Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Dominican Republic" and "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama"

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In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the 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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Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Panama, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Panama.
  
===Communications===
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Outside of Panama City, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes.  The people of Panama are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
  
====Mail====
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To ease the transition and adapt to life in Panama, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations.  The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
  
Mail delivery between the United States and the Dominican Republic is generally dependable but can be unreliable.  Letters and packages sent by airmail take from 10 days to two weeks to arrive. Surface mail can take months.
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===Overview of Diversity in Panama ===
  
Your address for regular mail service in the Dominican
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The Peace Corps/Panama staff recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
  
Republic while you are a Peace Corps trainee (PCT) will be:
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===What Might a Volunteer Face? ===
  
“Your Name,” PCT
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====Possible Issues for Female Volunteers ====
  
Cuerpo de Paz
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Female Volunteers may find it difficult to adapt to Panama’s male-dominated society. They may be verbally harassed or even experience physical harassment. They may not be taken seriously intellectually or in their work. They may not be able to socialize with males without giving the impression that they are flirting and may be judged differently than men for behaviors such as smoking, drinking, walking alone, or going out at night. In addition, because they are from the United States, they may be assumed to be sexually promiscuous.  Panamanians may consider it strange that female Volunteers do not spend their days cooking, cleaning, and washing.
  
Av Bolivar 451, Gazcue
 
  
Apartado Postal 1412
 
  
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color ====
  
Please Note: Do not send money, airline tickets, or other valuable items through the mail.  
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African-American Volunteers may be judged as less professionally competent than Caucasian Volunteers. Despite their complexion, they may not be considered black because they come from what is considered a primarily white culture.  They may be called negro or chombo, not necessarily as derogatory terms but as the local words used to describe black people. They must be prepared to work and live with individuals who have no experience of African-American culture. And they may not receive, or be able to receive, necessary personal support from other Volunteers.  
  
Should you need to have a package sent to the Dominican Republic, we recommend that the contents be limited to items that fit into padded envelopes. These are less likely to be lost, opened, or taxed than are other types of packages.  
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Hispanic American Volunteers may not be perceived as being North American and may be expected to speak Spanish fluently. They may be labeled el cubano, el mexicano, etc.  because of stereotyped perceptions of other Latino cultures.  They may be expected to interact in Panamanian society with more ease than other Volunteers. They may not find other Volunteers in Panama with the same ethnic background.  
  
Packages may also be shipped via a parcel delivery serviceFederal Express and DHL have offices in Santo Domingo. If you want them to deliver a package to the Peace Corps office, you will have to provide the office street address (instead of the post office box address listed above) and phone number:
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Asian-American Volunteers may be expected to exhibit behavior Panamanians have observed in martial-arts filmsLike Hispanic Americans, they may not be considered North Americans. In addition, Panama’s historical involvement with certain Asian countries or the presence of Asian merchants in the community may have an impact on how Asian-American Volunteers are perceived.
  
Your address for expedited mail service in the Dominican Republic while you are a Peace Corps trainee or Volunteer will be:
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“Your Name,” PCT
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====Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers ====
  
Cuerpo de Paz
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While in Panama, senior Volunteers may not receive necessary personal support from younger Volunteers. They may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support; some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, while others choose not to fill this role. They may not find suitable role models among the Peace Corps/Panama staff.
  
451 Avenida Bolivar
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Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
  
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
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Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers who have been “out” in the United States may feel pressure to be less open in Panama because some people view their sexual orientation as deviant or taboo. They may be hassled in the streets or in bars, and their civil liberties may be ignored. They may serve in Panama for two years without ever meeting another gay or lesbian Volunteer. Lesbians have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Gay men have to deal with machismo: talk of conquest(s), heavy drinking, girl watching, and dirty jokes. 
  
Telephone: 809.685.4102
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====Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers ====
  
Please Note: Federal Express and DHL will not deliver items larger than an envelope to the Peace Corps office, so you may have to pay significant customs duties to retrieve larger items from customs, and picking up the items may mean an entire day’s travel to the capital. In addition, packages sometimes disappear in transit.  
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Volunteers of religions other than Christianity may be challenged or face generalizations about people of their religion. They may not be thought of as real Americans. Jews may occasionally be considered anti-Christian. Thus, some Volunteers may not feel comfortable disclosing their religion to the people in their community. Volunteers may not be able to find a suitable place of worship near their site or may find it difficult to fulfill their religion’s dietary requirements.  
  
Additionally, there is a tax levied on every package received by a trainee or Volunteer. Peace Corps does not cover these costs. All packages received in-country are charged RD$100 (currently USD$3.07) for retrieval and then an additional RD$100 per pound. So, for example, a 10-pound package would cost the Volunteer RD$1,100 (USD$34.00), which is a significant amount considering Volunteer living allowance.
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====Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities ====
  
Private courier services, such as Mail Boxes Etc., provide mail-forwarding service from Miami; however, these companies are limited to major cities and receiving rates vary according to weight. While mail-forwarding services can be considered more reliable than standard surface or airmail, it can be quite costly.  
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Volunteers with disabilities may encounter people in their community who think that they always require special help and cannot function on their own. They may find that some Panamanians consider them incapable of work that requires physical exertion or less competent in professional situations. They may be faced with frank or inconsiderate remarks concerning their disability.  
  
During training, Peace Corps staff will deliver mail to you at least twice a week while you are in Santo Domingo; less often when you are outside of Santo Domingo. Once you move to your site, you will be responsible for sending your new mailing address to friends and family. Some Volunteers find it more convenient to continue using the Santo Domingo address. In that case, mail received at the Peace Corps office will be put in your locker in the Volunteer lounge, and you will have to collect it periodically.  
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The Peace Corps Office of Medical Services, as part of the medical clearance process, determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Panama without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/Panama staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.  
  
We encourage you to write to your family regularly, as family members may become worried when they do not hear from you.
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====Possible issues for Married Volunteers ====
  
====Telephone====
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Being a married couple in the Peace Corps has its advantages and its challenges. It helps to have someone by your side to share your experience with, but there are also cultural expectations that can cause stress in a marriage. It is important to remember that you are in a foreign country with new rules and you need to be open-minded about cultural differences. For example, a married man may be encouraged by Panamanians to be the more dominant member in the relationship, be encouraged to make decisions independently of his spouse, or be ridiculed when he performs domestic tasks. A married woman may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to or may be expected to perform “traditional” domestic chores such as cooking or cleaning. She may also experience a more limited social life in the community than single Volunteers (since it may be assumed that she will be busy taking care of her husband). Competition between a couple may become a difficulty, especially if one spouse learns faster than the other (e.g., language skills, job skills). There also may be differences in job satisfaction and/or different needs between spouses. Younger Volunteers may look to couples for advice and support. Married couples also are likely to be treated with more respect because the community sees marriage as a responsibility. They may be asked when they will have children.
  
The Peace Corps office in the Dominican Republic can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. The number is 1.809.685.4102. The phone number for the after-hours duty officer is 1.809.723.9944. The fax number is 1.809.689.9330.  
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Please note that during training, couples may or may not live apart if they are assigned to different projects. Please consult with your placement officer if you have any questions.  
  
Long-distance telephone service is available in the Dominican Republic and is not expensive. However, you may or may not have access to a land-line or cellular phone signal at your site. Therefore, new Volunteers are issued cellular phones by Peace Corps/Dominican Republic. This enables staff to maintain contact with Volunteers and to send messages in an emergency. There is no charge for receiving calls or text messages on cellular phones, but all personal calls outside the Peace Corps network are at the Volunteers’ expense. Phone card rates for calling internationally to the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico are typically the same as making a local call. Prepaid calling cards bought in the United States usually don’t work. Volunteers may use call centers of the major telephone companies, Verizon or Tricom, which have branches throughout the country.
 
  
The major cell phone companies are Claro, Orange, and Tricom.
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[[Category:Panama]]
 
 
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
 
 
 
If your sponsoring agency or project partner owns a computer, you may be able to arrange access for work-related or personal use. The resource center and computer room at the Peace Corps office in Santo Domingo has a limited number of computers with Internet access for Volunteer use.  However, if you want to receive personal e-mail, you will need to set up an account with a service such as Yahoo!, Gmail, or Hotmail. Internet access is also available at Internet cafes throughout the country. Peace Corps staff computers are not available for Volunteer use.
 
 
 
===Housing and Site Location===
 
 
 
During pre-service training (PST), you will live with a Dominican host family near the Peace Corps training center on the outskirts of Santo Domingo. The families are selected by training staff. Houses typically have electricity and running water (when these systems are operating). Your host family will provide you with a private room, and you will eat your meals with the family.
 
 
 
You will also live with a host family during the first three months of your Volunteer service. These host families are identified by the community and/or the host country agency and are approved by Peace Corps staff prior to your arrival.  Living with a Dominican family allows faster integration into the community, provides a safe environment while you are settling in, and gives you time to look for independent housing should you choose to do so. During service, you are expected to live in the same type of housing commonly found in your community. Housing varies widely, depending on whether you live in a city, a large or small town, or a campo (rural) village.
 
 
 
Volunteers typically live in houses with tin or thatch roofs, walls of wood or cement block, and cement floors. Although some communities have electricity, a great many do not. Power outages are very common. The water supply is subject to the same inconsistencies. Many communities do not have water piped into houses. Rural families, for example, often have to walk to the nearest river or other water source for household water. Even if you live in a house with faucets, there is no guarantee that there will be water; it is common for water not to appear for days at a time. Volunteers placed in towns and more urbanised areas will also face some of these same challenges.
 
 
 
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
 
 
 
As a Volunteer, you will receive a monthly living allowance in the local currency (Dominican pesos; abbreviated as RD).  The living allowance is meant to cover housing, utilities, household supplies, normal clothing replacement, food, transportation, moderate entertainment expenses, reading material, and incidentals. It will enable you to live modestly, at the same level as your neighbors and colleagues. Peace Corps/Dominican Republic will open a bank account for you and provide you with an ATM card. You will need to budget appropriately to make the living allowance last a month.
 
 
 
Additionally, you will receive a monthly vacation allowance equivalent to $24, paid in local currency at the same time as the living allowance. You will also receive a one-time settling-in allowance to purchase needed household furniture and equipment (e.g., a bed, a stove, kitchen items, and locks) and pay several months of advance rent if required.
 
 
 
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in the Dominican Republic with these allowances, so we strongly discourage you from supplementing the living allowance with money from home. Still, many Volunteers bring money from home for out-of-country travel. Credit cards can be used in many establishments in major cities, and traveler’s checks can be cashed for a small fee.
 
 
 
===Food and Diet===
 
 
 
The Dominican diet consists primarily of rice, beans, yuca (cassava), plantains, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and other vegetables, along with eggs, chicken, pork, beef, and some fish. The national dish is sancocho, a rich vegetable-andmeat stew served on special occasions. A typical Dominican meal, called la bandera, is a mix of rice, red beans, and meat. Yuca may be boiled, prepared as fritters, or baked into rounds of crisp cracker bread called casabe. Most dishes are not spicy. Locally grown, seasonal fruits include bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, guavas, and avocados.  Dominicans generally eat small quantities of meat at meals.  Bacalau (dried fish; usually cod) can be found in several areas, but fresh fish is generally available only along the coast.  Habichuelas con dulce, a sweetened dish made from beans, is popular at Easter.
 
 
 
Vegetarians will be able to maintain their diet at home, but they will be offered—and expected to accept—traditional foods, including meat, when visiting Dominican families.  You will have to be open and flexible about sharing in the Dominican diet when necessary.
 
 
 
During training, your host family will provide your meals.  Once you are at your site, you can choose to eat with Dominicans or cook on your own. To supplement their diet, some Volunteers plant gardens at home.
 
 
 
===Transportation===
 
 
 
Transportation is relatively easy in the Dominican Republic. Most urban travel is by bus and van, although carro públicos (a sort of shared taxi), are available as well. Intercity travel is by bus; rural travel runs the gamut from air-conditioned minibuses to crowded carro públicos to lots of walking.  Although inexpensive, carro públicos are where most Volunteers experience pickpocketing and robberies. Do not travel in them at night.
 
 
 
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to drive vehicles or motorcycles in the Dominican Republic. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your Peace Corps service.
 
 
 
Most Volunteers rely on public transportation to get around.  But Volunteers can request assistance from the Peace Corps in arranging alternative means of local transportation.  Volunteers can apply for and recieve limited funds to purchase a bicycle in the Dominican Republic. The Peace Corps will also provide you with a helmet, which you must wear at all times while riding a bicycle. Failure to abide by this policy will also result in termination of your Peace Corps serddd
 
 
 
===Climate===
 
 
 
With an average temperature range of 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, this Caribbean country is probably not as hot as you might think. It is difficult to define a rainy season, since showers can occur at any time during the year, depending on the area. However, the period of heaviest rainfall for most of the island is late April to early October, months that can be relatively hot and humid. The cooler season—from November to February—is pleasant but still warm, with temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need both lightweight clothing suitable for hot weather and at least one heavier garment for traveling to cooler, mountainous areas such as the 10,417 -foot Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the Caribbean. .
 
chicken nuggets rock
 
 
 
===Social Activities===
 
 
 
Social activities in the Dominican Republic vary depending on where you are located. They include taking part in festivities such as Carnival, parties, and dances. Some Volunteers visit other Volunteers nearby on weekends for work-related or social occasions and will make an occasional trip to the capital. We encourage Volunteers to remain at their sites as much as possible to help accomplish the Peace Corps’ goal of cultural exchange. Most regional capitals have cafés and restaurants, movie theaters, and other forms of entertainment.
 
