From Peace Corps Wiki
For the official Welcome Book for Namibia see here
PEACE CORPS / NAMIBIA HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Namibia
The first group of 14 Volunteers arrived in Namibia on September 9, 1990, less than six months after the country became independent. By January 1991, the program was in full operation. The primary role of these early Volunteers was to teach English, in support of the new government’s declaration of English as the country’s official language. Classroom teachers also assisted in the transition from Afrikaans to English as the language of instruction in upper primary and secondary schools. In the early 1990s, Volunteers also provided assistance to drought relief efforts and began to work in youth development offices. The number of Volunteers peaked in the late 1990s, reaching a high of almost 150 people. This spike was largely driven by a collaborative effort with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide school-based teacher training throughout the rural north. Today, about 90-100 Volunteers work as primary and secondary school teachers, resource teachers, and community health workers.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Namibia
Peace Corps/Namibia has made substantial contributions to the reform of the educational system in teacher training, classroom teaching, and subject matter support to teachers, especially in English, mathematics, and science. In addition, Volunteers have provided direct support to parents and other community members to increase both school and community materials and human and financial resources. Activities that have become part of Volunteers’ primary or secondary duties include recreational sports, library development, girls clubs, HIV/AIDS awareness activities, environmental conservation projects, adult literacy, and community development.
Since 2002, Peace Corps/Namibia has supported the government of Namibia’s efforts to stem the spread of HIV/ AIDS through more effective educational programming and youth outreach and community-based activities. In the future, the Peace Corps may expand to other critical development areas such as youth development, the promotion of healthy lifestyles through sports and support for expanded employment opportunities.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW:NAMIBIA AT A GLANCE
Pre-colonial Namibia saw migrations of peoples from the south, central, and northeastern parts of Africa. At the time of the German conquest of Namibia in 1885, several groups of indigenous Africans were well-established throughout this vast land. Several important historical developments influenced modern Namibia:
Germany’s occupation of Namibia and indigenous resistance, notably by the Ovaherero and Nama; League of Nations and United Nations mandates for the administration of Namibia after World Wars I and II and the United Nation’s subsequent role in rejecting Namibia’s incorporation into South Africa and promoting its full independence; South Africa’s defiance of the mandates in administering Namibia as a province and imposing apartheid on it;
Organized resistance to South African rule (beginning in the early 1950s), including diplomatic initiatives abroad, internal political initiatives, and eventually an armed struggle, launched first from Zambia and later from Angola;
The U.N. General Assembly’s recognition of the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) as the legitimate representative of the Namibian people and the role of the U.N. and the Western Contact Group in working toward a peace settlement;
Angola’s achievement of independence from Portugal in 1975 and the Popular Liberation Movement of Angola’s assumption of power in Luanda, which enabled SWAPO to move its bases to southern Angola; and Cuba’s military support of the MPLA government and subsequent alliances among Angolan, Namibian, and South African political parties.
The peace plan that was finally ratified in December 1988 paved the way for a cease-fire in April 1989, elections in November 1989, and independence on March 21, 1990. In the years since independence, Namibia has made social, political, and economic gains, promoting national unity, improving equitable access to social services, and maintaining an upward trend in economic growth. In 2005, Namibia held national elections that resulted in the democratic and orderly transfer of power to its current government of President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
Namibia’s Constitution has been hailed as a model for other countries. It provides for fundamental freedoms, environmental protection, and a two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution. It established the new nation as a multiparty democracy with separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. The bicameral legislature consists of a 72-member National Assembly and a 26-member National Council. Members of the National Assembly are elected for five-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. Members of the National Council are elected on a constituency basis, with two representatives from each of the country’s 13 regions elected for six-year terms by members of regional councils. The National Council reviews bills passed by the National Assembly and recommends legislation of regional concern. The independent judiciary is composed of a supreme court, a high court, and lower courts. The role of regional and municipal governments continues to grow, and the national government is working to decentralize many social services, giving responsibility for them to the regional councils.
