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Cambodia has a long, rich and complex history. Cambodians are proud of their culture and their ancient past, but at the same time they are still recovering from the tragedies of their more recent history. The near-total destruction by the Khmer Rouge of the nation’s educated workforce and infrastructure during the period 1975–1979 left Cambodia with a serious need for trained and educated people. Most Cambodians are eager to improve their lives and they view acquiring English language skills as a means to help accomplish this goal.
Although the Peace Corps and the Royal Government of Cambodia signed an agreement in 1994, political instability and budgetary constraints did not allow Peace Corps to establish a post in Cambodia until 2006. An assessment completed by the Peace Corps in 2005 found that the administrative and security infrastructure in Cambodia was sound, and that the opportunities for Volunteers to work safely and effectively had improved significantly. While Cambodia’s development needs are great, and much of the country’s infrastructure is still lacking, there are enough supports in place to ensure safe and productive assignments for Peace Corps Volunteers.
Peace Corps is launching its program in Cambodia with a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) project. This project is geared toward classroom teaching of English at the upper secondary level. It will also support teachers in Cambodian provinces and districts to improve their English language and English teaching skills. The first group of TEFL Volunteers will arrive in Phnom Penh in February 2007. The scope of the Volunteers’ work, however, will not be limited to classroom teaching. Volunteers will collaborate with community groups and individuals to develop community-initiated projects, promote life skills, and achieve sustainable community activities, enhancing the quality of life for Cambodians in the communities where Volunteers serve.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Cambodia
The Royal Government of Cambodia first invited the Peace Corps to open a program in Cambodia in November 1992. An assessment team was sent the following year, which resulted in a country agreement being signed on October 3, 1994. However, the political situation was found to be too unstable for Volunteers to be sent at that time. A second assessment team visited in 1996 and, although an improvement in the political and safety situation was noted, these concerns and budget constraints resulted in a decision not to establish a presence in Cambodia. In 2004, the Ministry of Education again expressed an interest in the Peace Corps establishing a program and in 2005, officials of the Royal Government of Cambodia concurred. This time the assessment team found the administrative and security infrastructure to be sound and the opportunities for Peace Corps Volunteers to work safely and effectively had improved significantly.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Cambodia
Peace Corps/Cambodia Volunteers will live with host families throughout their service. Since most high schools are at the district level, most education Volunteers live in provincial and district towns. Health centers are located at the commune or village level, so health education Volunteers will be in smaller towns. In the district towns, some homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, including toilets and cold water showers. Electricity is not available at every site. Drinking water must be boiled,filtered, or purchased. Other basic amenities such as soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, lotion, stationery, sodas, and instant coffee should be available in provincial or district centers.
Main article: Training in Cambodia
Peace Corps/Cambodia’s training program is community-based and will prepare you to live and work safely and productively at your site for the first three to six months. In this training model, four or five trainees will live and study in villages located near a central hub site in a larger town. Most language, cross-cultural and technical sessions and activities will occur in the training village. Throughout pre-service training, you will occasionally go to the hub site, where you will study with the larger group for one or two days. You will live with a Cambodian host family in your training village, which will help you learn about and adjust to Khmer culture and practice your Khmer language skills. You will also take part in various cultural activities and excursions, as well as visit your future permanent site.
There are very few important items that you cannot find in the markets of Phnom Penh. The things that are really hard to find are often things that are commonly available (like clothes and shoes), but that are only available in small sizes that will fit Cambodian people. Be sure to bring:
• Sturdy shoes that fit (you may want both sport sandals such as Tevas/Chacos and hiking boots—both are unavailable in-country) • Cotton underwear for both men and women (especially bras and sports bras) • Rain gear (for riding your bike in the rain)
Packing for training
Most of the information below is oriented toward your life as a Volunteer. However, it is important to remember that for your first two months you will be in training. While in training, your meals, transport and lodging will be provided. Be sure to bring enough appropriate clothing to last you at least a week (as finding time to do laundry during training will be difficult) and everything else, such as toiletries and other consumables, to last for two months. After your training period, you will have more access to shopping and can buy whatever you need for the longer term.
