Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Rwanda" and "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Togo"

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{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
 
{{Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles by country}}
===Communications===
 
  
====Mail====
+
==Communication==
  
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we
+
===Mail ===
take for granted in the United States. Mail takes a minimum
+
of two weeks to arrive in Rwanda. Some mail may simply not
+
arrive (fortunately, this is not a frequent occurrence, but it
+
does happen). We do not want to sound discouraging, but
+
when someone is thousands of miles away from families and
+
friends, communication can become a very sensitive issue.
+
We would prefer you be forewarned of the reality of mail
+
service in the developing world. Advise your family and
+
friends to number their letters and to include “Airmail” and
+
“Par Avion” on their envelopes.
+
  
The amount of time it takes for mail to reach Volunteers is as
+
There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between the Peace Corps Office in Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.  
varied as their sites. Airmail from the United States to major
+
cities in Rwanda will take about two weeks. More remote
+
post offices receive mail less frequently, and sometimes a
+
local courier is employed to ferry mail from isolated villages
+
to trading centers. Although mail is sent regularly from the
+
Peace Corps office, the timing of its receipt depends on the
+
location of the Volunteer’s site.
+
  
We strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly
+
During your pre-service training and throughout your service you may receive letters and packages at the following address:
(perhaps weekly or biweekly) and to number your letters.
+
Family members will typically become worried when they do
+
not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and
+
relatives that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry
+
if they do not receive your letters regularly.
+
  
Packages normally take about four to five months to reach
+
PCT / PCV “your name”
Rwanda from the United States if sent via surface mail.
+
Volunteers are requested to follow the mailing procedures
+
described in the Peace Corps/Rwanda Volunteer Handbook.
+
Your address during training will be:
+
  
PC/Rwanda <br>
+
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 5657 <br>
+
Kigali, Rwanda <br>
+
  
It is your responsibility to forward the postal address at
+
B.P. 3194
your site (once you know it) to the Peace Corps office in
+
Kigali so mail can be routed directly to you. Remember that
+
it is important to keep in regular contact with relatives and
+
friends, not just for them but also for you. Write often so no
+
one has cause to worry, which a lapse in letters for any period
+
of time has been known to create.
+
  
Once at your site, you will receive a notification slip in your post
+
Lomé, Togo
box when you receive a package. Respond promptly; the sooner
+
you pick up the package, the cheaper storage fees will be.
+
Trainees and Volunteers are responsible for mailing personal
+
letters and packages. Airmail letters and stamps are available
+
at local post offices.
+
  
====Telephones====
+
West Africa
  
Most large cities and provincial capitals have domestic longdistance
+
===Telephones ===
service; regional centers and some large cities also
+
provide overseas telephone service. In some locations, the
+
service is fast and efficient; in others, it may take several
+
hours to get calls through.
+
  
Cellular telephones and service are available in Rwanda,
+
Togo has a good communications system compared to neighboring countries. A telephone system links all the regional and district capitals, and these lines are fairly reliable (except during the rainy season when breakdowns do happen). The telephone systems in Lomé and within other urban areas are reliable, and there is work in progress to double the capacity of these systems.  
especially in Kigali and larger towns. SIM cards are inexpensive
+
and can be found in Kigali. Peace Corps does not require
+
Volunteers to purchase a phone, but Volunteers may choose to
+
buy a phone and service once they reach their sites and have a
+
clear idea of the network coverage in the area.
+
  
Domestic calls: Volunteers are responsible for all toll charges
+
Peace Corps Volunteers can easily communicate via telephone with their families. This does not mean that you will have a telephone available at your site, but all regional capitals offer good phone service to the U.S. Phone continues to improve as more and more “cabines” set up shop throughout the country. Volunteers generally arrange in advance to receive phone calls from people in the United States, which makes it much less expensive than calling the United States from Togo.  Volunteers are not permitted to make personal calls from the Peace Corps office in Lomé, but they may receive calls there.  Collect calls, or calls to 1-800 numbers, cannot be made from Togo to the United States. There is a five-hour time difference between Togo and the U.S. East Coast (four during Daylight Savings Time).  
on calls, but you may call the Peace Corps/Kigali office collect
+
or reverse charges if it is an emergency. Peace Corps/Rwanda
+
will provide a monthly telecommunications allowance to cover
+
official and emergency phone calls.
+
  