Namibia’s economy is mixed, allowing for several forms of ownership of capital. Although Namibia’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $4,000 is high relative to that in much of sub-Saharan Africa, it is unequally distributed. Five percent of the population earns more than 70 percent of the national income. Those in the bottom 55 percent of income, overwhelmingly from the majority black population, are primarily rural and share 3 percent of the GDP, with per capita income of less than $100 per year.
Mining, agriculture, and fishing account for more than 25 percent of GDP. Namibia’s mineral resources include diamonds, uranium, copper, lead, zinc, and a variety of semiprecious stones. These industries are very susceptible to external influences, however, and their contribution to GDP fluctuates. The apartheid system of job allocation and education continues to influence employment in these sectors. The overall unemployment rate in Namibia is in excess of 30 percent, and the highest unemployment rates are among the least educated and skilled.
People and Culture
Namibia’s people have a rich variety of linguistic and ethnic origins. The principal indigenous ethnic groups are the Aawambo, Vakavango, Caprivian, Ovaherero (including Ovahimba), Colored, Baster, Damara, Nama, San, and Tswana. The white population is of Afrikaans, English, and German descent.
The people who live in the Owambo, Kavango, and East Caprivi areas, occupying the relatively well-watered and wooded northeastern part of the country, are settled farmers and herders. Historically, they have shown little interest in the central and southern parts of Namibia, where conditions are unsuited to their traditional way of life. Until the early 1900s, these people had little contact with the Nama, Damara, and Ovaherero people, who roamed the central part of the country, vying for control of sparse pastureland. Urbanization, industrialization, and the demand for labor have led to peaceful interaction among these groups in recent decades.
Most Namibians converted to Christianity as a result of missionary activity beginning in the 1800s and comprising several denominations, including Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, and Dutch Reformed. Most Namibian Christians are Lutherans.
Namibia is located on the southwest coast of Africa. It borders Angola and Zambia in the north, Botswana in the east, South Africa in the southeast and south, and the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The total land area is 317,500 square miles (about 825,000 square kilometers), almost twice the size of California.
Most of Namibia consists of a high plateau, a continuation of the main South African plateau. Its average altitude is 3,600 feet above sea level. The strip along the coast consists of the Namib Desert, extending from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River in the north. About 60 miles wide, this area is mostly uninhabited. The eastern part of the country, which forms part of the Kalahari Desert, consists mainly of sandy stretches but provides some grazing ground. The Etosha Pan in the north is the focal point of an important national park and game reserve.
Namibia boasts clear skies for more than 300 days of the year, providing brilliant days and star-filled nights. The varied landscape provides opportunities for hiking, camping, bird-watching, and game viewing.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Namibia and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that, although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it. If you do not have access to the Internet, visit your local library.
A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experiences, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Namibia
On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Windhoek to how to convert from the U.S. dollar to the Namibian dollar. Just click on Namibia and go from there.
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Namibia and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities.
This site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring. Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about their service.
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
Online Articles/Current News Sites About Namibia
A Namibian English-language newspaper
The site of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, with articles of regional interest
The site of the Namibian Parliament
International Development Sites
U.S. Agency for International Development
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Development Programme
- Bridgman, Jon M. The Revolt of the Hereros (Perspectives on Southern Africa). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.
- Hayes, Patricia, et al. (eds.). Namibia Under South African Rule: Mobility and Containment, 1915-46. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998.
- Leys, Colin. Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1995.
- Nujoma, Sam. While Others Wavered: The Autobiography of Sam Nujoma. London: Panaf Books, 2001.
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.) From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
People in Namibia communicate by mail (called “post”), fax, e-mail, telephone or cellphone, and radio.
The postal system is reliable, but service to the more remote villages is often slow. Mail from the United States to Windhoek, the capital, can take up to two weeks. From there, it could take two more weeks for mail to reach your village.
During pre-service training, you may use the Peace Corps office address:
“Your name,” PCT
PO Box 6862
Your mail will be forwarded periodically to your training site. Once you have moved to your permanent site, you will use the school’s address or get a private post office box.
