Difference between pages "Health care and safety in Tonga" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean"

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The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Tonga maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Tonga at local health clinics. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American medical facility in the region or to the United States.
 
  
===Health Issues in Tonga ===
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===How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to the Eastern Caribbean? ===
  
Major health problems among Volunteers in Tonga are rare and are often the result of the Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most common health problems are minor ones that are also found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, sinus infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in Tonga because certain environmental factors in the country raise the risk or exacerbate the severity of illnesses and injuries.  
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Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. 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 Peace Corps’ authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined linear 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 of 50 pounds for any one bag.  
  
Malaria is not present in Tonga, nor is rabies, though there are many stray animals. Typhoid, dengue fever, measles, and tuberculosis are endemic in Tonga.  
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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.  
  
===Helping You Stay Healthy ===
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===What is the electric current in the Eastern Caribbean? ===
  
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Tonga, you will receive the Volunteer Handbook that has a section on medical information and your health-related responsibilities while you serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. At the end of training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs.  The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.  
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It is 220 volts. If you have U.S. electronic items, then you must use a step-down transformer. The islands experience power surges and occasional power cuts, so bring along a good surge protector.  
  
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 the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use; they may not be available here, and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.
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===How much money should I bring? ===
  
You will have physicals at your mid-service conference (15 months after you depart the US) and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Tonga will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Tonga, you will be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.  
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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 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, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.  
  
===Maintaining Your Health ===
 
  
As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable 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 worth a pound of cure” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Tonga is to take preventive measures to stay healthy.
 
  
Many diseases that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken.  These diseases include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Tonga during pre-service training.
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===When can I take vacation and have people visit me? ===
  
To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive information from the medical officer about this issue.  
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Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (which begin to accrue once you swear-in as a Volunteer). 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 the country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.  
  
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.
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance? ===
  
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 the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
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The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. Given an increase in lost baggage during transit, we strongly encourage trainees to purchase insurance before departing from the U.S. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided during your two-day staging event, 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. Moreover, satisfactory maintenance and repair services may not be available.  
  
===Women’s Health Information ===
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===Do I need an international driver’s license?===
  
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have 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. Pregnancy most often results in medical separation. Feminine hygiene products are available for you to purchase locally, but if you require a specific brand, you should bring your own supply. Note that tampons are particularly expensive in-country.  
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Volunteers in the Eastern Caribbean do not need an international driver’s license. Peace Corps trainees and Volunteers are prohibited from driving. Most urban and rural travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from mini-buses to a lot of walking. Some of the routes are well-covered by public transportation, so unless it is late at night, you will be able to board a bus.  
  
===Your Peace Corps Medical Kit ===
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===What should I bring as gifts for Caribbean friends and my host family?===
  
The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you 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 medical office.  
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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.  
  
====Medical Kit Contents ====
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be? ===
  
Ace bandages <br>
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Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites after the first three weeks of PST. Phase Two of PST takes place on the island nation of assignment and lasts four weeks. During the entire training period and for two weeks after swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will live with a homestay family.
Adhesive tape <br>
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American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook  <br>
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Antacid tablets (Tums) <br>
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Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B) <br>
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Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens) <br>
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Band-Aids <br>
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Butterfly closures <br>
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Cepacol lozenges <br>
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Condoms <br>
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Dental floss <br>
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Diphenhydramine HCL 25&nbsp;mg (Benadryl) <br>
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Hydrocortisone cream <br>
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Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s) <br>
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Iodine tablets (for water purification) <br>
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Lip balm (Chapstick) <br>
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Oral rehydration salts  <br>
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Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit) [disposable]  <br>
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Pseudoephedrine HCL 30&nbsp;mg (Sudafed)  <br>
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Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)  <br>
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Scissors  <br>
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Sterile gauze pads  <br>
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Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)  <br>
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Tinactin (antifungal cream)  <br>
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Tweezers  <br>
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Volunteers working on remote islands are given an expanded medical kit with additional medications.  
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Once Volunteers are sworn-in, they are required to live with the same homestay family for an additional two weeks. After this time, Volunteers can get help from community partners, host family, or their associate Peace Corps director in identifying a suitable home or apartment of their own. Some Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages; others may live in the capital, but the farthest they will be from another Volunteer is usually 20 to 30 minutes. All housing must meet Peace Corps’ site selection criteria for safety.  
  
===Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist ===
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===How can my family contact me in an emergency? ===
  
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.  
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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 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 Peace Corps/Washington by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2517.  
  
If your dental exam was 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.
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===Can I call home from any of the island nations? ===
  
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.  
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Direct dialing service is available on all of the island nations. Simply dial 1+ area code + the number. Fixed line telephone services are provided by Cable & Wireless, while three cellular carriers now operate on most of the islands. U.S. phone cards do not work here so do not bring them. You can purchase local “smart-phone” cards for local or long-distance calls.  
  
The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment shortly after you arrive in Tonga.  The Peace Corps will provide trainees with immunizations, including tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis, and influenza.
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===Should I bring a cellular phone with me? ===
  
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 non-prescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.  
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You may bring your cellphone as long as it is compatible with the Eastern Caribbean system. This means that it must be either GSM or TDMA. It may be easier to buy the phone and service together in-country once you are assigned to an island in the Eastern Caribbean. You are encouraged to purchase a cellular phone plan that services your island of assignment. Please note that if you bring your own cellphone, you still may have to pay up to $75 (U.S.) to get it unlocked so that you can use it in the Eatern Caribbean.  
  
