I'm not really sure if I'm supposed to be writing this on my blog but no one told me not to so.... it's fair game. Sorry, DC censors.
Due to recent budget cuts, Peace Corps is doing a bit of downsizing. Tonga appears to be on the blacklist. Reasons are related to size of the program, dropout rate, effectiveness, and mostly cost of running the program. As a result, it's being shrunk. Some people from DC came earlier in the year to evaluate Peace Corps Tonga and see how to proceed. After barely meeting with PCVs and generally ignoring everything we had to say, they decided to both shrink the program and narrow the focus. From now on, only primary school English teachers (which, just to throw in my two cents, is the thing that pretty much EVERY SINGLE PCV in Tonga told them NOT to focus on), and much smaller groups (think 15 instead of 25). This was supposed to be a gradual downsizing. Okay, not ideal, but tolerable.
News later came that this would be an immediate downsizing. As in, they could now only have 25 PCVs in Tonga as of the time the next group ends their service. AKA the end of this year. Problem: there are currently 25 PCVs in my group, group 76. Thus.... no group 77 this year. WAIT WHAT?! Group 75, the group above me, is leaving this fall. No new group is coming in. It will be just Group 76 left in Tonga. I certainly hope we don't get sick of each other.... (okay we won't, we all like each other, but still.) A new group coming in is always exciting because it means new, inspired volunteers, new friends, people to train and teach about Tonga, etc. etc. Well, not for us. Bummer, man.
Supposedly there will be a group 77, of about 15 primary school teachers, but they won't be coming in until my group is about to leave in fall of 2012. Needless to say, I'm skeptical. I am personally of the opinion that some time next year they will announce that they are shutting down Peace Corps Tonga. But, keep in mind that this is just my opinion and does not express or represent the opinion of the US Peace Corps or Government. Ha ha.
I'm not entirely bitter about this because I do see Peace Corps's side of things in terms of the use of PCVs in Tonga and the overall effectiveness of the program in terms of the amount of money spent. I'm not going to get into details about it because a.) my feelings on it are somewhat confused and b.) I'm not super informed about said details. So I'm not trying to be critical of Peace Corps because I definitely definitely understand where they're coming from and it's an unfortunate situation because of budgeting. However, I definitely am bummed because I love Tonga and the people here and mostly it makes me sad that it's unlikely other Peace Corps volunteers will get to experience this in the future. And my group doesn't get all the perks of another group coming in, like missing school to help train them, getting fed by Peace Corps, teaching people about Tonga, etc. Boo.
So yeah. That's that. Bummer, man.