Difference between pages "Packing list for Guatemala" and "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin"

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{{Packing lists by country}}
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{{Diversity_and_cross-cultural_issues_by_country}}
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In fulfilling the Peace Corps mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to ensure that our cultural and ethnic diversity is reflected in the Volunteer corps. 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.
  
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in [[Guatemala]] and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. In addition, the climate in Guatemala varies greatly from cold to hot. The training center, in Santa Lucia Milpas Altas (near Antigua), is at high altitude. Therefore it can be very cold at night and in the training rooms during the morning hours.  It can be quite cold for the training group that arrives in January, and quite rainy for the other two groups that arrive later in the calendar year.  
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Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, our diversity poses challenges. In Benin, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteer behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context that may be very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in certain host countries.  
  
It is important to keep this in mind while packing and be sure to pack accordingly (think layers!). 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. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Guatemala.  
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Outside of the capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also 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. Foreigners justly know the people of Benin for their generous hospitality; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We ask you to be supportive of one another.  
  
===Clothes===
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In order to ease the transition and adapt to the ways of your host country, you may need to make some temporary yet fundamental compromises with who you are as an American and as an individual. For example, women trainees and Volunteers will likely not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions will 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 limits. Staff and peer support network Volunteers will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on-call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
  
===General Clothing===
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===What Might A Volunteer Face?===
  
* Two to three pairs nice pants (lightweight that quick dry can be helpful)
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====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers====
* Two to four pairs work pants or jeans
 
* Six T-shirts or short sleeve polo shirts
 
* Two to three blouses or dress shirts
 
* One to two pairs of shorts (not short-shorts) 
 
* Two week supply of cotton underwear and socks
 
* One pair long underwear
 
* Two to three medium-weight sweater/sweatshirt
 
* One medium-weight jacket or fleece
 
* One poncho or rain coat (rain pants optional and advised by some) For Men
 
* A few ties, one or two nice dress shirts and a sport coat (optional) for formal occasions For Women
 
* Two casual and one dress-up dresses
 
* Two to three “going-out” outfits
 
  
===Other Clothing Items===
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Benin has a traditional, patriarchal culture. However, at the community level, Beninese are learning to accept women who take professional roles or who live independently of their families. Current Volunteers advise that service is more difficult for female Volunteers due to verbal sexual harassment and the misconceptions that exist concerning male-female relationships. It is important to note that the same challenges exist for Beninese women, particularly in the schools. Peace Corps/Benin has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment on the job. Should you encounter harassment on the job, you should inform the country director immediately.
  
* Belt
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Female Volunteers may find that living alone raises questions about their marital status. Some find that saying that they are married helps limit sexual harassment. Others have felt that they have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the respect of host country colleagues in the workplace.
* Handkerchiefs or bandanas
 
* Running or athletic gear (if you are into sports)
 
* One to two bathing suits
 
* Two hats (sun hats, visors, or caps with bill)
 
* One stocking cap (for colder weather)
 
* One pair of lightweight gloves
 
* Sunglasses
 
  
NOTE: The general characteristics for clothes are sturdy, easily washable, iron-free (if possible), and conservative.  
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Females may encounter unwanted attention in public. While we cannot control this, we can help you develop strategies for coping. Do not hesitate to insist on learning strategies during your pre-service training. Some female Volunteers have found they need to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (e.g., not smoking in public or drinking in bars) to avoid developing an undesirable reputation in their community.  
  
Bring what you are comfortable in, for example things you would wear on a weekend in the states. You do not need to change your whole style because you are a Volunteer. Good quality, used clothes are available in many Guatemalan markets or stores (called ropa Americana). Additionally, many Volunteers have noted their work requires business casual for special meetings or events. As one Volunteer noted: “Although many items on this list may seem like it, you are not preparing for a two-year camping trip, nor do you need to.”
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color====
  
===Other Items===
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In rural sites or villages, Volunteers are usually the only foreign resident and will receive extra attention regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Volunteers of color will encounter a wide range of cross-cultural issues in Benin.
  
===Shoes===
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Most Beninese are used to seeing African Americans.  Furthermore, because of the country’s historical role and involvement in slavery, some Beninese feel some affinity with African Americans and will often joke with them or believe that they come from Benin or another African country. Beninese will sometimes assume that you speak a local language because of your skin color. Depending on your personality, you may interpret this assumption as welcome or you may find it distressing. Remember, you will not be able to readily identify the ethnicity of a Beninese by his or her language. Similarly, you should not expect that a Beninese will know that you are American, even though you are a Peace Corps Volunteer.
  
* One or two pairs of sturdy, walking tennis/cross-training shoes
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Like African Americans, Asian-American Volunteers have expressed frustration and disappointment at being asked their nationality. When they answer “Asian-American,” some Beninese react with surprise or disbelief, saying they didn't know there were people of Asian descent in America. In Benin, there are Chinese, Indian, and Lebanese communities and Volunteers of Asian heritage may be confused with merchant classes in the eyes of some Beninese, especially in urban areas. Some Asian-American Volunteers have found that some Beninese will call them “Chinese” no matter their origins. They may be teased by children and asked if they know kung fu or karate.  
* One pair of hiking boots or water proof shoes
 
* One to two pairs comfortable casual/dress shoe
 
* One pair sport and dress sandals
 
* One pair farm/mud boots (for agriculture Volunteers). Rubber boots are also very easy to buy in Guatemala.
 
  
NOTE: The overall selection and quality of shoes in Guatemala is more limited than the US. It is difficult to find women’s shoes larger than size 9 and men’s shoes larger than size 10. If you have larger feet, you may want to consider a plan for getting extra shoes once the ones you bring wear out (e.g., bringing a two-year supply, having people bring you shoes when they come to visit, or arranging for people to send them to you).
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====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers====
  
===Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items ===
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Respect comes with age in Benin. Younger Volunteers might have to work harder than older Volunteers to be accepted as professionals by their Beninese colleagues. Older Volunteers might find that almost too much is expected of them because of their age.
  
* Your regular hygiene items (e.g., soap, shampoo, shaving cream, etc.) to get you started (replacements/ refills are easily bought here)  
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Within the Peace Corps community, older Volunteers may sometimes feel isolated, because most Volunteers in Benin are in their 20s. Older Volunteers may have difficulty finding emotional support among their fellow Volunteers. They may find that younger Volunteers expect older ones to “mother” them. (Some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their experience, but others choose not to fill this role.)  
* Three-month supply of prescription medicine
 
* Extra pair of prescription glasses
 
  
NOTE: Peace Corps nurses will supply you with over-the-counter medicines such as: vitamins, painkillers, cold medicines, tampons, etc.  
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Older Volunteers who are used to living independent lives may at first feel frustrated by the fact that younger Beninese want to do things for them. However, many seniors come to accept this as a sign of respect and enjoy the role of providing wisdom rather than physical assistance.  
  
===Miscellaneous ===
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====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers====
  
