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Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in East Timor
East Timor (more correctly known as Timor Loro sa’e, or “Timor of the Rising Sun”) was the first new Peace Corps program of the 21st century. The invitation to the Peace Corps to work in East Timor originated with the provisional government and was transmitted to senior government and Peace Corps officials in the United States. President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union address in January 2002, specifically mentioned East Timor in the context of a growing Peace Corps presence throughout the world.
Peace Corps staff worked to establish the fledgling Peace Corps program before the official independence of the new country on May 20, 2002. On May 21, former President Bill Clinton congratulated the Peace Corps on its entry into East Timor during his speech in the country’s capital as he officially opened the U.S. embassy and the U.S. mission in the country. The diplomatic note formally establishing the Peace Corps program was signed soon afterward by Nobel Peace Laureate and East Timorese Minister of Foreign Affairs José Ramos-Horta.
The first group of 19 Volunteers arrived in East Timor on June 21, 2002, as third-year extending Volunteers, representing more than 10 countries where Peace Corps Volunteers served.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in East Timor
Most Volunteers live in villages outside of major towns.
Houses are likely to be made of traditional palm and bamboo with heavily thatched, peaked roofs; or cement blocks with a corregated metal roof. Most villages are traditional, both in building construction and in availability of services. The most modern cement block structures may be government buildings such as health posts or schools. Any residences at least partially constructed of concrete block or finished wood are likely to belong to a village chief or to the most prosperous farmers or small business owners.
There is no electricity in most villages. Where there is, there are frequent power cuts. Most East Timorese cook over firewood even in the capital. Natural gas is available in Dili and some Volunteers choose to take a gas stove to their site, You may need to use kerosene lanterns or candles for reading or working at night.
You are required to live with a host family for the first six months after swearing in as a Volunteer to establish a web of friendship and security. Female Volunteers might consider living with a host family the entire time since East Timorese women rarely, if ever, live alone. This is the best way to ensure your safety. While crime is not a serious problem in rural areas of East Timor, there have been instances of small-scale theft from houses occupied by foreigners, and assault, while even rarer, is a risk not to be taken lightly.
Main article: Training in East Timor
Training is held in small communities outside the capital similar to those in which you will live and work as a Volunteer. During training, you will live with East Timorese host families where you will share meals, language, and other cross-cultural experiences. You will have the opportuity to practice language, cross-cultural adaptation, and technical skills in an environment similar to the one in which you will be living and working as a Volunteer. During pre-service training, you will make a short visit to a site where Volunteers are currently working in health and community development projects. You will also spend several days at your assigned site. Throughout training, you will be encouraged to continue examining your personal motivation for joining the Peace Corps and your level of dedication and commitment so that by the time you are asked to swear in as a Volunteer you will be making an informed and serious commitment that will sustain you through two years of service.
Trainees spend much of their time in small language classes. They also spend time in technical studies combined with practice of new skills at the community level. Each week all trainees meet together at a central training facility for group sessions. This combination of formal classroom study with ample opportunities for practicing new language, cultural, and technical skills has proven to be an extremely effective way of preparing Volunteers to work as independent professionals once their service begins. There will also be occasions after pre-service training when Volunteers meet for special workshops to increase skills in a particular area or to assist with project development.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in East Timor
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in East Timor maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available at a hospital in Dili. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an Australian medical facility in the region or to the United States.
American-standard dental care is not available in East Timor, so you should not expect to have routine dental care during your two years of service unless you return to the United States on vacation. If you have an emergency dental problem, you will be medevaced either to an Australian medical facility in the region or to the U.S.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in East Timor
In East Timor, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in East Timor.
Outside of East Timor’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may 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. The people of East Timor are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present.
- 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 for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in East Timor
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to East Timor?
- What is the electric current in East Timor?
- 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 East Timorese 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 East Timor?
- 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 East Timor
Use this list as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage.
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
( As of Sunday December 21, 2014 )<rss title=off desc=off>http://peacecorpsjournals.com/rss/tt/blog/50.xml%7Ccharset=UTF-8%7Cshort%7Cmax=10</rss>
- Volunteers who served in East Timor
- List of resources for East Timor
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports