Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Malawi" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in Malawi"

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| colspan="2" align="center" | '''<big>[[Diversity_and_cross-cultural_issues_by_country|Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues by Country]]</big>'''
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| align="center" | '''<big>Country Resources</big>'''
 
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*[[FAQs by country]]  
 
*[[FAQs by country]]  
 
*[[History of the Peace Corps by country]]   
 
*[[History of the Peace Corps by country]]   
|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.
 
 
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===How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Malawi? ===
  
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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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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 70 pounds for any one bag.
  
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.  
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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.  
  
In other ways, however, our diversity poses challenges. In Malawi, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
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===What is the electric current in Malawi? ===
  
Outside of Malawi’s 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. The people of Malawi are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.  
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Roughly 230 volt, 50 cycles. We say “roughly” because it may range from 190 volts to 260 volts when it is on. Less than half the Volunteers have electricity at work or at home. Batteries are available; “D” cells are more easily found than “C” cells.  
  
In order to ease the transition and adapt to life in Malawi, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises with who you are 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 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. The Peace Corps staff 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 the your own.
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===How much money should I bring? ===
  
===Overview of Diversity in Malawi ===
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Volunteers are expected to live at the same 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 travelers checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.
  
The Peace Corps staff in Malawi 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 cultures, backgrounds, religions, ethnic groups, and ages and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who will take pride in supporting each other and demonstrating the richness of America
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===When can I take vacation and have people visit me?===
  
===What Might A Volunteer Face? ===
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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 or travel assistance.
  
====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance? ===
  
The view of equality between the sexes does not exist in Malawi. Distinct roles and responsibilities are expected to be fulfilled by men and women in Malawian culture. Female Volunteers may often meet extremely conservative attitudes regarding gender equality. Likewise, the behavior of female Volunteers is more often scrutinized and criticized than that of their male peers. Although the Peace Corps emphasizes understanding and sensitivity of other cultures, it will be necessary to occasionally explain and defend why you believe something or behave a certain way. Women and men in Malawi are not considered adults until they marry and have children.  This being the case, female Volunteers should expect curiosity from host country friends regarding their marital status and whether or not they have children.  
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The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be given to you, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.  
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
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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.
  
The average Malawian has never had the opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. If you are black, you are called African. If you are Asian, you are called either Chinese or Japanese. If you are South Asian, you are called Indian. If you are white, you are called British or American. If you are Hispanic, you are called Mexican.  The possibility of another ethnicity simply does not occur to Malawians you will meet in the villages. Be prepared to tolerate and repeatedly explain that some terms used in Malawi are considered derogatory in America (e.g., “colored,” “half caste,” or “Chinaman”). It is also important to be aware of the long-standing influence of South Africa. Malawi was one of the only countries to deal openly with the old South African apartheid government, and some of the racial perceptions from that era have influenced Malawian reactions to people of color.
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===Do I need an international driver’s license? ===
  
====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
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Volunteers in Malawi do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking.
  
Age also affects how you will be treated. While Malawians traditionally have a reverence for age, Malawi’s legal retirement age is 55. Hence, older Volunteers may be respected for their wisdom, but may find difficulty in being accepted at the workplace. Malawians are especially curious about older female Volunteers. They are puzzled as to why they have no spouse or children, even if they have the pictures to prove otherwise.  
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Volunteers sometimes drive while on annual leave during their service. For this reason, we recommend that you bring your U.S. driver’s license.  
  
====Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers ====
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===What should I bring as gifts for Malawian friends and my host family? ===
  
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers must know that Malawi is still a very conservative society. Many Malawians are in denial that homosexuality actually exists in their culture, and it is technically illegal. Thus any display of your sexuality will be severely frowned upon. Previous Volunteers have decided to serve their time in Malawi under the cloak of silence. It has been expressed by some gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers that if they were to display their sexual orientation, it would have adverse effects on their relationships with their community and co-workers.
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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.  
  
