History of the Peace Corps in Cape Verde
From Peace Corps Wiki
Since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Cape Verde in 1988, approximately 330 Volunteers have served, working in education, agriculture, water and sanitation, urban development, community development, and small business. In the early years, Volunteer projects focused on TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language), agriculture extension, and water and sanitation. After 1997, the Peace Corps responded to Cape Verde’s request to strengthen local initiatives by establishing the community development project. Approximately 40 Volunteers are currently working throughout the country.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Cape Verde
Peace Corps/Cape Verde’s current program has two projects: education and community development. The Ministry of Education and the Peace Corps began their collaboration with the education project in 1988. The Education project allows Peace Corps teachers to share knowledge (content) and skills (methodologies) with Cape Verdean students, teachers, administrators, parents, organizations and communities in formal and informal education settings. Volunteers work in schools as TEFL teachers, TEFL teacher trainers and vocational education teachers.
The framework of the projects represents a shift from a primarily TEFL focus to greater community capacity building and developing more effective school-home-community-linkages. Volunteers advocate gender relationships and promote women’s participation to increase their status and opportunities. The project also educates students and the community in life skills and HIV/AIDS education; a new initiative in some schools includes computer training through the national high school information technology (IT) curriculum. Volunteers work with youth through sports summer camps and other community activities. A vocational education component enables Volunteers to teach professional trades such as carpentry and metal work at technical high schools. As the need for vocational and technical training increases, this component will grow. The community development project has a goal to empower local institutions—municipal government, youth centers, national government funded institutes and local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs)—and their social service providers to identify community needs and to respond with appropriate support. Volunteers provide support by building human resource capacity (i.e., helping people who are entering the job market for the first time and/or those seeking to enhance their skills), with a focus on youth, which will subsequently increase income levels of families and help alleviate poverty.
Most community development Volunteers work with the national program for youth (at regional youth centers)— assisting with IT training (from use of basic computer software to networking) and teaching English classes, helping the centers address major concerns for Cape Verdean youth such as teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reproductive health education, alcoholism and drugs, and transfer of HIV/AIDS information through life skills. Community development Volunteers also work with youth through music, sports, summer camps and other programs targeting the needs of young people at the community level.
Starting in 2004 and in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a Volunteer began working on an environmental biodiversity project, assisting the government to establish the first national reserves and parks in Cape Verde, and two more Volunteers are scheduled to work on this national protected areas pilot project.
Regardless of main project sector, Peace Corps Volunteers take an active role in activities related to four cross-cutting themes: working with youth, HIV/AIDS education, women in development/gender and development (WID/GAD) via the WID/GAD committee, and IT and computer education.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries and Cape Verde is not an exception. According to Ministry of Health estimates, since the beginning of the pandemic through December 2004, 1,489 Cape Verdeans have been infected with HIV, translating to a relatively low HIV prevalence rate. Of these identified cases, 800 (53.7 percent) contracted AIDS and 53 of those died from complications related to HIV/AIDS. At the end of 2004 there were 1,063 people living with HIV, and 374 of these with full-blown AIDS. In 2004 alone, 260 people became newly infected with HIV, and 123 of these people are living with AIDS. According to 2004 figures from the national HIV/AIDS Commission, 50 percent of HIV cases are between 25 and 49 years old; and among teens, girls accounted for more than half of new HIV-positive infections reported.
Though HIV prevalence rates are relatively low in Cape Verde, you will experience behaviors that may make you think twice about these figures. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize resources available throughout your training and service to share information and convey messages, while maintaining your own emotional strength, so that you can continue to be of service to your community. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.