Overseas calls: The Peace Corps occasionally authorizes a
+
Cell phone reception is expanding through Togo and most Volunteers end up buying cell phones while serving in Togo.  However, owning a cell phone is not required by Peace Corps and can sometimes be expensive on a Volunteer allowance. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of cell phone reception at individual Volunteer sites.  
Volunteer to call home because of a family emergency. When
+
you receive such notification from the Peace Corps, you may
+
pay for toll charges and bring the receipt to the Peace Corps
+
office for reimbursement. Volunteers will be responsible
+
for personal overseas calls, which can be made from their
+
cellphones for a higher charge per minute. Many Volunteers
+
choose to call home and ask their families to call them back
+
on their cellphones, as cellphones can make and receive
+
international calls.
+
  
====Computer, Internet, and Email Access====
+
There are fax lines linking Togo with other countries all over the world. Lomé has most of the fax capability, but some regional capitals have fax lines as well.
  
Internet access is available at post offices and cybercafés
+
===Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access ===
in towns and cities, but can be slow and costly. Because
+
Internet use appears to be primarily for personal reasons,
+
you are expected to use your living and telecommunications
+
allowances to cover your Internet costs. Designated
+
computers in the resource center at the PC/Kigali office do
+
have Internet access. You are welcome to use these, though
+
priority is given to Volunteers who are getting ready to
+
finish their service, to assist them with graduate school and
+
job applications. Volunteers are prohibited from using staff
+
computers in all offices.
+
  
===Housing and Site Location===
+
Internet service providers operate in Togo and Internet cafés are becoming more readily available all over the country.  Internet phone availability provides a cheaper option than landlines. Internet connections may be slow and prices vary.
  
As a Volunteer, you will most likely live in a small town or
+
==Housing and Site Location ==
rural community, and not have access to indoor plumbing or
+
electricity. Expect to use lamps and candles for lighting and to
+
cook using a single-burner kerosene stove, wood, or charcoal.
+
  
The standards and conditions of Volunteer housing vary
+
Volunteers in Togo are provided housing as part of the community’s contribution to their work. Most Togo Volunteers live in villages in a two or three-room house, most likely in a compound with a Togolese family. Some Volunteer houses have tin roofs; a few have straw roofs. It is unlikely that you will have running water or electricity although they are more common in larger city posts. Water sources in villages can be traditional wells, bore-holes equipped with pumps, cisterns, and natural water sources—in some cases, rivers. Whatever your source of drinking water, you will have to treat it before use.  
widely, from mud houses with thatched roofs to very modern
+
cement houses with running water and electricity. The type
+
of house you have will depend on your project, the area of
+
the country to which you are posted, and the types of houses
+
available in the community. You may also be required to share
+
housing with other staff or to live in a room behind a shop at
+
a market center. You can expect to have, at the very least, a
+
room to call your own. The decision as to whether housing
+
standards are “acceptable” lies with the Peace Corps staff.
+
When it comes to your housing, you should not lose sight of
+
the guiding goal of the Peace Corps. Maintain your focus on
+
service to the people of Rwanda and not on the level of your
+
accommodations.
+
  
Because Peace Corps Volunteers are often posted in poor rural
+
==Living Allowance and Money Management ==
areas to work with communities with little or no money for
+
housing, the Peace Corps sets minimum housing standards:
+
  
* There must be at least a private, lockable room if housing is shared with other people.
+
As a Volunteer, you receive a monthly living allowance sufficient to live at a modest level in your community. You will also receive a settling-in allowance to defray the initial costs of setting up a household. Both allowances are paid in local currency. The living allowance is deposited into Volunteers’ bank accounts on a quarterly basis, which means that you have to manage your money well to avoid running out before the end of the quarter. Many Volunteers’ bank accounts are in one of the five regional capitals, which means that you will normally take at least one trip to the regional capital each month. It is inadvisable to keep large sums of money at home.  
* The room should have windows.
+
* The roof should not leak.
+
* There should be a cement floor and a place for a Volunteer to take a bucket bath or shower.
+
* There should be a latrine that is private or semiprivate (not used by all schoolchildren at a school, but perhaps shared by other staff members).
+
* The Volunteer will be expected to use the same water source as the community.
+
  
