definition of development

7 October 2008 Update:
Read a more comprehensive analysis of the definition of development in a more recent post here:
definition of development (revisited): beauty in the palm of your hand.

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After lecture, and another drum lesson from master drummer Chris, on Monday I gathered a group of people interested in visiting the Peace Corps offices. Six of us worked to get taxis outside of the University with a certain degree of difficulty – probably because no driver knew where it was located. It seems that our group is very good at choosing destinations of which no one has heard. All we knew was that the office was located at 26 W. Cantonments Road – nothing more.

After a great deal of roundabout driving, a couple stops for directions, and some backwards driving (as in driving backwards) we found the offices located on Switchback Road near the house of the Ambassador of Cote D’Ivoire. It turns out with all our driving that we arrived right at closing time for the day with no appointment – I guess that helps. There happened to be a few volunteers at the check-in guard house and thankfully just as we were about to be turned away one of the volunteers claimed that he had gone to school with one of us and he just wanted to show us around.

Alex showed us around the compound and answered any and all questions we had about the Peace Corps. He also shared with us his experience. He is near completing his second year and is located in a very remote farming village in the north of the country. Originally from Nebraska, he was selected for the agriculture and natural resources area. His village is on the cliffs of the north where a ten year war has just ended between neighboring clans. He has started a cashew cooperative with 13 area villages, teaches at a secondary school, works in a hospital, started an HIV/AIDS club, and is attempting to work towards reconciliation between the former warring clans. The Ghana country coordinator had at first called Alex’s assignment ‘hell,’ but he is really enjoying himself and is working very hard to make the most difference that he can. After hours of talking we accompanied Alex to dinner, since we had made him late for a previous dinner engagement – it was ok he said, “they were just high schoolers.” It was really great talking to Alex and hearing his experiences and it really solidifies my plans to join the Peace Corps after college.

This discussion with Alex really made me think about ‘development’ as the word was thrown around a lot that night. Alex has said that he really likes the Peace Corps model because it deals with integration. A volunteer is placed in a village or area and works with the people to improve their situation. This as opposed to some large organization or institution just giving out money to big plans they believe will work. But, what is the definition of development? Who gets to determine what development is? Who is allowed to call one developed or developing or underdeveloped? Is development all based on a desire or push to become Western? Yes, I think in the very recent past it was and really still is to a degree, but for me development holds a different definition. Development for me mirrors positive progress in people’s lives. Development should be based on getting and giving people their basic needs (rights) for survival and life. Even in this regard the almighty ‘West’ needs development.

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Read a more comprehensive analysis of the definition of development in a more recent post here:
definition of development (revisited): beauty in the palm of your hand.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

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2 Comments

  1. Alex’s assignment does sound really challenging, but also AMAZING. Post-conflict reconciliation plus everything else! 🙂 Yay Peace Corps! Did he talk about how the cashew co-op is going?

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