 
 
Social life in the Dominican Republic often revolves around the family porch, where people talk while playing dominoes, a national pastime. Outdoor tables in front of homes, bars, and colmados (neighborhood markets) are surrounded by men who play for hours, especially on Sundays. Outdoor players are almost exclusively men, but everyone plays at home. Even young children become adept at the game. Baseball is the country’s most popular sport. The competition is keen, and rarely does a day go by when children, youth, and even adults are not playing baseball with anything they can find to use as a bat and ball. Cockfighting is another national pastime, and the gambling stakes can be high.
 
 
 
Dominicans also love music and dancing. Merengue is the national dance, and many people, including small children, know the steps. The fast-paced, rhythmic music of merengue is traditionally performed with three instruments: a tambora (a small drum), a melodeon (similar to an accordion), and a guira (a scraping percussion instrument). Bachata is a another popular folk dance that is overtaking merengue in popularity. Salsa and other styles of Latin American music are popular, as are North American pop and jazz. Discos exist even in rural communities.
 
 
 
What has kept merengue alive over the years is its place in the Dominican Republic’s Carnival celebrations. All of the major cities celebrate Carnival with zeal, incorporating music and dance into the street parades and other festivities. In Santo Domingo, Carnival occurs twice a year. The first occurs during the traditional pre-Lenten holiday. The second one, much smaller but just as festive, starts the day before August 16, which is the anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s declaration of war against Spain in 1863.
 
 
 
Each July, Santo Domingo hosts a merengue festival along its main seaside strip, El Malecón. The street is closed off to make way for some of the country’s most popular bands.  Celebrations also take place at clubs, hotels, and even nighttime beach parties. Smaller merengue festivals take place in other towns.
 
 
 
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
 
 
 
Dominicans take pride in their personal appearance. To gain the acceptance, respect, and confidence of rural, urban, and government-level workers, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally. Standards of dress for foreign aid workers tend to be conservative and modest. Women are expected to wear casual pants or mid-length skirts for professional activities (excluding physical labor); men are expected to wear pants for professional activities other than sports and physical labor. Simply stated: first impressions will be informed by the way you dress. Establishing yourself as a professional technical resource in your community is a part of the overall challenge of adjusting to a new language and culture. Dressing as a professional will ease this process for you. Inappropriate dress may send unintended messages or invitations to co-workers and/or others in your community.
 
 
 
Out of respect for Dominican culture, Volunteers are not allowed to display body piercings. This includes nose rings, tongue bolts, and navel rings. Men are not allowed to wear earrings or have long hair or ponytails. If you do not remove your body rings and cut your hair before you arrive in the Dominican Republic, you will be asked to do so before you move in with a host family during training. Adherence to this policy is an important test of your motivation and commitment to adapt to the new environment. If you have reservations about this policy and the degree of sacrifice and flexibility required to be a successful Volunteer, you should reevaluate your decision to accept the invitation to Peace Corps/Dominican Republic.
 
 
 
The Peace Corps expects you to comport yourself in a way that will foster respect in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on citizens of the United States.  Drinking and smoking in public is strongly discouraged as Volunteers are seen as role models, especially among local youth. You will receive an orientation on appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.  Behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in the Dominican Republic or your personal safety could lead to an administrative separation—a termination of your Peace Corps service. The Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook has more information on the grounds for administrative separation.
 
 
 
===Personal Safety===
 
 
 
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents.  The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in the Dominican Republic. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. This means being proactive in avoiding dangerous situations and reporting immediately to Peace Corps/Dominican Republic when there is an incident or emergency.
 
 
 
===Rewards and Frustrations===
 
 
 
Although the potential for job satisfaction in the Dominican Republic is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support they promised. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.
 
 
 
You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work, perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
 
 
 
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave the Dominican Republic feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service.  If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
 
 
 
Volunteers usually are readily accepted by their host community and make lasting friendships. However, for many Volunteers, constantly being asked personal questions, the lack of privacy, being considered a rich foreigner, and the need to be aware of different social mores can be trying. As in most Latin American countries, women in the Dominican Republic do not have the freedoms to which North American women are accustomed. A female Volunteer’s inability to adapt to this reality can make her less effective and possibly even affect her safety.
 
 
 
The Peace Corps is not for everyone. Creativity, initiative, flexibility, patience, and a high tolerance for ambiguity are necessary attributes in confronting the challenges associated with facilitating change in a cultural setting different from the United States. Your dedication, however, can have real and lasting results. When your service is over, you will have the deep satisfaction of having played a role in a grassroots development process that helped give Dominicans greater control of their future.
 
 
 
[[Category:Dominican Republic]]
 

Revision as of 23:24, 12 March 2009

Diversity and cross-cultural issues in [[{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |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 Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]
See also:
[[Category:{{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |5}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |6}} {{#explode:Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Panama| |7}}]]

In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the 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.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Panama, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Panama.

Outside of Panama City, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Panama are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.

To ease the transition and adapt to life in Panama, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.

Overview of Diversity in Panama

The Peace Corps/Panama staff recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.

What Might a Volunteer Face?

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

Female Volunteers may find it difficult to adapt to Panama’s male-dominated society. They may be verbally harassed or even experience physical harassment. They may not be taken seriously intellectually or in their work. They may not be able to socialize with males without giving the impression that they are flirting and may be judged differently than men for behaviors such as smoking, drinking, walking alone, or going out at night. In addition, because they are from the United States, they may be assumed to be sexually promiscuous. Panamanians may consider it strange that female Volunteers do not spend their days cooking, cleaning, and washing.


Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

African-American Volunteers may be judged as less professionally competent than Caucasian Volunteers. Despite their complexion, they may not be considered black because they come from what is considered a primarily white culture. They may be called negro or chombo, not necessarily as derogatory terms but as the local words used to describe black people. They must be prepared to work and live with individuals who have no experience of African-American culture. And they may not receive, or be able to receive, necessary personal support from other Volunteers.

Hispanic American Volunteers may not be perceived as being North American and may be expected to speak Spanish fluently. They may be labeled el cubano, el mexicano, etc. because of stereotyped perceptions of other Latino cultures. They may be expected to interact in Panamanian society with more ease than other Volunteers. They may not find other Volunteers in Panama with the same ethnic background.

Asian-American Volunteers may be expected to exhibit behavior Panamanians have observed in martial-arts films. Like Hispanic Americans, they may not be considered North Americans. In addition, Panama’s historical involvement with certain Asian countries or the presence of Asian merchants in the community may have an impact on how Asian-American Volunteers are perceived.


Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

While in Panama, senior Volunteers may not receive necessary personal support from younger Volunteers. They may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support; some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, while others choose not to fill this role. They may not find suitable role models among the Peace Corps/Panama staff.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers who have been “out” in the United States may feel pressure to be less open in Panama because some people view their sexual orientation as deviant or taboo. They may be hassled in the streets or in bars, and their civil liberties may be ignored. They may serve in Panama for two years without ever meeting another gay or lesbian Volunteer. Lesbians have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Gay men have to deal with machismo: talk of conquest(s), heavy drinking, girl watching, and dirty jokes.

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Volunteers of religions other than Christianity may be challenged or face generalizations about people of their religion. They may not be thought of as real Americans. Jews may occasionally be considered anti-Christian. Thus, some Volunteers may not feel comfortable disclosing their religion to the people in their community. Volunteers may not be able to find a suitable place of worship near their site or may find it difficult to fulfill their religion’s dietary requirements.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

Volunteers with disabilities may encounter people in their community who think that they always require special help and cannot function on their own. They may find that some Panamanians consider them incapable of work that requires physical exertion or less competent in professional situations. They may be faced with frank or inconsiderate remarks concerning their disability.

The Peace Corps Office of Medical Services, as part of the medical clearance process, determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Panama without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/Panama staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Possible issues for Married Volunteers

Being a married couple in the Peace Corps has its advantages and its challenges. It helps to have someone by your side to share your experience with, but there are also cultural expectations that can cause stress in a marriage. It is important to remember that you are in a foreign country with new rules and you need to be open-minded about cultural differences. For example, a married man may be encouraged by Panamanians to be the more dominant member in the relationship, be encouraged to make decisions independently of his spouse, or be ridiculed when he performs domestic tasks. A married woman may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to or may be expected to perform “traditional” domestic chores such as cooking or cleaning. She may also experience a more limited social life in the community than single Volunteers (since it may be assumed that she will be busy taking care of her husband). Competition between a couple may become a difficulty, especially if one spouse learns faster than the other (e.g., language skills, job skills). There also may be differences in job satisfaction and/or different needs between spouses. Younger Volunteers may look to couples for advice and support. Married couples also are likely to be treated with more respect because the community sees marriage as a responsibility. They may be asked when they will have children.

Please note that during training, couples may or may not live apart if they are assigned to different projects. Please consult with your placement officer if you have any questions.