Your site assignment is made during pre-service training,
+
==Food and Diet ==
in collaboration with the training staff. The assignment is
+
based on their assessment and recommendation regarding
+
community needs and your skill levels in the technical,
+
cross-cultural, and language areas. You will be interviewed
+
prior to an actual placement decision so additional personal
+
preferences can be considered in making the site assignment.
+
Site placements are made using the following criteria (in
+
priority order):
+
  
* Medical considerations
+
Your diet will consist of locally grown foods or a combination of local and imported tinned foods. A typical Togolese meal is a carbohydrate base (rice, yams, pâte (boiled corn meal or flour) or fufu (pounded white yams), accompanied by a variety of hot, spicy sauces. Rice and beans, usually eaten at breakfast, is another common meal. Meat is available throughout Togo but it is expensive; fresh fish is only available in larger towns.
* Government of Rwanda needs
+
* Site requirements (community needs) matched with demonstrated technical, cross-cultural, and language skills
+
* Peace Corps/Rwanda needs
+
* Personal preference of the trainee
+
  
The final decisions on site placement are made by the Peace
+
Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, occasionally making it difficult for vegetarians to adhere to a sound diet, especially in the more remote areas. Sme Volunteers plant vegetable gardens to supplement their diet. If not, you can find most of your food in the nearest cities or weekly markets. Smaller villages often provide only basic food supplies. You may need to travel to larger towns for vegetables and specific items, especially during dry season.
Corps staff. If you choose not to go to the site assigned to you,
+
you will be given the opportunity to terminate your service
+
with the Peace Corps.
+
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
+
==Transportation ==
  
Each Volunteer receives a monthly allowance sufficient
+
Togo’s main national highway runs the length of the country.  Most of the road is in good condition, but some parts are in poor repair. There are several other sections of paved road, some in good condition, others not. Most of the local roads in Togo are sand or dirt—very dusty in the dry season, very muddy in the rainy season.  
to cover basic costs. The allowance enables you to live
+
adequately according to the Peace Corps’ philosophy of a
+
modest lifestyle. It is based on the local cost of living and
+
is paid in local currency. Your living allowance is intended
+
to cover food, housing, clothing, transportation from home
+
to worksite, utilities, household supplies, recreation and
+
entertainment, incidental personal expenses, communications,
+
and reading material.
+
  
===Food and Diet===
+
When traveling around the country, you will use varying types of transportation. Lomé has many private taxis. Taxis also travel frequently between Lomé and the larger towns in the interior. This taxi travel tends to be fairly irregular and uncomfortable, but always interesting. You will be given an all-terrain bicycle and helmet for your transportation needs at your site. Failure to wear a helmet can result in administrative separation from the Peace Corps.
  
In most parts of Rwanda there is a wide choice of foods,
+
Use of motorcycles by Peace Corps Volunteers is generally prohibited. However, there is a new transportation policy in Togo, allowing a few specific Volunteers in isolated posts to ride as passengers on motorcycles while traveling to their sites. These Volunteers must wear motorcycle helmets, provided by Peace Corps. More details on this policy will be provided upon arrival in Togo.  
ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables (such as cabbage,
+
avocadoes, mangoes, bananas, carrots, and passion fruit) to
+
starches (such as potatoes, plantains, corn, rice, and cassava)
+
to meats (primarily goat and beef, with some chicken and
+
fish). With a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet. Fruits
+
and vegetables are seasonal, which means some items may not
+
be available at all times. Vegetarian Volunteers will have little
+
difficulty in continuing their diets after becoming familiar with
+
local food items and their preparation.
+
  
===Transportation===
+
Distance from the villages to the prefectoral and regional capitals could be anywhere from 10 to 60 kilometers. While some Volunteers like biking these distances, others prefer taking local public transportation, such as bush taxis, to the nearest mail point, bank, or shopping location. There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers.  Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.
  
