1. Will your time in Peace Corps be challenging and life changing? Yes, without a doubt. Carpe diem!
2. Will you love every minute of your existence in Vanuatu? Very unlikely. Like the tides, your moods and feelings about Vanuatu and the Peace Corps will ebb and flow.
3. Will the staff and Volunteers of Peace Corps Vanuatu do their best to prepare you for life and work in Vanuatu? YES. But many challenges will remain.
4. Will the staff and Volunteers of Peace Corps Vanuatu provide the perfect training and all of your personal and professional needs? NO. There will be gaps and there will be mistakes. The system is not perfect, but it is well meaning and will strive for improvement. In my opinion, the opportunity to endure, overcome and even conquer challenges left to you and you alone, is an important component of the Peace Corps experience. This may not be appreciated in the present, but can be worn as a badge of honor and tribute to your abilities in the future.
5. Is the existence of the Peace Corps staff in Vanuatu all about serving PCVs and meeting all their needs? No. I prefer to consider everyone as part of a development team. Of course, we will serve and support PCVs needs, but we are all working together towards common project goals and objectives.
6. Will the assignments that you are given utilize all the education and life experiences that you will bring to Vanuatu? NO. This is a common expectation. Most of you will be community development workers with some sector (health, education, business) specialization. The most obvious skills that you possess may not be utilized at all, while skills and strengths you have never thought much about will be the ones that enable you to be effective facilitators of development at the grassroots level.
7. Will you learn or gain anything from this experience? YES. Most RPCVs report that they came away from their Volunteer experience feeling like they have received more than they have given. Peace Corps development work is slow and incremental. You will not always see the impact of your presence in your community, but over time we strongly believe that the impact occurs, and most of it is positive. Will you be satisfied knowing that a child has learned to read as a result of your presence? Will you value a simple health behavior change that you see in the family next door, resulting from your interaction? Will you appreciate the young mother who is generating a small amount of income after your help and encouragement and now she is able to send her child to school? These are just a few examples of tangible impact that you might witness during your time here.
8. Will Peace Corps provide you with financial resources to accomplish the tasks of your project? NO. Generally speaking, Peace Corps does not supply you with any work-related funding. Your work may involve assisting your community in acquiring grant funding for projects that they have deemed to be priorities, but we just helpers/facilitators in the process.
9. When I complete my training and go to my site will everything be in order and ready for my arrival? Probably not. You have a role in the development of your site and will be required to take over where staff have left off.
10. Will everyone at my site understand why I am there and the development philosophy of the Peace Corps? NO. Again, we will have started that process, but you will continue the process of preparing the community.
11. If I have a spouse will Peace Corps always cover the travel costs for both of us when I am required to travel on “project” related business? NO. If you and your spouse are working in different projects (health, education, economic development), Peace Corps will only cover the cost of travel and per diem for the person that is actually required to travel at the request of Peace Corps. If your spouse chooses to accompany you to the Peace Corps project event, they will responsible for all costs and will be required to request leave for the time away from site.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Welcome and Introduction
The staff and Volunteers of Peace Corps Vanuatu welcome you to our family. We look forward to your arrival and to supporting you as you begin your new adventure here in Vanuatu.
Pre-Service Training (PST) can be difficult and intense. While we are busy providing you many hours of language, cultural, and technical training, you are adjusting mentally, physically, and emotionally to your new surroundings and to a very different culture. We discuss this now, in hopes that you will begin to prepare yourself for the changes you are about to experience and for the rigors of the long hours of training in a hot and humid environment. Expect things to be arduous; anything less is a bonus. Without exception though, Trainees who complete PST and are sworn-in as Peace Corps Volunteers are proud of their accomplishment; confident that they will be able to successfully complete the two-year assignment awarded to them.
You have been selected to serve in a very unique place. You will join a very special group of Volunteers who are committed to contributing to the development of a nation. Peace Corps Vanuatu has a proud reputation for grassroots development and for a unique cultural sensitivity unrivaled by any other development organization.