'''See also:''' Articles about Malawi on the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Peace Corps Alumni Association website at http://www.lgbrpcv.org/articles.htm
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be? ===
  
====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
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Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed a portion of their pre-service training. This gives 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. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but may be within one or two hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites may be a 10- to 12-hour drive or even multiple days from the capital.
  
Whether you practice a religion or not, you will probably find the Malawian practice of religion different than that in the United States. You will notice how deeply religion is ingrained into the culture just by walking down a city street where signs with religious messages punctuate the front of every third store. Malawians enjoy conversing, and they enjoy religion, so it makes sense that they love conversing about religion. Be prepared to tolerate views very different from your own.
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===How can my family contact me in an emergency? ===
  
====Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities ====
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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 1.800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.
  
Malawians with physical disabilities are treated no differently than any other Malawian. They are expected to complete the same work, but perhaps not through the same methods. Ironically, many Malawians consider the fact that you are a Westerner a serious disability to doing any manual work. They do not believe that Americans are capable of strenuous physical labor.  
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For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 1.800.424.8580.  
  
There is little of the infrastructure to accommodate individuals with disabilities that has been developed in the United States. That being said, as part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Malawi without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of service. The Peace Corps/Malawi staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in their training, housing, job sites, or in other areas, to enable them to serve safely and effectively.  
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===Can I call home from Malawi? ===
 +
 
 +
Yes, but generally only from larger towns. Calls from Malawi to the United States are very expensive. We recommend writing letters and setting up periodic calls from home on special occasions. Phone cards do not work in Malawi, and  it is no longer possible to make a reverse charge (collect) call.
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 +
===Should I bring a cellular phone with me? ===
 +
 
 +
No. The systems are different from those used in the United States. Many Volunteers buy a cellphone in Malawi. However, the costs are very high for service, and the coverage area for cellular phones is limited. Key Peace Corps staff members carry cellular phones to ensure availability at all times for emergency contact.
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 +
===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer? ===
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 +
There are now cyber-cafés in the three major towns that provide both e-mail and Internet access. At the Peace Corps office in Lilongwe, there is e-mail and Internet access for programmatic needs (finding resources for your work).  It is not recommended that you bring a computer, as few Volunteer sites have a stable electrical supply, surges are common, and maintenance and repair options are extremely limited. Also, due to the high value of a computer, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime.  
  
 
[[Category:Malawi]]
 
[[Category:Malawi]]

Revision as of 10:16, 8 December 2015

Country Resources

How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Malawi?

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 limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. 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 70 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 Malawi?

Roughly 230 volt, 50 cycles. We say “roughly” because it may range from 190 volts to 260 volts when it is on. Less than half the Volunteers have electricity at work or at home. Batteries are available; “D” cells are more easily found than “C” cells.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same 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 travelers checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.

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 or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be given to you, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.

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 Malawi do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses to mini-buses to trucks to a lot of walking.

Volunteers sometimes drive while on annual leave during their service. For this reason, we recommend that you bring your U.S. driver’s license.

What should I bring as gifts for Malawian 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 after they have completed a portion of their pre-service training. This gives 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. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but may be within one or two hours from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites may be a 10- to 12-hour drive or even multiple days 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 1.800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.

For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 1.800.424.8580.

Can I call home from Malawi?

Yes, but generally only from larger towns. Calls from Malawi to the United States are very expensive. We recommend writing letters and setting up periodic calls from home on special occasions. Phone cards do not work in Malawi, and it is no longer possible to make a reverse charge (collect) call.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

No. The systems are different from those used in the United States. Many Volunteers buy a cellphone in Malawi. However, the costs are very high for service, and the coverage area for cellular phones is limited. Key Peace Corps staff members carry cellular phones to ensure availability at all times for emergency contact.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

There are now cyber-cafés in the three major towns that provide both e-mail and Internet access. At the Peace Corps office in Lilongwe, there is e-mail and Internet access for programmatic needs (finding resources for your work). It is not recommended that you bring a computer, as few Volunteer sites have a stable electrical supply, surges are common, and maintenance and repair options are extremely limited. Also, due to the high value of a computer, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime.