Business Marketing Assistance

Assist in preparing English language promotional material, including writing case studies on success stories.

Helped QMC prepare Proposal for Chemonics run USAID program - Private Sector Competitiveness Enhancement Program.

QMC won this contract without wich it would have likely been forced to shut down and lay-off employees.

Business Research

Prepare list of mid-large businesses in northern area, evaluate economic position & determine potential efficacy of PSCEP assistance.

Business Research

Assist in research of northern area businesses to determine economic & market position, place in value chain, SWAT analysis, etc through company visits, community questioning and internet research.

I have assisted in all aspects of these endeavours, from original research, to designing & writing reports, communications & consultation with the PSCEP Baku office, translation of reports from Azerbaijani to English & the consequent training of QMC staff in business English, report writing, business procedures, etc.

Together we have operated with over 25 local mid-large sized businesses, written over 15 reports and multiple revisions.


*Note5* Ive had to redact a part of this.

I have been working very closely with X-consultant & PSCEP staff to provide local insight and act as a cross-cultural/lingual facilitator. Both explaining to American & Azerbaijani staff & management the real situation in the Rayons, and to QMC staff & management the goals & difficulties of Baku & American offices. I have also been consulting & providing advice for the revamping of this project.

I have been asked many times to continue this facilitation and in the future to provide consultation & trainings to BDSs in other areas of Azerbaijan.

Teacher Training

Have been working with my language tutor(vice-principal/guidance counselor at local school) to transfer language teaching & other pedagological skills.

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