All Volunteers will be expected to travel in Rwanda using local
+
The bottom line, and unfortunately the reality of life in Togo, is that travel is inherently more risky here than what one would experience using public transportation in the United States. Peace Corps Volunteers find that their bikes are sufficient for most work-related travel. In addition, Volunteers are clustered so that most are within a bike ride of another Volunteer. It is usually necessary, however, to use local transport (e.g., bush taxis) when traveling long distances. By and large, the vehicles (usually mini-buses or Toyota station wagons) are old and poorly maintained, and it is unlikely that many of the drivers will win safe-driving awards anytime soon!
transportation (i.e., foot, public buses, or vans). This includes
+
getting from your training center to your site both during and
+
at the end of pre-service training.
+
  
Volunteers may not own or operate motorized vehicles, but
+
Peace Corps/Togo provides a shuttle bus service, the Lomé Limo, that runs from the north of the country to the capital and back once a month. Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to limit transport via bush taxi. When it is necessary to use bush taxis, you are encouraged to select what appears to be the safest vehicle available and to go with drivers whose driving habits are known and reasonable. When you find yourself in what you consider an unsafe situation (e.g., a driver traveling too fast despite having been asked to slow down), you should demand to be let out of the vehicle immediately. The best strategy, however, is to minimize travel via public transport and to avoid all nighttime travel.  
they are allowed to rent vehicles during approved vacation
+
periods. Trainees and Volunteers are not allowed to drive any
+
vehicle during training or at their sites.
+
  
===Social Activities===
+
==Geography and Climate ==
  
The most common form of entertainment is socializing among
+
Togo is a small country on the West African Coast. Only 50 kilometers wide in sections, it stretches 600 kilometers inland from the Gulf of Guinea to the savanna of Burkina Faso in the north. Situated between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east, it is roughly the size of West Virginia. Togo supports a diverse population of nearly 5 million and has more than 40 ethnic groups and languages.  
friends and neighbors. Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers
+
on weekends and holidays. The Peace Corps encourages
+
Volunteers to remain at their sites as much as possible to
+
develop relationships with community members, but it also
+
recognizes that they need to make occasional trips to regional
+
centers and to visit friends.
+
  
You will find it easy to make friends in your community and
+
Togo’s geography is mainly savanna-like, although some areas in the center of the country are fairly hilly. The rainy season lasts from June to September in the North and from May to October in the South. The rest of the year is dry and dominated by dry harmattan winds coming off the Sahara.  Temperatures range from the seventies and eighties in the south, to the eighties and nineties in the north. In the months before the rains, the temperatures can be higher, reaching the low hundreds in the north.  
to participate in weddings, funerals, birthday celebrations,
+
and other social events. It is impossible to overemphasize the
+
rewards of establishing that rapport with one’s supervisors,
+
co-workers, and other community members. A sincere effort to
+
learn the local language will greatly facilitate these interactions.
+
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
+
==Social Activities ==
  
Volunteers will find that most Rwandans are very hard
+
Togolese are extremely social, and most social activities center around community events. Various ceremonies and fêtes are held throughout the year and Volunteer attendance is always well appreciated. In addition, Volunteers get together on different occasions, even if it is just for a regional meeting. Your social life will be as busy as you care to make it.  
working. They expect the same of all foreigners, including
+
Volunteers, and expect them to conduct themselves in a
+
mature and professional manner.
+
  
Present-day transformations have made managers hesitant
+
==Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ==
to confront issues, provide constructive criticism or to simply
+
say "no" when they feel it might result in conflict. Volunteers
+
will have to find ways of creating comfortable working
+
relationships at all levels of the organization and in the
+
community.
+
  
The business culture in Rwanda presents a unique set of
+
Togolese, like people everywhere, will make judgments about you in terms of how you act and how you dress. Dress in the West African context is a sign of respect and professionalism – one shows respect for colleagues by how they dress. While appropriate dress and behavior will be discussed during pre-service training, you will also take your cues from your colleagues once you are at your site. Togolese business attire—at least outside Lomé—tends to be more casual than in the United States. You will find, however, that your Togolese counterparts are invariably well groomed and wear pressed, clean clothing. Tight, form-fitting clothing for women or clothing exposing the stomach, back, or shoulders is almost never appropriate. The same is true for shorts for both men and women during professional meetings, be they in your village or in the regional capital.  
challenges. The Volunteer will need to gain a thorough
+
understanding of the host culture and then work to adapt
+
strategies to fit within acceptable practices. For example, the
+
process of giving direct feedback, which in the United States
+
is expected, may be interpreted as rudeness or disrespect by
+
your Rwandan colleagues. Women, particularly young women,
+
and younger Volunteers need to be aware of a very different
+
gender and age dynamic in Rwanda. Gaining the respect of
+
colleagues and traditional leaders may require more effort
+
than you may expect.
+
  
It is likely that you are curious about the events of 1994,
+
==Personal Safety ==
specifically the genocide, and how the people you will meet
+
and work with survived during that extremely tragic time.
+
Rwandans do have their personal stories about the events of
+
1994, but it is extremely insensitive to broach this subject or
+
ask questions. Rwandans, although polite and friendly, can be
+
rather reserved about sharing intimate details without first
+
establishing a relationship based on trust. Thus, you should
+
refrain from asking questions about the genocide, but rather
+
allow people to tell you their stories as they feel comfortable
+
and ready.
+
  
Rwandans are conservative in professional and casual attire.
+
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their 2 years of service without personal safety problems. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Togo. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.  
It is considered disrespectful to be dressed too casual or
+
in an untidy manner. The settings in which Volunteers are
+
placed make this a particularly important consideration. Men
+
wear trousers such as chinos and button-down shirts in work
+
settings. Jackets and ties are occasional requirements. Blue
+
jeans, T-shirts, and very casual sandals are not considered
+
professional attire. Shorts should only be worn when
+
engaged in athletic activities. Women wear dresses, skirts, or
+
trouser suits with tunic style tops in both work and leisure
+
environments. Short, low cut garments are not appropriate
+
for women. You must be willing to comply with acceptable
+
Rwandan social norms of dress and grooming. This may require
+
that you modify the manner of dress to which you are presently
+
accustomed. Men must wear their hair neat. Dreadlocks are
+
not appropriate. Facial piercing should be kept to a minimum,
+
with discreet studs. Accommodating Rwandan sensitivities in
+
dress and grooming will greatly facilitate your own professional
+
credibility and effectiveness in your assignment.
+
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
+
==Rewards and Frustrations ==
  
Challenges are many in this placement. If this were not the
+
What is considered a challenge or a reward varies from person to person, but certainly you will find yourself having to adapt to a different perception of time and productivity. Female Volunteers will have to deal with the reality that Togo is very much a patriarchal society, meaning that men are generally accorded more power and respect than women simply because of their gender. You may spend a lot of the time being totally baffled as to why things are turning out as they are.  
case, there would be no need for Volunteers! The Rwandan
+
government has very high expectations for the performance
+
and work of expatriates, even those who are Volunteers.
+
  
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will be expected to act
+
The potential rewards, however, far outweigh any challenges.  You will almost inevitably find yourself part of a close-knit community unlike anything you have experienced in America.  You will receive the satisfaction of being able to share your good fortune with those less fortunate and knowing that you are participating in the most pressing development issues that Togo faces: including the fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty.  By the end of your 2 years of service, you will find that you have grown immeasurably and have become a citizen of the world.  
professionally and maturely at all times, as your behavior
+
on and off the job will be noticed. Some challenges
+
which Volunteers find most difficult to deal with are: the
+
psychological aftermath of the genocide; the poverty of many
+
community members; the overwhelming number of orphans
+
and the difficulty in envisioning how to assist them; issues
+
of death and dying; limited resources and minimal facilities
+
and the misuse of resources which do exist; hunger among
+
children; beliefs which limit the ability to implement “simple”
+
solutions to enormous problems; too many demands placed
+
by the community; the sense that there is too much to do;
+
the need to slow down and understand; and the lack of
+
organization and collaboration among partner agencies.
+
  