Telephones are accessible in most towns and villages, along or near main roads, and in most schools. No international telephone companies (e.g., MCI or AT&T) operate in Namibia, so you will be unable to make collect calls or use calling cards purchased in the United States. Calling cards are available in Namibia for use in-country and internationally. International service from the larger towns is good, but calls must be made from a telecommunications office or a private phone. Cellphone usage and coverage is increasing in Namibia, especially in urban areas. Most Volunteers purchase their own cellphone once they are settled in their permanent sites. Text messaging is quickly becoming a preferred means of communication amongst Volunteers.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
Access to e-mail is available in Internet cafes in Windhoek and other larger towns. As telephone service expands, so will Internet access. Some teacher resource centers provide public access to e-mail but not the Internet.
Housing and Site Location
Housing varies considerably. Your site might be a Western-style cement block house, usually with electricity and running water; an apartment attached to a student boarding facility (hostel); or, in the case of more rural junior secondary schools, a room with a local family. As the government has invited assistance from a variety of sources, you may also be asked to share a two- or three-bedroom house with one or two colleagues (either Namibian or Volunteers from other countries). Our expectation is that you will have a private bedroom, but remember that there is a shortage of housing for government staff in most areas in Namibia. The minstry/ hosting agency to which you are assigned is responsible for paying your montly utilities and providing you with the basic furnishings (e.g., bed, charis, tables, stove, and gas refrigerator).
Living Allowance and Money Management
The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a monthly living allowance for basic expenses, a leave allowance of $24 a month, and a quarterly travel allowance for in-country travel. All allowances are paid in local currency. The amounts are intended to allow a modest lifestyle, and most Volunteers find the allowances to be adequate.
Volunteers open accounts at the First National Bank of Namibia during pre-service training and are issued an ATM card. The Peace Corps deposits all allowances and reimbursements at the Windhoek branch, which Volunteers can then withdraw from the bank nearest to their site or through the use of their ATM card. For some, this involves a five-minute walk. For most, it requires planning ahead for a ride to town on a free day. Volunteers often travel to town with fellow teachers on payday.
Food and Diet
Basic foods such as corn, millet, and greens can be bought in most communities, and a wide variety of products are available in the larger town centers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are highly seasonal in rural areas and may have to be transported from quite a distance. Canned goods are widely available throughout Namibia.
Although committed vegetarians and vegans have successfully maintained their diet and health in Namibia, obtaining the recommended daily allowances of vital food groups and micronutrients can be quite challenging. The Peace Corps medical office provides multivitamins, calcium, iron tablets, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Some Volunteers in Namibia grow their own gardens in order to have fresh vegetables when they want them. Maintenance of a healthy and balanced diet will be discussed extensively during pre-service training.
Traveling by road is inherently dangerous in Namibia. People generally drive too fast and the level of driving skill and courtesy is often lower than you would encounter in the United States. The miles of unpaved roads and the poor state of many vehicles on the road, including those serving as informal taxis, present serious challenges to Volunteers trying to get around. Given the lack of public transport in many areas, Volunteers are often forced to utilize informal bush taxis or other forms of hitching a ride. The Peace Corps policies on transportation in Namibia urge Volunteers to limit their travel only to essential trips and to stay at site as much as possible. If a Volunteer has to travel by road, care must be taken to choose the safest route and means of transportation. Given the paucity of transportation options available to Volunteers, this requires prior planning and flexibility on the part of the Volunteer. It will often be necessary to extend a trip or to put it off because the transportation options available are not safe. The ultimate responsibility for choosing the safest means of travel falls on the Volunteer.
Taxis are available in some more populated areas. Bus service is beginning to expand throughout the country, which should provide alternatives to hiking in certain areas.
Geography and Climate
Namibia borders the South Atlantic Ocean, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. It lies between latitudes 18 degrees to 28 degrees south and longitudes 12 degrees to 24 degrees east. It covers some 317,5000 square miles and has a population of about 1.8 million.
Namibia’s generally hot and dry climate ranges from true desert to subtropical. As in other parts of southern Africa, temperatures are closely related to wind systems, ocean currents, and altitude. Except for the highest mountain areas, the lowest temperatures occur in the Namib Desert region and are affected greatly by the cold Benguela current from the South Atlantic. Daytime summer temperatures in the desert frequently exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime winter temperatures can drop below 32 degrees. Volunteers who accept an assignment to Namibia must be willing and medically able to live and work in this extreme climate.
In the mountainous Windhoek region, average temperatures for the warmest month, December, range from 63 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. In July, average temperatures range from 43 to 69 degrees. Annual rainfall averages 22 inches in the north, six inches in the south, and about two inches in the coastal region. Rain falls mostly during the summer (October through March), and the winter (July through September) is very dry. The most pleasant months are April, May, and June.
Windhoek is the seat of the national government and the business and cultural center. Keetmanshoop is the center of the karakul (sheepskin) industry, Tsumeb is the headquarters of copper-mining operations, and Otjiwarongo is the center of the cattle farming area. Swakopmund is a coastal tourist center, Oranjemund is a diamond-mining town, and Arandis is the home of the Rossing uranium mine. Walvis Bay is an important port and fishing center west of Windhoek.
Social activities vary depending on where your site is located. In more rural communities, social activities include visiting neighbors’ fields and cattle posts and, for men, drinking at local bars. Cultural festivals, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and socialize with community members and their extended families. Groups of teachers sometimes go to town to shop and relax on paydays before heading off to visit their families. Namibia’s rich geography provides many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, including national parks and conservation areas. Volunteers sometimes visit each other or meet in larger towns for shopping, socializing, or going to a movie. Although the Peace Corps recognizes that periodic visits to towns are important for networking and moral support, Volunteers are encouraged to remain at their sites as much as possible.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Namibians attach great importance to neatness and proper dress, particularly in professional situations. Volunteers are expected to dress appropriately both on and off the job and to show respect for Namibian attitudes concerning personal appearance. For work, male Volunteers usually wear slacks or khakis and a nice shirt, often with a tie. Female Volunteers usually wear a long dress, a long skirt with a nice top, or pants with a nice shirt. Women generally do not wear skirts shorter than knee length.
Excessive drinking is widespread in Namibia. Volunteers come under social pressure from colleagues for other Volunteers to drink, often to excess. Because of the Volunteers’ unique status in the community and as a representative of the American people, they are “on duty” twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As such, Volunteers are expected to comport themselves in a professional and culturally sensitive manner at all times. Peace Corps/Namibia has strict regulations concerning the excessive consumption of alcohol and these rules are enforced.
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 overemphasized. 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 most Namibia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Namibia. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Rewards and Frustrations
Invariably, former Namibia Volunteers speak of the relationships they established as the highlight of their service.
Many speak of how they learned to value a more family- and community-centered way of life, and of how they grew in patience and understanding. Most are able to pinpoint specific contributions they made to Namibia’s development (i.e., improving the levels of English proficiency of their students, teachers, and community colleagues; seeing students pick up science and math concepts; watching teachers try new ideas in the classroom; helping a community organize an important development project; and fostering a dialogue about HIV/AIDS).
The positive reflections are the endpoint of a series of highs and lows that are part and parcel of the process of leaving the United States, arriving in Namibia, and adapting to the practices and pace of life in a new culture. You are likely to have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. You may have to motivate yourself and your colleagues without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. If you are willing to respect and become integrated into your community, to work hard at your assignment, and to be open to all that Namibia has to offer, you will be a successful Volunteer. You, too, will be able to look back positively on the relationships you have built and the small differences you have made by virtue of those relationships.
Overview of Pre-Service Training
Training is an essential part of Peace Corps service. Our goal is to give you enough skills and information to allow you to live and work effectively in Namibia. In doing that, we build on the experiences and expertise you bring to the Peace Corps. We anticipate that you will approach your training with an open mind, a desire to learn, and a willingness to become involved. Trainees officially become Volunteers after successful completion of training.