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.
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===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? ===
  
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.  
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The Eastern Caribbean is modernized and computer technology is common. Each Peace Corps office is equipped with a computer for use by Volunteers, which offers Internet access. This access is limited to two hours per person per month. If you currently use e-mail, be sure to bring along all important addresses with you. Internet and e-mail access will be difficult during training, but there are Internet cafés in towns and villages that you can use in your free time.  
  
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.  
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If you decide to bring your own computer, we recommend you insure it. Internet access is available from home and is fairly inexpensive. Volunteers sometimes find it helpful to have a computer for work.  
  
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.
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[[Category:Eastern Caribbean]]
 
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At the time of your mid-service and close of service conferences, you will receive physical and dental examinations.
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===Safety and Security—Our Partnership ===
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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.
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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.
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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.
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===Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk ===
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There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.
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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).
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* 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.
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* 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.
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* Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
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* Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
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* Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
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===Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk ===
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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:
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Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
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* Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
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* Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance 
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* Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
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* Carry valuables in different pockets/places
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* Carry a "dummy" wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
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* Live with a local family or on a family compound
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* Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
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* Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
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* Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
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* Make local friends
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* Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
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* Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
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* Travel with someone whenever possible
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* Avoid known high crime areas
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* Limit alcohol consumption
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===Support from Staff===
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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.
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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.
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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 provides 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.
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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 Tonga as compared to all other Inter-America and Pacific (IAP) region programs as a whole, from 2002–2006. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
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To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
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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. 
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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).
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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.
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===What if you become a victim of a violent crime? ===
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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-aday, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at violentcrimehotline@peacecorps.gov.
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===Security Issues in Tonga ===
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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 Tonga. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions.
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The Peace Corps discourages you from spending time in disreputable nightclubs and bars, especially if you are unaccompanied by Tongan peers. It is also advisable to avoid traveling on poorly lit paths at night and visiting beaches that are considered unsafe.
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Criminal acts Volunteers have experienced include pick pocketing and break-ins (without weapons as Tonga prohibits weapons in the kingdom). Lifestyle choices are restrictive in some respects because of safety issues. For instance, it is not wise to travel alone at night in unfamiliar areas.
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===Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime ===
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You must be prepared to take significant responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Tonga, 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 Tonga may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
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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 conservatively and do not respond to unwanted attention, or respond with culturally appropriate humor. You should always walk with a companion at night.
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===Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Tonga ===
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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. Tonga’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
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The Peace Corps/Tonga office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided 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.
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Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Tonga. 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.
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Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. 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 sites. 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 Volunteer support needs.
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You will also learn about Peace Corps/Tonga’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 Tonga will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate. If you are going away from your Peace Corps site overnight, then you must notify someone at your site and the Peace Corps/Tonga office.
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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 Peace Corps medical officer. 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 current and future Volunteers.
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[[Category:Tonga]]
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[[Category:Health and Safety]]
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Revision as of 00:52, 13 March 2009

FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks



How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to the Eastern Caribbean?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. 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 Peace Corps’ authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined linear 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 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 the Eastern Caribbean?

It is 220 volts. If you have U.S. electronic items, then you must use a step-down transformer. The islands experience power surges and occasional power cuts, so bring along a good surge protector.

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 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, 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 (which begin to accrue once you swear-in as a Volunteer). 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 the country director. The Peace Corps cannot 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. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. Given an increase in lost baggage during transit, we strongly encourage trainees to purchase insurance before departing from the U.S. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided during your two-day staging event, 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. Moreover, satisfactory maintenance and repair services may not be available.

Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in the Eastern Caribbean do not need an international driver’s license. Peace Corps trainees and Volunteers are prohibited from driving. Most urban and rural travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from mini-buses to a lot of walking. Some of the routes are well-covered by public transportation, so unless it is late at night, you will be able to board a bus.

What should I bring as gifts for Caribbean 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 assigned to individual sites after the first three weeks of PST. Phase Two of PST takes place on the island nation of assignment and lasts four weeks. During the entire training period and for two weeks after swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will live with a homestay family.

Once Volunteers are sworn-in, they are required to live with the same homestay family for an additional two weeks. After this time, Volunteers can get help from community partners, host family, or their associate Peace Corps director in identifying a suitable home or apartment of their own. Some Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages; others may live in the capital, but the farthest they will be from another Volunteer is usually 20 to 30 minutes. All housing must meet Peace Corps’ site selection criteria for safety.

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 non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at Peace Corps/Washington by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2517.

Can I call home from any of the island nations?

Direct dialing service is available on all of the island nations. Simply dial 1+ area code + the number. Fixed line telephone services are provided by Cable & Wireless, while three cellular carriers now operate on most of the islands. U.S. phone cards do not work here so do not bring them. You can purchase local “smart-phone” cards for local or long-distance calls.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

You may bring your cellphone as long as it is compatible with the Eastern Caribbean system. This means that it must be either GSM or TDMA. It may be easier to buy the phone and service together in-country once you are assigned to an island in the Eastern Caribbean. You are encouraged to purchase a cellular phone plan that services your island of assignment. Please note that if you bring your own cellphone, you still may have to pay up to $75 (U.S.) to get it unlocked so that you can use it in the Eatern Caribbean.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access?

The Eastern Caribbean is modernized and computer technology is common. Each Peace Corps office is equipped with a computer for use by Volunteers, which offers Internet access. This access is limited to two hours per person per month. If you currently use e-mail, be sure to bring along all important addresses with you. Internet and e-mail access will be difficult during training, but there are Internet cafés in towns and villages that you can use in your free time.

If you decide to bring your own computer, we recommend you insure it. Internet access is available from home and is fairly inexpensive. Volunteers sometimes find it helpful to have a computer for work.