It is difficult to share these challenges in such a limited way,
+
[[Category:Togo]]
as each is so complex. Coping with them, as well as with
+
the challenges that come from daily life, demands flexibility,
+
patience, humility, and good humor. It is not possible for a
+
Volunteer to "fix" things. Volunteers work creatively to get
+
around the fact that there are so few resources available, or that
+
the systems to deliver resources are in their infancy. Volunteers
+
develop relationships with community members, build trust
+
among the various stakeholders in the health system, and find
+
ways to motivate the staff of health facilities and organizations
+
about their role in contributing to the well-being of their service
+
areas and communities. Each activity Volunteers become
+
involved in brings its own reward, small steps forward, enjoyable
+
moments, “Aha!” experiences, and a sense of connection. With
+
all the "challenges," it is nonetheless universally agreed upon by
+
Volunteers: We gain more than we could ever hope to give.
+
 
+
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many
+
Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled
+
education systems, while illness and disability drain family
+
income and force governments and donors to redirect limited
+
resources from other priorities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you
+
will confront these issues on a very personal level. 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. Some Volunteers
+
will be meeting and working with people who are HIV positive
+
and living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to
+
embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner.
+
Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and
+
other unintentional injuries, domestic violence, alcoholism, and
+
corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront.
+
You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive
+
resources available throughout your training and service to
+
maintain your own emotional strength, so you can continue to be
+
of service to your community.
+
 
+
Although working in Rwanda can be a tremendously gratifying
+
experience, the new life and job you are considering will be
+
challenging. Please take some time to seriously reflect on
+
your decision to live and work in Rwanda. Working in Rwanda
+
requires great sensitivity and maturity related to the genocide.
+
We encourage you to exercise caution when discussing the
+
genocide. As you work and interact on a daily basis with the
+
people of Rwanda, you may notice that almost everyone has a
+
story, and the genocide (to which most Rwandans refer simply
+
as “the war”) pervades nearly every aspect of society. Working
+
in Rwanda will require an understanding of and respect for
+
historical events and their aftermath. As a Volunteer you might
+
experience the “gacaca,” a process during which suspected
+
génocidaires are brought to justice. The death penalty is
+
not permitted and generally the punishment is to work on a
+
neighbor’s field, to repay the cost of stolen goods, or to perform
+
general public works. Non-Rwandans are not permitted to
+
attend gacaca and the Rwandan government has been very
+
careful to ensure that this somewhat private process continues
+
to be locally owned and driven, without outside influence.
+
Rwanda has made great strides in its reconciliation, but its
+
wounds have not yet fully healed. Genocide memorials, which
+
you will be visiting as part of pre-service training (PST), are
+
scattered across the country and are integral to understanding
+
the extent of the trauma suffered by the Rwandan people. In
+
an effort to unify the country and, hopefully, make the ethnic
+
divisions a thing of the past, the post-conflict government
+
has instituted a policy that ethnicity no longer exists and that
+
everyone is simply Rwandan. It is illegal in Rwanda to inquire
+
about or discuss ethnicity, as this is perceived as divisive, and
+
one can be prosecuted for doing so.
+
 
+
Lastly, while Rwanda is considered to be a peaceful country,
+
we urge you to exercise vigilance and use common sense
+
during your service. We strongly discourage cultural or safety-related
+
"adventurism" that can put you at risk.
+
 
+
 
+
See also: [[Rwanda]]
+

Latest revision as of 12:27, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

Communication[edit]

Mail[edit]

There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between the Peace Corps Office in Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.

During your pre-service training and throughout your service you may receive letters and packages at the following address:

PCT / PCV “your name”

Corps de la Paix

B.P. 3194

Lomé, Togo

West Africa

Telephones[edit]

Togo has a good communications system compared to neighboring countries. A telephone system links all the regional and district capitals, and these lines are fairly reliable (except during the rainy season when breakdowns do happen). The telephone systems in Lomé and within other urban areas are reliable, and there is work in progress to double the capacity of these systems.