Congratulations for making it to „Staging‟; just getting through the selection process deserves an award! See you soon...
Arrival in Vanuatu
Los Angeles to Port Vila, Vanuatu, via Auckland, New Zealand
You should check your bags from Los Angeles (LAX) all the way through to Port Vila, Vanuatu, through Auckland, New Zealand. For luggage tags, use the same address that you will be using for your mail:
(Your Name), PCV
Private Mail Bag 9097
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Ph.# (678) 26-160
You will arrive at Auckland International Airport from Los Angeles International Airport at approximately 05:25am on September 12 (remember you will gain a day when crossing the international dateline!). Your flight from Auckland to Port Vila aboard Air Vanuatu departs at 07:35am on the same day and takes about three hours, arriving in Vanuatu at 9:25am (local time). The Peace Corps staff at Staging will provide you with more information about your travel to Vanuatu.
Prior to landing in Vanuatu, you must complete the arrival card that is provided to you by your flight attendant. Mark the section of the card that asks your status as “new resident”. After you step off the plane, you will go
through Immigration and Customs. There will be two lines at the Immigration counter: one for visitors, and one for citizens and residents. Go to the line for citizens and residents. Even though you will not have a visa stamp in your passport there is no need to worry. Clearly identify yourself to the Immigration Officer as a “new Peace Corps Volunteer” so they will be prompted to check a list that has your name on it. Your passport will be stamped for entry into the country.
Once you have passed through the Immigration station, you will collect your baggage and then stand in line for the Quarantine people. Hopefully, you won‟t have anything to declare, but if you do, declare it. If there are any problems we will be summoned by the Customs people and sort it all out. We suggest that you take one of the free baggage trolleys that are near the baggage carousel (hey we are a small country – there is only one!). Try not to mix up your bags with other trainees in your group, i.e. one trolley per trainee. You will want to make sure that you have all of your bags before we load them on the bus or trucks that will be right outside the exit door from Customs.
You will be met at the airport in Port Vila by Eddie Stice, Country Director (CD), Sara Lightner, Programming and Training Officer (PTO), and a whole host of other staff, Volunteers, and friends of Peace Corps. After we have loaded all your bags, you will be driven to your orientation accommodation approximately one half hour from the airport. We will drive through Port Vila for a short tour and then on to your first home away from home. Once we arrive, there will be a short briefing and lunch will be served. After lunch we will have a short “toktok” and a bit of “walk-around” money will be given. Once you have a bit of money in your pocket a representative of the Digicel Mobile Phone Company will be there to sell you Nokia phones at a special discounted rate. You don‟t have to buy one, but you will have the option. A brief talk on phone usage during PST will be given as well. After the phone talk we will hand out your basic Peace issue gear like mosquito net, foam pad, and bush lighting apparatus. The next morning your first real pre-service training session starts at 8:00 am. Your orientation accommodation is “no frills” and the food will be island style, so keep the expectations in check and be prepared to try some new foods. There will be plenty of local vegetables and tropical fruits available and you can‟t go wrong with that cuisine. You will be sharing a room with another trainee or a same sex dorm.
Suggested Dress upon Arrival
The clothes that you wear upon arrival in Port Vila and throughout your time in Vanuatu are important. The simple standard is to dress neatly and modestly. For women, a skirt and a blouse or nice t-shirt is adequate. The skirt should be long and loose and the blouse/t-shirt should cover the shoulders and midriff. For men, nice slacks with collared shirts will be fine, the shorts can come later.
The First Few Days…
From Sunday afternoon to Friday mid-day you will be staying at the IDS Training Center at Pango, approximately 20 minutes out of Port Vila. You will be flat out with orientation sessions covering health, safety/security, and language and cultural basics. You will come into Port Vila once during this period for self-directed learning activities, medical interviews and Country Director interviews. There may be an opportunity to send a quick email from one of the internet cafes or even the PC Resource Center, but that time is not built into the schedule. Once you board the plane in Los Angeles, we strongly suggest that you begin the process of mentally disengaging from all instant messaging and focus on adjusting to life in Vanuatu. For many of you, this will be difficult, but non-emergency communication at the orientation site and in your training village will not be like it was in the US. There will be no email at the orientation site or in the training village. All snail mail will be delivered to your training site once per week. Any emergency messages from home will come through the Peace Corps Office and you will receive these messages ASAP.
