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|Peace Corps Welcome Book|
Rebecca Lee 08/2009 to 02/2010
Small Enterprise Development
While Benin has seen economic growth over the past few years, it remains among the world's poorest countries. Human and material resources are often insufficient for the country to provide quality teaching for schoolchildren, to care for the health of families, to preserve and restore the natural environment, and to promote business skills. Peace Corps Volunteers are addressing these needs with a broad range of activities in business development, education, environment, and health. In a recent letter to the Peace Corps, former President Kerekou of Benin declared, "Your Volunteers offer to the citizens of my country a model and another view of what they themselves can contribute to the development of the Republic of Benin. The reports I receive from the people, as well as from the Ministers of my government, bear witness to the need and the durability of Peace Corps activities in Benin's development."
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Benin
Since 1968, more than 1,500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Benin. The initial program included projects in animal traction, small-farm grain storage, rice production, and secondary English education. From the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, the number of Volunteers in Benin remained at approximately 50. During the late 1970s, Peace Corps/Benin received fewer requests for assistance, and by 1980 only six Volunteers remained in-country. In 1981, the government of Benin (GOB) expressed renewed interest in having Volunteer assistance in implementing its new development plan, particularly in the areas of education, reforestation, and rural development. The Peace Corps responded by developing projects and recruiting Volunteers in those areas.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Benin
Peace Corps staff, in collaboration with the ministry for which you will work, will decide your post according to the needs of the country. This happens after Peace Corps staff reviews all sites for appropriateness, safety, and security and takes time to get to know each trainee during pre-service training. You may not know where you’ll be assigned until the last few weeks of your training program.
Main article: Training in Benin
The Peace Corps employs a community-based model during pre-service training. Community-based training is best described as discovery-oriented and self-directed. It is based on adult learning methods that emphasize individual responsibility for developing the competencies to function independently as a Volunteer. Training takes place in a village or town, where you will encounter the day-to-day realities of Volunteer life. You will live with a family, take care of your own needs, and work either independently or in small groups to accomplish tasks that build your skill levels. Each “learning group” will be assisted by a Beninese facilitator who will help you learn the necessary language skills to accomplish your living and work tasks. You will be assigned to a learning group based on your French language competency level and project assignment.
Training will be stressful at times as you try to learn new skills in a different and often confusing environment. Our highly experienced training staff is here to help you help yourself learn the skills necessary to become an effective Volunteer.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Benin
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer and trainee. Medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease. The medical unit in Cotonou is staffed by two full-time doctors, one receptionist, and two laboratory technologists. Limited laboratory testing and radiographic studies are also available at local facilities. If a Volunteer becomes seriously ill, the Volunteer will be transported to either a regionally approved facility or to another country as determined by the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Benin
In Benin, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteer behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context that may be very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in certain host countries.
Outside of the capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. Foreigners justly know the people of Benin for their generous hospitality; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We ask you to be supportive of one another.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues in Benin
- Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Benin
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Benin?
- What is the electric current in Benin?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Benin friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Benin?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing List for Benin
These lists have been compiled by Volunteers serving in Benin and are based on their experiences. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You can always have things sent to you later. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Benin. Clothing can very easily be tailor-made from local fabrics. Second-hand clothing is also very popular across Benin and is available in many markets. It is not necessary to bring a large amount of clothing. Nice-quality shoes and sandals can also be made incountry. Luggage should be durable, lightweight, and easy to carry as you will be responsible for transporting it in-country. Duffel bags and backpacks without frames work well. A good backpack is priceless because you will likely travel in-country regularly. Almost all the basic items you need can be found here; however, they may not be good quality or they may be expensive. So, if you are particular about something, bring lots!
Main article: Volunteer projects of Peace Corps in Benin
Peace Corps Volunteers in Benin have initiated many projects in Peace Corps and some have started websites to promote these projects in Benin and abroad. Some RPCVs have started American nonprofits to provide continued support to the projects they initiated during their Peace Corps service.
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Benin Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Benin. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Benin
- Sites where volunteers have served in Benin
- Inspector General Reports
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- List of resources for Benin