* One to two sets of flat sheets and pillow cases for a full bed
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Benin’s sexual mores are conservative and you are expected to respect them. Many people in Benin still believe that gay and lesbian relationships are wrong, and that such relationships do not exist in their country. Although you may see signs of physical intimacy among men and women in Benin, this is not necessarily a sign of a gay or lesbian relationship. Engaging in homosexual sex is against the law in Benin. Some gay and lesbian Volunteers in Benin report that they are not able to be open about their sexual orientation. In the past, gay and lesbian Volunteers have formed their own support group. You may find more helpful information at http://www.lgbrpcv.org, a website affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association that provides specific information on serving in the Peace Corps as a gay or lesbian Volunteer.
* Two bath towels (quick dry towels are convenient for travel)
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* Flashlight (headlamps are popular)
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'''See also:''' Articles about Benin on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm
* Sturdy backpack/duffel bag for three- or four-day trips
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* Day pack/Small backpack
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====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers====
* Watch (fairly cheap and water-resistant/proof, although cell phones can also serve as a watch.)
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* Small travel alarm clock (Most people use the alarm on their cell phone.)
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Volunteers are frequently asked about their religious affiliation and may be invited to attend a community church. In some circles, there will be a tendency to think that all Americans are Protestants. Volunteers not in the practice of attending church may be challenged to explain their reluctance, but it is possible to politely decline if the church or religious practice is not your choice. Most Volunteers facing these issues have found effective ways to cope with these additional challenges and have come to feel quite at home in Benin.
* Money belt (30% of PCVs in Guatemala report theft so this is almost a necessity)
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* One water bottle
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities====
* Pocketknife (basic knife, corkscrew, screwdriver model is very handy, e.g., Leatherman)
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* Shortwave radio
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As part of the clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determines if disabled candidates can be selected if they are physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Benin without harm to themselves or interruption of their service. The Peace Corps/Benin staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for training, housing, job sites and other aspects of their service.  
* Start-up supply of stationery, pens, journal, etc.
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* Light sleeping bag and sleeping pad (e.g., thermarest)
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That being said, a disabled Volunteer in Benin will face a special set of challenges. In Benin, as in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. Benin has virtually no physical infrastructure to accommodate people with disabilities.  
* Digital camera (blank CDs are cheap for copying files). Film developing is also easily still accessible in many towns.
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* Good scissors
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Many of the beggars in Benin are disabled people who have no skills. Some organizations provide training for the disabled, but it is usually limited to arts and crafts. Disabled Volunteers would thus face challenges in overcoming negative stereotypes and difficult physical conditions. However, they also have an opportunity to be inspirational role models for disabled Beninese and to encourage changes in attitude and infrastructure in their communities.  
* Photos of family, friends, and home (Guatemalans will LOVE to see your photos)
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* Decks of cards and favorite board games are popular
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* Small sewing kit
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[[Category:Benin]]
* One or two books to get you through training (PC has a very large library/ book exchange)
 
* Travel guide to Guatemala 
 
* Music (Many PCVs have iPods, although they are targets for theft. Some people bring small radio/CD/MP3 players, but others buy them in Guatemala.) CDs are sold in every market at very cheap prices.  
 
* Small, basic cookbook/favorite recipes (Peace Corps/ Guatemala also sells Que Rico! a cookbook of Volunteer-compiled recipes that are easily prepared with common items sold at market)
 
* Duct tape
 
* Instrument (harmonica, guitar, etc.)
 
* Comfort foods (favorite snack foods)
 
* USB storage stick 4 GB (easy to use and hardier than disks for saving important documents)
 
*      Laptop or netbook computers are very useful, just be aware that computer theft can be common on public buses so the property insurance policy is a good idea.
 
[[Category:Guatemala]]
 

Latest revision as of 12:15, 23 August 2016

Diversity and cross-cultural issues in [[{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with their host countries, Peace Corps is 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.
  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]
See also:
[[Category:{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Benin| |7}}]]

In fulfilling the Peace Corps mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to ensure that our cultural and ethnic diversity is reflected in the Volunteer corps. 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, our diversity poses challenges. In Benin, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteer behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context that may be very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in certain host countries.

Outside of the capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is advertised as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may also 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. Foreigners justly know the people of Benin for their generous hospitality; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We ask you to be supportive of one another.

In order to ease the transition and adapt to the ways of your host country, you may need to make some temporary yet fundamental compromises with who you are as an American and as an individual. For example, women trainees and Volunteers will likely not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions will 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 limits. Staff and peer support network Volunteers will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on-call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

What Might A Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

Benin has a traditional, patriarchal culture. However, at the community level, Beninese are learning to accept women who take professional roles or who live independently of their families. Current Volunteers advise that service is more difficult for female Volunteers due to verbal sexual harassment and the misconceptions that exist concerning male-female relationships. It is important to note that the same challenges exist for Beninese women, particularly in the schools. Peace Corps/Benin has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment on the job. Should you encounter harassment on the job, you should inform the country director immediately.

Female Volunteers may find that living alone raises questions about their marital status. Some find that saying that they are married helps limit sexual harassment. Others have felt that they have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the respect of host country colleagues in the workplace.