The eight-week training will provide you the opportunity to learn new skills and practice them as they apply to Namibia. You will receive training and orientation in language, cross-cultural communication, development issues, health and personal safety, and technical skills pertinent to your specific assignment. The skills you learn will serve as the foundation upon which you build your experience as a Volunteer in Namibia.
During the first several days of training, you will stay at a central training facility. Members of your training group will then move to different training sites for about five weeks, living with a host family in a rural village or community near their training site. This homestay will help bring to life some of the topics covered in training, giving you a chance to practice your new language skills and directly observe and participate in Namibian culture. For the final two weeks of training, you will rejoin the members of your training group until the swearing-in ceremony.
At the onset of training, the training staff will outline the competencies that you have to master before becoming a Volunteer and the criteria that will be used to assess achievement of those competencies. Evaluation of your performance during training is a continual process based on a dialogue between you and the training staff. The training director, along with the language, technical, and cross-cultural trainers, will work with you toward the highest possible achievement of training competencies by providing you with feedback throughout training. After successful completion of pre-service training, you will be sworn in as a Volunteer and make the final preparations for departure to your site.
Technical training will prepare you to work in Namibia by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Namibian experts, and current Volunteers 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 general economic and political environment in Namibia and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Namibian agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills can significantly contribute to your personal and professional satisfaction during your service. While these skills are not as critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your host community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings.
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Namibian host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families have gone through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Namibia. 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.
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 Namibia. 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 the 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.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to 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 several specific training events that will take place. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three to six months.
- All Volunteer conference: Provides an opportunity for all Volunteers in-country to meet and interact. The conference provides specific HIV/AIDS training for all Volunteers.
- Midterm conference (done in conjunction with technical sector in-service): Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. 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.
YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN NAMIBIA
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. Peace Corps/Namibia maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services are available at a U.S.-standard hospital in Windhoek. If you become seriously ill, you may be transported to South Africa or back the United States for further treatment.
Health Issues in Namibia
Namibia’s hot and dry climate keeps many of the diseases associated with developing countries at bay. Preventive measures, which include taking the required malaria prophylaxis, drinking plenty of water, and protecting your skin and eyes from sun damage, will help you avoid the most common problems. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Namibia is estimated to be approximately 20 percent, but this disease, too, is preventable by avoiding risky behavior.
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 drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. 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. 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. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence 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 that you can continue to be of service to your community.
Namibia’s health services are significantly more developed than those of many other countries in Africa. For example, there is one doctor per 4,450 inhabitants and one hospital bed per 166 people, respectively the sixth and third best ratios on the continent. Medi-City Hospital in Windhoek, which is used by Peace Corps/Namibia, is a modern facility that offers excellent care. However, most health issues for Volunteers are managed at other approved medical facilities at or near their sites.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary immunizations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Namibia, you will receive a medical handbook. You will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and a cook book. The contents of this kit are listed later in this chapter and the kit includes a first-aid book.
During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive. After three months, Peace Corps will only supply you with prescribed medication you indicated on your application form and approved by the Office of Medical Services prior to your departure. Most of your medical conditions will be managed by the medical officer and you during your stay in Namibia.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Namibia will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Namibia, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
As a Volunteer, you must accept responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure” becomes extremely important. The most important of your responsibilities in Namibia is to take preventive measures to avoid malaria, sunburn, dehydration, digestive disorders and stress. Alcohol abuse, STDs and HIV/AIDS are prevalent in Namibia and Volunteers must take care to protect themselves.
Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken.
These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation for Namibia during pre-service training.
Abstinence is the only certain choice for prevention of HIV/ AIDS and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from your medical officer about this important issue.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer.
It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also has programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.
Most feminine hygiene products are available for you to purchase on the local market; therefore, the Peace Corps medical officer in Namibia will not provide them. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a supply with you.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the Peace Corps medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
If your medical/dental exam were done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Namibia. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.
Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements. You are advised to bring a sturdy bottle (e.g., Nalgene) to carry water for drinking at all times to prevent dehydration.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.
The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.
The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.
Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).
- Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
- Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
- Absence of others: Assaults ususally occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompannied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.