Off to the Village Training Site
On Friday, September 17, you will move to one of five community-based training sites on the north coast of Efate Island. There will be between six and ten trainees at each of the five villages or sub-villages. For you to better experience life in a real village it is important that we spread your class out. You will be introduced to your host families upon arrival and then you will be off to settle-in to your new homes for next six weeks. The idea behind community-based training (CBT) is that you will have the opportunity to learn language and culture by immersion. There will be formal language sessions, but a significant amount of your training will be with your village host family and as you “live” in the village. We will be promoting self-directed learning (SDL) in your PST, confident in you as adults, and given the opportunity, you will figure things out. You will be gathering with your small cluster group for language training each day and on occasion some small group activity work. There will be two training staff living in each of the villages. Again, we believe that the best learning comes from being allowed to figure things out in a safe and supportive environment. After a few weeks in the village, you will have a chance to visit a Volunteer at his or her site. This will give you an opportunity to see how a particular Volunteer has adjusted to life in a rural Vanuatu community.
Your training group is officially known as Group 23. You will be officially referred to as Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs), pending successful completion of your pre-service training. Your official swearing-in ceremony marks the status change from PCT to PCV. When you finish your service here in Vanuatu you will become an RPCV, retaining that title virtually forever.
Pre-Service Training Basics and Expectations
The training program will model an approach to development by providing opportunities that encourage critical thinking, creative problem-solving, information gathering and analysis, flexibility, patience, professionalism, adaptability, and self-sufficiency.
Once you arrive and over the first few weeks we will dazzle you with technical training terms and detailed competencies, but the bottom-line is, we want to prepare you to go to site with confidence, knowing the basics, but also knowing that your support staff will be there to back you up and provide additional assistance should you need it. Here are a few of the basics that you will grasp during the short 8 week pre-service training:
Develop a sufficient command of Bislama to enable you to communicate effectively. Enhance your interpersonal skills and self-sufficiency to allow you to feel comfortable in the Vanuatu culture and to meet your personal needs and job objectives in a culturally acceptable way. Develop an understanding of your technical assignment and develop the skills necessary to perform your job. Understand what is expected of you as Volunteers, enabling you to set personal and professional goals and to measure your progress in achieving these goals. Clarify your role as a professional in Vanuatu, and build your skills to adapt and work effectively within local systems and to gain the respect and cooperation of colleagues and supervisors. Develop an understanding of the Peace Corps mission, Post‟s vision, and your role as a professional development worker in Vanuatu. Understand Peace Corps Vanuatu policies, goals, and support systems. Develop effective skills for making the transition to a new culture using observation, information gathering, and validation. Develop skills that enable you to manage loneliness, isolation, and stress effectively, while also understanding basic nutrition, hygiene, and personal health and safety. Develop an understanding of environmental issues in Vanuatu. Be exposed to the realities of being a Volunteer and encouraged to examine your motivation and commitment to two years of Volunteer service.
The following is a breakdown of your training program while serving as a Peace Corps Trainee and Volunteer here in Vanuatu:
Pre-Service Training (PST)
September 12 through November 4
Arrival Orientation (September 12-17)
Community-based Training plus Host Volunteer Visit (September 18-November 4)
Official Swearing-in Ceremony (November 4)
PST Phase II
January –March 2011
You will join the members of your class that are in the same project for two weeks of technical training.
Early Mid-Service In-Service Training (EMSIST)
Like the Phase II training you will gather with your project comrades for technical training.
Year 2 Self-Directed In-Service Training (SeDIST)
An opportunity to design and implement project and assignment specific in-service training.
Close of Service Conference (COS)
A chance to assess your service and begin preparations for departure (unless you decide to extend and even then, this is your COS Conference.