Peace Corps Volunteers can easily communicate via telephone with their families. This does not mean that you will have a telephone available at your site, but all regional capitals offer good phone service to the U.S. Phone continues to improve as more and more “cabines” set up shop throughout the country. Volunteers generally arrange in advance to receive phone calls from people in the United States, which makes it much less expensive than calling the United States from Togo. Volunteers are not permitted to make personal calls from the Peace Corps office in Lomé, but they may receive calls there. Collect calls, or calls to 1-800 numbers, cannot be made from Togo to the United States. There is a five-hour time difference between Togo and the U.S. East Coast (four during Daylight Savings Time).

Cell phone reception is expanding through Togo and most Volunteers end up buying cell phones while serving in Togo. However, owning a cell phone is not required by Peace Corps and can sometimes be expensive on a Volunteer allowance. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of cell phone reception at individual Volunteer sites.

There are fax lines linking Togo with other countries all over the world. Lomé has most of the fax capability, but some regional capitals have fax lines as well.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access[edit]

Internet service providers operate in Togo and Internet cafés are becoming more readily available all over the country. Internet phone availability provides a cheaper option than landlines. Internet connections may be slow and prices vary.

Housing and Site Location[edit]

Volunteers in Togo are provided housing as part of the community’s contribution to their work. Most Togo Volunteers live in villages in a two or three-room house, most likely in a compound with a Togolese family. Some Volunteer houses have tin roofs; a few have straw roofs. It is unlikely that you will have running water or electricity although they are more common in larger city posts. Water sources in villages can be traditional wells, bore-holes equipped with pumps, cisterns, and natural water sources—in some cases, rivers. Whatever your source of drinking water, you will have to treat it before use.

Living Allowance and Money Management[edit]

As a Volunteer, you receive a monthly living allowance sufficient to live at a modest level in your community. You will also receive a settling-in allowance to defray the initial costs of setting up a household. Both allowances are paid in local currency. The living allowance is deposited into Volunteers’ bank accounts on a quarterly basis, which means that you have to manage your money well to avoid running out before the end of the quarter. Many Volunteers’ bank accounts are in one of the five regional capitals, which means that you will normally take at least one trip to the regional capital each month. It is inadvisable to keep large sums of money at home.

Food and Diet[edit]

Your diet will consist of locally grown foods or a combination of local and imported tinned foods. A typical Togolese meal is a carbohydrate base (rice, yams, pâte (boiled corn meal or flour) or fufu (pounded white yams), accompanied by a variety of hot, spicy sauces. Rice and beans, usually eaten at breakfast, is another common meal. Meat is available throughout Togo but it is expensive; fresh fish is only available in larger towns.

Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, occasionally making it difficult for vegetarians to adhere to a sound diet, especially in the more remote areas. Sme Volunteers plant vegetable gardens to supplement their diet. If not, you can find most of your food in the nearest cities or weekly markets. Smaller villages often provide only basic food supplies. You may need to travel to larger towns for vegetables and specific items, especially during dry season.

Transportation[edit]

Togo’s main national highway runs the length of the country. Most of the road is in good condition, but some parts are in poor repair. There are several other sections of paved road, some in good condition, others not. Most of the local roads in Togo are sand or dirt—very dusty in the dry season, very muddy in the rainy season.

When traveling around the country, you will use varying types of transportation. Lomé has many private taxis. Taxis also travel frequently between Lomé and the larger towns in the interior. This taxi travel tends to be fairly irregular and uncomfortable, but always interesting. You will be given an all-terrain bicycle and helmet for your transportation needs at your site. Failure to wear a helmet can result in administrative separation from the Peace Corps.

Use of motorcycles by Peace Corps Volunteers is generally prohibited. However, there is a new transportation policy in Togo, allowing a few specific Volunteers in isolated posts to ride as passengers on motorcycles while traveling to their sites. These Volunteers must wear motorcycle helmets, provided by Peace Corps. More details on this policy will be provided upon arrival in Togo.

