Training in Bolivia
Classes are conducted in the small communities outside the city of Cochabamba. At 8,000 feet above sea level, the Cochabamba area tends to be warm during the days, but a sweater or jacket may be needed after sunset. You will spend time with your entire training group at the nearby Peace Corps training center on Wednesdays.
By the end of training, you must demonstrate that you have completed the learning competencies within all of the training components (technical, language, cross cultural, health and safety, role of the Volunteer in development) before you are sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Most trainees are able to achieve these competencies, provided they give 100 percent of themselves during the training activities and make use of their time with their host family and within their host community to practice language and experience Bolivian culture.
Completion of the learning competencies is measured through a transparent staff evaluation process with each trainee. This process includes open feedback between each trainee and staff on learning progress. Peace Corps staff evaluates each trainee's demonstrated motivation, productive competence, emotional maturity, social sensitivity, ability to adjust to Bolivian culture, and general cultural awareness. Written exams within each training component also form part of the fulfillment of the learning competencies and the evaluation process. A trainee who does not complete the learning competencies will not be recommended to the Peace Corps/ Bolivia country director for swearing-in as a Volunteer. The country director makes the final decision whether a trainee will be sworn-in or separated from the Peace Corps.
Training is a time to reflect on your decision to serve as a Volunteer in Bolivia for the next two years of your life. We expect a strong commitment from Volunteers. If you develop doubts during training, you will have the opportunity to discuss your feelings and options with the Peace Corps staff and fellow trainees. Pre-service training is a dynamic, intense period of learning, and you should be prepared to work hard and commit to doing your best during this time.
Technical training will prepare you to work in Bolivia by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills that address the needs and goals of your project plan. Peace Corps/Bolivia staff, Bolivian experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training will include sessions on the economic and political environment in Bolivia and strategies for working within such a framework. You will become familiar with your technical sector’s plan and goals and will meet with your counterpart and the organizations that are collaborating with the Peace Corps to facilitate Bolivia’s development process.
You will be supported and evaluated throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and to be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Bolivian language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of up to four or five people. Additional weekend tutoring is also available.
Your language training will incorporate a multifaceted approach. In addition to classroom time, there will be field trips, a community development activity, and other assignments outside the classroom. One of the most important language-learning tools at your disposal is your host family. Time spent interacting with them will help you improve your ability to communicate within the context of Bolivian culture.
Unless you are already at an advanced level prior to arriving in Bolivia, your language training will focus on Spanish. While other languages are spoken in Bolivia, almost all communities have some residents who can communicate in Spanish. Whether you also receive instruction in a native language during pre-service training will depend on your level of Spanish, your site assignment, and input from your APCD. The goal of language training is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Bolivian host family in a small rural community near Cochabamba. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Prior to your arrival, your host family will participate in an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and help them identify ways to help you adapt to Bolivia. Out of respect for your host family, you must comply with Peace Corps/Bolivia’s policies regarding approved time away from your host community during training. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures. You will have a chance to practice these skills with other trainees in your host community through a unique community development activity designed by Peace Corps/Bolivia trainers.
Health and Safety Training
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Bolivia. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.
During safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Role of the Volunteer in Development
Through a variety of sessions, visits and guest speakers, you will be required to demonstrate your ability to work as a develoment facilitator. We will provide you with a “tool box” of techniques for use in your work as a Volunteer. The main areas addressed are gender analysis, working with community groups, development sustainability, and non-formal education. Included within this training component is a complete Community Development Activity (CDA) in which you will practice using the skills you learn.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually six training events. The titles and objectives for those events are as follows:
- Reconnect in-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to share their experiences and reaffirm their commitment after having served for three to four months.
- Language enhancement in-service training: Assists interested Volunteers in upgrading their language skills after having served for three to four months.
- Midterm conference: Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year and planning for their second year of service.
- Project meeting (biennial): Improves technical skills and promotes communication and support within project sectors.
- Project design workshop (done in conjunction with project meeting): Assists Volunteers and their counterparts in designing effective community projects and applying for outside funding.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.
There may be opportunities to attend additional specialized trainings offered to Volunteers in your project sector. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.