For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed.
After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Namibia as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 2000–2004. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.
What If You Become a Victim of a Violent Crime?
Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.
Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.
If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect.
Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.
In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at [email protected]
Security Issues in Namibia
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Namibia. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village level is less frequent than in towns and cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors.
While the need to be cautious in the following situations may sound like common sense, our altruism often overrides our common sense until something happens. Larger population centers create opportunities for pickpockets and other thieves. This is especially true of ATM machines around payday or weekends. Alcohol fuels unsafe driving, unsafe sex, and physical and sexual assaults. Houses and rooms left empty during vacations create tempting opportunities. Individuals are better targets than groups; women are easier targets than men.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your home is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Namibia, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Namibia may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress appropriately, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, coat pockets, or fanny packs. You should always walk with a companion at night. You should not use a cell phone while walking on the street.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Namibia
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Peace Corps/Namibia’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Namibia office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be offered in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in Namibia. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective role in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work site, as well as an appropriate assignment best utilizing your skills. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other support needs.
You will also learn about the country’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Namibia will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the safety and security coordinator. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers. Volunteers are expected to abide by all Peace Corps regulations related to security, travel and out-of-site matters. These regulations are put into place to enhance the safety and security of all Volunteers and failure to abide by these regulations will lead to disciplinary action and possible separation from the Peace Corps.
DIVERSITY AND CROSS-CULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other, despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Namibia, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Namibia.
Outside of Namibia’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Namibia 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 cultural differences that you present.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Namibia, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in Namibia
The Peace Corps staff in Namibia recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Namibia has made great strides in gender equity in the government and the private sector. Women hold ministerial portfolios and senior-level government and private sector posts. But less educated women at the lower ends of the socioeconomic scale tend to have less authority and control for income, spending, and reproductive health. This situation is driven as much by the lingering pattern of migratory labor (i.e., adult males working away from the homestead) as by tradition. Thus, many rural communities do not have much experience with women who take on professional roles, remain unmarried, and live away from their families. Because of the differences in cultural norms for women and men, female Volunteers may receive unwanted sexual attention and need to practice discretion in public (e.g., not smoking or drinking).
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
Stereotypical notions of Americans often exclude people of color. Therefore, Volunteers of color often are identified by their cultural heritage or are simply ignored in a setting where most Volunteers conform to the “blond-haired and blue-eyed” stereotype. In addition, you may feel isolated in your training group if there are few other minority trainees.
African Americans may face higher expectations for their performance, especially in acquiring language and adapting to local norms. Asian Americans are often grouped with Chinese regardless of their actual background and face stereotypes resulting from Namibia’s current involvement with Asian countries or the presence of Asian merchants in the community. All groups are affected by the impact of popular culture on perceptions of minority groups.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
Senior Volunteers will find their age an asset in the Namibian context. They will often have access to individuals and insights that are not available to younger Volunteers. On the other hand, they will be in a distinct minority within the Volunteer population and could find themselves feeling isolated, looked up to, or ignored. Seniors are often accustomed to a greater degree of independence and freedom of movement than the Peace Corps’ program focus and safety and security practices allow. Pre-service training can be particularly stressful for seniors, whose lifelong learning styles and habits may or may not lend themselves to the techniques used.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
Homosexuality has been the topic of much heated debate in Namibia. Human rights proponents argue that the Constitution protects individuals regardless of sexual orientation, while others argue that homosexual behavior is unnatural and as such should be deemed criminal. Homosexual or bisexual Volunteers may discover that they cannot be open about their sexual orientation in their community. In addition, they may serve for two years without meeting another gay or bisexual Volunteer. Peace Corps/Namibia is committed to ensuring that staff members understand the particular support needs of homosexual and bisexual Volunteers.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
Churches play a vital role in the life of most rural communities in Namibia. As such, they are social as well as religious institutions, and you will find them to be a source of information and support regarding community events and practices. Community members frequently ask Volunteers about their religious affiliation and may expect them to attend a community church. Volunteers not in the practice of attending Christian churches may be challenged to explain a decision not to attend.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
As a disabled Volunteer in Namibia, you may find that you face a special set of challenges. While it is not uncommon to meet Namibians who have lost a limb in war, Namibia has very little infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
That being said, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of serving in Namibia without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/ Namibia staff will work with disabled individuals to make reasonable accommodations to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Namibia?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in Namibia?