Females may encounter unwanted attention in public. While we cannot control this, we can help you develop strategies for coping. Do not hesitate to insist on learning strategies during your pre-service training. Some female Volunteers have found they need to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (e.g., not smoking in public or drinking in bars) to avoid developing an undesirable reputation in their community.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

In rural sites or villages, Volunteers are usually the only foreign resident and will receive extra attention regardless of their racial or ethnic background. Volunteers of color will encounter a wide range of cross-cultural issues in Benin.

Most Beninese are used to seeing African Americans. Furthermore, because of the country’s historical role and involvement in slavery, some Beninese feel some affinity with African Americans and will often joke with them or believe that they come from Benin or another African country. Beninese will sometimes assume that you speak a local language because of your skin color. Depending on your personality, you may interpret this assumption as welcome or you may find it distressing. Remember, you will not be able to readily identify the ethnicity of a Beninese by his or her language. Similarly, you should not expect that a Beninese will know that you are American, even though you are a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Like African Americans, Asian-American Volunteers have expressed frustration and disappointment at being asked their nationality. When they answer “Asian-American,” some Beninese react with surprise or disbelief, saying they didn't know there were people of Asian descent in America. In Benin, there are Chinese, Indian, and Lebanese communities and Volunteers of Asian heritage may be confused with merchant classes in the eyes of some Beninese, especially in urban areas. Some Asian-American Volunteers have found that some Beninese will call them “Chinese” no matter their origins. They may be teased by children and asked if they know kung fu or karate.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Respect comes with age in Benin. Younger Volunteers might have to work harder than older Volunteers to be accepted as professionals by their Beninese colleagues. Older Volunteers might find that almost too much is expected of them because of their age.

Within the Peace Corps community, older Volunteers may sometimes feel isolated, because most Volunteers in Benin are in their 20s. Older Volunteers may have difficulty finding emotional support among their fellow Volunteers. They may find that younger Volunteers expect older ones to “mother” them. (Some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their experience, but others choose not to fill this role.)

Older Volunteers who are used to living independent lives may at first feel frustrated by the fact that younger Beninese want to do things for them. However, many seniors come to accept this as a sign of respect and enjoy the role of providing wisdom rather than physical assistance.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Benin’s sexual mores are conservative and you are expected to respect them. Many people in Benin still believe that gay and lesbian relationships are wrong, and that such relationships do not exist in their country. Although you may see signs of physical intimacy among men and women in Benin, this is not necessarily a sign of a gay or lesbian relationship. Engaging in homosexual sex is against the law in Benin. Some gay and lesbian Volunteers in Benin report that they are not able to be open about their sexual orientation. In the past, gay and lesbian Volunteers have formed their own support group. You may find more helpful information at http://www.lgbrpcv.org, a website affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association that provides specific information on serving in the Peace Corps as a gay or lesbian Volunteer.

See also: Articles about Benin on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Volunteers are frequently asked about their religious affiliation and may be invited to attend a community church. In some circles, there will be a tendency to think that all Americans are Protestants. Volunteers not in the practice of attending church may be challenged to explain their reluctance, but it is possible to politely decline if the church or religious practice is not your choice. Most Volunteers facing these issues have found effective ways to cope with these additional challenges and have come to feel quite at home in Benin.

Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities

As part of the clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determines if disabled candidates can be selected if they are physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Benin without harm to themselves or interruption of their service. The Peace Corps/Benin staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for training, housing, job sites and other aspects of their service.

That being said, a disabled Volunteer in Benin will face a special set of challenges. In Benin, as in other parts of the world, some people may hold prejudicial attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. Benin has virtually no physical infrastructure to accommodate people with disabilities.

Many of the beggars in Benin are disabled people who have no skills. Some organizations provide training for the disabled, but it is usually limited to arts and crafts. Disabled Volunteers would thus face challenges in overcoming negative stereotypes and difficult physical conditions. However, they also have an opportunity to be inspirational role models for disabled Beninese and to encourage changes in attitude and infrastructure in their communities.