Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has made progress in the educational, health, and governmental systems. However, gaps in the opportunities remain for the historically disadvantaged population. The official unemployment rate is 31%. Sources estimate that over 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Poverty and the lack of education are particularly high in the rural areas of South Africa where the government of South Africa is working to transform the educational system.
The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in South Africa in February 1997. Currently, PC/South Africa has two projects: education and NGO capacity building.
South African Peace Corps Volunteers maintain an in-country wiki found Here
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in South Africa
The Peace Corps arrived in South Africa at a historic and critical juncture in the country’s history. At a White House ceremony in October 1994, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela met to seal a bond of friendship and a promise to work together to transform South Africa from a divided nation to one united by its commitment to build a democratic, nonracially based society. The Peace Corps was a small but important part of that agreement. The first group of 35 Volunteers arrived in January 1997 to work in the education sector. Since that time, more than 200 Volunteers have served or are serving in South Africa. In 2001, Peace Corps/South Africa responded to the government’s request to join in a partnership against HIV/AIDS. In addition to serving as resources for primary school educators, Volunteers now assist local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in building their capacity to meet the demands of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Currently, about 85 Volunteers work in education and with NGOs.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
All Volunteers live with a host family at a site located anywhere from one hour to nine hours from Pretoria, the capital. Proximity to another Volunteer varies from site to site.
Your host agency will provide safe and adequate housing—in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria—that is likely to consist of a private room inside a family’s house or a room in an outside building within a family compound. Housing varies from mud houses with either thatch or tin roofs to brick homes with tin roofs. You need to be very flexible in your housing expectations because there is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity. If you do not, you will collect your water from a well or borehole and spend your evenings reading by candlelight or lantern.
The sponsoring agency or host family will provide you with basic items (i.e., a bed, mattress, desk/table, straight chair, and cupboard for hanging clothing or storage). Each Volunteer will receive an allowance in local currency to purchase needed settling-in items, as well as a water filter provided by the Peace Corps.
Main article: Training in South Africa
Training is an essential and ongoing part of your Peace Corps service. Pre-service training will give you enough skills and information to begin your adjustment to and service in South Africa. It is the first “reality test” of your life as a Volunteer, which will help you make an informed commitment when you swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
The 8- to 10-week pre-service training in South Africa is community based, meaning that the bulk of the training takes place in a community similar to where you will be placed as a Volunteer. The training staff will design a learning environment with experiences and meetings designed to allow you to develop the knowledge and skills needed for your work as a Volunteer. There will be sessions on language, community integration, cross-cultural communication, development issues, health and personal safety, and technical skills appropriate to your assignment. Throughout your training, you will live with a South African family and work in villages and schools.
At the onset of training, the training staff will outline the training goals and assessment criteria that each trainee has to reach before becoming a Volunteer. Evaluation of your performance during training will be based on a continual dialogue between you and the training staff. The training manager, along with other training staff, will work with you to achieve the training goals by providing you feedback throughout trainin
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in South Africa
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in South Africa 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 South Africa at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in South Africa
In South Africa, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of South Africa’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of South Africa are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
While Gays and Lesbians do exist and are out in the more urban and metropolitan areas of South Africa, there is still a very high level of intolerance towards same-sex relationships among many South Africans. You may have to remain closeted or be very discreet about your sexual preference and lifestyle, especially at your site and in your village. Many black South Africans see homosexuality as evil and an abomination and are very vocal about this. Exercise restraint and caution should you choose to be open as a Gay or Lesbian PCV.
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
South Africans come from a wide variety of faiths, with the largest religious group being Christians (70%) followed by Atheists, Hindus, Jews, and traditional beliefs. It is quite common for schools and other organizations (NGOs, clinics, government bodies) to have public Christian prayer. Reading from the Bible during gatherings is not unheard of. Volunteers who are not religious should note this, but be up front with your co-workers and host family if you are uncomfortable. You will usually not be pressured to go if you explain respectfully about your religious preferences.
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in South Africa
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to South Africa?
- What is the electric current in South Africa?
- 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 South African friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from South Africa?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
South African Peace Corps Volunteers maintain an in-country wiki found Here
Main article: Packing list for South Africa
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in South Africa and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in South Africa.
Luggage should be durable, lightweight, lockable, and easy to carry. Wheels are a plus, especially those suitable for wheeling luggage over nonpaved surfaces. Backpacks without frames are very practical. A midsize backpack for weekend and weeklong trips is essential. Also, a regular-size book bag is a good thing to bring. When choosing luggage, remember that you will be hauling it in and out of taxis and buses, and often lugging it around on foot.
- General Clothing
- For Men
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
( As of Wednesday September 17, 2014 )<rss title=off desc=off>http://peacecorpsjournals.com/rss/sf/blog/50.xml%7Ccharset=UTF-8%7Cshort%7Cmax=10</rss>
Contributions to the South Africa Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in South Africa. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.