It is 220 volts, 50 cycles. You will need a transformer to use American appliances. However, not all Volunteers have electricity at their sites.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same economic level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. Note that Visa cards can be used to obtain cash at most banks in Namibia, reducing the risk of carrying a lot of cash.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Namibia do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a government vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Bring your U.S. driver’s license with you in case you find yourself in this situation.
What should I bring as gifts for Namibian friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement; a token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until week 2 in the training period. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. The primary factor in assigning sites is the match between the opportunities and interests at a site and the skills and interests of the Volunteer. The Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages. In the densely populated north of Namibia, you may be within an hour from another Volunteer. In the southern part, you may be two to four hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.
Can I call home from Namibia?
Yes. Most telephones can be used for international calls. Volunteers often call home and, in a brief exchange, ask to be called back, or prearrange a time for someone to call them at a work phone or pay phone.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Cellular phone service is growing in Namibia and is available in most rural areas where Volunteers serve. Fewer than 5 percent of currently serving Volunteers live in areas with no or poor cellular phone coverage. Unfortunately, cellular phones purchased in the United States are not likely to operate in-country. You should plan on purchasing a local cellphone in Namibia.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Laptops can be useful for many who are health extension or HIV/AIDS Volunteers. When not out in communities and villages, much of the Volunteer’s work and day-to-day living will be in urban settings conducive to laptop use. Laptops can also be useful for education Volunteers as most sites where you will be located do have electricity, though not necessarily Internet access. Volunteers use laptops to type assignments and tests, as well as to communicate with family and friends back in the States. Like with any valuable, however, it is advisable to exercise caution in storing the laptop safely. A security cable is highly recommended and insurance coverage for the laptops and other valuables is advisable.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Namibia and is based on their experience. Use it 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. And remember, because of Namibia’s proximity to South Africa, you can get almost everything you need in Namibia at prices comparable to those in the United States.
Note: It is important that you bring 10 passport-size photos of yourself for identification cards, work permits, and visas. We will ask for them shortly after your arrival in Namibia. They may be black and white or color, and photo-booth prints are acceptable.
Namibians place an importance on professional dress in the workplace, and dressing “smart” is seen as a sign of respect for others. Dress slacks and skirts or dresses are required in the classroom and are the norm in most other situations.
Tennis shoes are not appropriate at work. While jeans and T-shirts are increasingly acceptable as casual wear, it is more common—especially in rural areas—to see men wearing shirts with collars and casual slacks and women wearing casual dresses or skirts and shirts. Short shorts, short dresses, and tops that show a lot of skin, (e.g., halter tops, spaghetti straps, etc.) are inappropriate for women in both towns and villages. All clothing should be clean and well mended.
You should bring professional washable clothes for classroom teaching and meetings. For men who will be classroom teachers, bring wrinkle-free business casual slacks and 3-4 ties. For women, dresses and skirts. A few pairs of dress slacks, sandals, and comfortable closed-toe dress shoes are appropriate for work. Shorts (at mid-knee or longer) can be worn after work, weekends and holidays. Other items that are recommended are: hiking boots (if you like to hike), flashlight, sleeping bag, rechargeable batteries, music and pictures. You will need to bring a set of unfitted (flat) double bed sheets and a towel to use during your homestays. A small pillow might also be nice to have and can be purchased upon your arrival. While it is impossible to bring everything on the packing list, may items area available in Windhoek. Also, even though the temperature in Namibia will be warmer by November, we recommend you bring along some warm clothing for the winter months. The temperature can drop into the 30 degrees Farenheit range at night during the three months of ”winter”’ (June–August). You’ll be much more comfortable if you bring along a fleece jacket, some sweaters, warm socks, winter cap that covers the ears, scarf and gloves. Also remember to bring along some suntan lotion or any kind of skin moisturizer.