• Two or three pairs of lightweight pants (jeans can be hot, but bring them if you like them because chances are you won’t find your size here) • Five to seven T-shirts/tops • Sweatshirt or fleece top (it can get chilly in the cold season) • A windbreaker or raincoat • Athletic clothes—if you work out • Baseball cap or other hat
For Women, also bring • Four or five work outfits (usually a light-colored blouse and a dark-colored skirt (calf-length) or pants) • Bathing suit (a one-piece is best) • A good supply of bras and cotton underwear, including sports bras • Athletic braces if you need them
For Men, also bring • Five or six dress shirts (white or light blue are best) • Four or five casual dress pants • One necktie • Bathing trunks (Speedo-style swimsuits are not recommended) • Athletic supports and braces if you need them Shoes • One pair of casual dress shoes for work • One pair of sport sandals (e.g., Tevas/Chacos) • One pair of athletic shoes • One or two pairs of slip-on shoes (you will often have to take off your shoes before entering a building)
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
The Peace Corps medical kit contains almost everything you will need for basic first-aid, though not necessarily in the brands you are accustomed to. You may want to bring a three- month supply of the following items to use during pre-service training. After training, you will be able to find a variety of these products in the local shops.
• Shampoo and conditioner • Deodorant • Good razor and supply of blades • Body lotion • Sunscreen • Allergy medication • Tampons or sanitary napkins • Two pairs of prescription glasses or contact lenses and solution Contact lens supplies (Cambodia is very dusty, and you may find that you can’t wear contacts at all. If you do wear contacts, be sure to bring glasses too just in case) • Three-month supply of any prescription medication you take (including birth control pills) • Nail clippers or nail care kit • Earplugs • Heat rash powder (Gold Bond is recommended) • Cosmetics
Remember, there is not enough room in your luggage for everything. Base your choices of what to bring on what is most important to you. You will not become a different person when you step onto the airplane. The things that are important to you in the U.S. are likely to be important to you in Cambodia as well.
• Sturdy backpacks (Small packs for work and bike rides; larger packs for trips) • Leatherman, Swiss army knife, or other multipurpose tool • Alarm clock (battery operated) • Good batteries (solar batteries or battery rechargers may be a good alternative) • A sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene) • A portable music player (e.g., Walkman/Discman/MP3/ iPod, etc.) and plenty of your favorite music • Camera and film or digital with extra flash cards • A voltage converter—if you are bringing any electronics • Flashlight or headlamp • Towel • One or two flat sheets and a pillowcase • Plastic bags (e.g., Ziplocs)—to protect your camera, iPod, food, etc. • Good scissors (hair-cutting scissors optional) • Sturdy sunglasses • Sturdy but inexpensive watch, preferably waterproof • Photos of your life in the United States to show to Cambodian friends • Small gifts from home for your host family during training and at site (magazines, coins, postcards, stamps, cool pens, etc.) • Contact information for resources in U.S. (former employers, colleges, organizations, etc.) • Credit card (Visa is the most widely accepted) or ATM card (traveler’s checks are not widely accepted or convenient to cash) for vacation travel • Things from home that will make you feel more comfortable (e.g., posters, books, journals, hobbies, music, photos)
Additional Items to Consider Bringing
• Visual aids for teaching • Art supplies • U.S. and world maps • Travel games (e.g., cards, chess, checkers, Frisbee, backgammon, Scrabble, Uno, Monopoly, Taboo, Trivial Pursuit, Risk) • Shortwave radio • Musical instrument • Calendar • Note cards, stationery, good writing pens, address book, books of U.S. stamps • Small toolkit (including vise grip) • Eyeglass repair kit Items You Do Not Need to Bring • Food • Heavy coat • A large quantity of clothes (tailors and fabric are readily available) • Short-shorts (if you bring shorts even for hanging out at the house, they should be knee-length) • Camouflage or military-style clothing • A lot of language materials • A lot of cash • A two-year supply of toiletries • Pots, pans, kitchen utensils, or cook stove • Water filter (provided by the Peace Corps, if needed) • Spaghetti strap tops or mini skirts
|Sector||Assignment||Beg. Yr||End. Yr|
|English Teacher Trainer||2007||2007|
|UNV||United Nations Volunteer||1991||2000|
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Contributions to the Cambodia Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Cambodia. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.