Distance from the villages to the prefectoral and regional capitals could be anywhere from 10 to 60 kilometers. While some Volunteers like biking these distances, others prefer taking local public transportation, such as bush taxis, to the nearest mail point, bank, or shopping location. There is a regular weekly Express Mail Service (EMS) between Lomé and several mail points throughout Togo for Volunteers. Besides EMS, Volunteers in some cities have their own post office boxes, individually, or as a group.

The bottom line, and unfortunately the reality of life in Togo, is that travel is inherently more risky here than what one would experience using public transportation in the United States. Peace Corps Volunteers find that their bikes are sufficient for most work-related travel. In addition, Volunteers are clustered so that most are within a bike ride of another Volunteer. It is usually necessary, however, to use local transport (e.g., bush taxis) when traveling long distances. By and large, the vehicles (usually mini-buses or Toyota station wagons) are old and poorly maintained, and it is unlikely that many of the drivers will win safe-driving awards anytime soon!

Peace Corps/Togo provides a shuttle bus service, the Lomé Limo, that runs from the north of the country to the capital and back once a month. Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to limit transport via bush taxi. When it is necessary to use bush taxis, you are encouraged to select what appears to be the safest vehicle available and to go with drivers whose driving habits are known and reasonable. When you find yourself in what you consider an unsafe situation (e.g., a driver traveling too fast despite having been asked to slow down), you should demand to be let out of the vehicle immediately. The best strategy, however, is to minimize travel via public transport and to avoid all nighttime travel.

Geography and Climate[edit]

Togo is a small country on the West African Coast. Only 50 kilometers wide in sections, it stretches 600 kilometers inland from the Gulf of Guinea to the savanna of Burkina Faso in the north. Situated between Ghana to the west and Benin to the east, it is roughly the size of West Virginia. Togo supports a diverse population of nearly 5 million and has more than 40 ethnic groups and languages.

Togo’s geography is mainly savanna-like, although some areas in the center of the country are fairly hilly. The rainy season lasts from June to September in the North and from May to October in the South. The rest of the year is dry and dominated by dry harmattan winds coming off the Sahara. Temperatures range from the seventies and eighties in the south, to the eighties and nineties in the north. In the months before the rains, the temperatures can be higher, reaching the low hundreds in the north.

Social Activities[edit]

Togolese are extremely social, and most social activities center around community events. Various ceremonies and fêtes are held throughout the year and Volunteer attendance is always well appreciated. In addition, Volunteers get together on different occasions, even if it is just for a regional meeting. Your social life will be as busy as you care to make it.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior[edit]

Togolese, like people everywhere, will make judgments about you in terms of how you act and how you dress. Dress in the West African context is a sign of respect and professionalism – one shows respect for colleagues by how they dress. While appropriate dress and behavior will be discussed during pre-service training, you will also take your cues from your colleagues once you are at your site. Togolese business attire—at least outside Lomé—tends to be more casual than in the United States. You will find, however, that your Togolese counterparts are invariably well groomed and wear pressed, clean clothing. Tight, form-fitting clothing for women or clothing exposing the stomach, back, or shoulders is almost never appropriate. The same is true for shorts for both men and women during professional meetings, be they in your village or in the regional capital.

Personal Safety[edit]

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be over-emphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although many Volunteers complete their 2 years of service without personal safety problems. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Togo. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations[edit]

What is considered a challenge or a reward varies from person to person, but certainly you will find yourself having to adapt to a different perception of time and productivity. Female Volunteers will have to deal with the reality that Togo is very much a patriarchal society, meaning that men are generally accorded more power and respect than women simply because of their gender. You may spend a lot of the time being totally baffled as to why things are turning out as they are.

The potential rewards, however, far outweigh any challenges. You will almost inevitably find yourself part of a close-knit community unlike anything you have experienced in America. You will receive the satisfaction of being able to share your good fortune with those less fortunate and knowing that you are participating in the most pressing development issues that Togo faces: including the fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty. By the end of your 2 years of service, you will find that you have grown immeasurably and have become a citizen of the world.