Shoes are key. Everyone will walk many miles every week. Volunteers recommend four pairs of shoes. Bring newer shoes as your shoes will wear out quickly. The Volunteers also recommend more expensive footwear, just because it’s better and lasts longer. Some female Volunteers say one pair of trendy sandals or shoes is also nice,as there are chances to go out and dress up a bit in Windhoek.
A suggested list of shoes for men and women includes:
- Closed walking shoes for teaching and meetings or comfortable dress shoes or nice sandals for work
- Athletic shoes, tennis shoes, or other casual shoes
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Shower sandals/flip flops (these are available all over Namibia at a very reasonable price. It might be easier and cheaper to purchase them in Namibia than carry them over from the United States.)
- Sandals (e.g., Tevas, Birkenstocks, etc).
Note that people with large feet (especially men with size 11 or bigger) should bring an extra pair or two of shoes or sandals, as larger sizes can be difficult to find in Namibia
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
Bring enough of your favorites to get you through your first five or six weeks. Volunteers have also suggested bringing good-quality body and facial lotion for dry skin and a pumice stone. Sunglasses are a must, and if you wear prescription glasses, you should bring prescription sunglasses. Remember that you can get almost everything you need in Namibia at prices comparable to those in the United States.
You can easily buy most kitchen supplies here—dishes, pots, glasses, and utensils. Plastic food containers and storage bags are very useful. Also, a basic cookbook can be useful once you get to your permanent site. Peace Corps/Namibia provides you with a locally appropriate cookbook.
- Camping equipment such as a backpack, sleeping bag and foam pad, and small tent (if you like to camp); a small camping stove is nice, but it should burn several types of fuel
- Camera and film (a telephoto lens greatly enhances photos of game, and a good camera bag helps keep out the dust)
- Radio or shortwave radio, cassette player, or CD player with speakers; it should be both battery operated and able to run on 220 volts (if it does not, you will need to bring a converter)
- Music tapes, digital music or CDs (available in Namibia but expensive)
- Good quality batteries (AA are expensive and 9V can be hard to find in Namibia)
- Back-up (spare) watch since locally available models are generally not of good quality
- Small candle lantern
- Crayons, colored markers, colored paper
- Craft idea books
- Duct tape
- Song books
- Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool
- Travel-size clock
- Small flashlight or headlamp and extra bulbs
- Guidebooks about the region
- Maps, pictures, and wall hangings to decorate your home
- Dictionary and thesaurus (keep in mind that people in Namibia use British English)
- Inexpensive gifts to give to your hosts and to children
- U.S. postage stamps for sending mail with Volunteers who are traveling to the United States
- Digital camera
- iPOD/CD Player
- Two sturdy water bottles (e.g., Nalgene)
- A jump/flash/pen/USB drive (it’s a whole lot easier than using disks)
- For women, feminine hygiene items like tampons, pads, Diva Cup, the Keeper, GladRag, etc.; they can be expensive here
- Favorite recipes
- A few books (you can have some sent, trade with other Volunteers, buy them here, or make use of the Peace Corps’ in-country resource center)
- Small book bag or backpack for work and weekends
- Enough stationery to last you during pre-service training Packing Advice Directly from Volunteers
Things we shouldn’t have brought
- Too many toiletries (too mouthwash, dental floss, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.; they can all be purchased in Namibia)
- Pots/Pans (as you are coming in, other Volunteers are leaving and they will pass their pots/pans on to you at a very reasonable price)
- Can opener
- White clothes and clothes that require dry cleaning or cannot be washed by hand.
- Mosquito net (Peace Corps/Namibia gives you one)
- An electric adapter (you can’t get the right one if you buy it elsewhere)
- Too many formal clothes.
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.
- Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer after your service, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. Many times if there is a lapse in supplemental health coverage it is difficult and expensive to be reinstated for insurance. This is especially true when insurance companies know you have predictable expenses and are in an upper age bracket.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance for the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.