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The Peace Corps signed a country agreement with the Government of Rwanda in 1974 and the first group of Volunteers arrived in 1975. The agency withdrew Volunteers in 1993 due to the civil war and the program closed in 1994. In the 18 years that the Peace Corps operated in Rwanda a total of 114 Volunteers served successfully.
A new country agreement was signed with the Government of Rwanda on July 18, 2008. The first new group of thirty-five Public Health trainees arrived in January 2009. They will be assigned to the Ministry of Health and the National AIDS Committee to health centers throughout the country.
Some Volunteers will be assigned to work on HIV/AIDS prevention programs, funded by the President's Emergency Program For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and administered by the National Committee to Fight against AIDS. Other Volunteers will be assigned to the Ministry of Health. In addition to efforts to prevent AIDS, all of the Volunteers will work on issues such as nutrition, malaria prevention, vaccinations and income generation.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Rwanda
The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Rwanda in 1975. Programming started with three Volunteers working in university education, and later expanded into fisheries and agriculture. However, due to a limited number of requests for Volunteers from the government of Rwanda, Peace Corps withdrew its permanent staff and the small program was managed with the help of the U.S. Embassy.
In 1985 and 1986, program assessments indicated that there was potential for expansion of the Peace Corps program, particularly in areas of forestry and cooperative extension. With growth in mind, Peace Corps sent a permanent representative to Rwanda in 1987. In 1988, an associate Peace Corps director was added to enhance programming. In addition to the original programs in university education, agriculture, and fisheries, Peace Corps/Rwanda began new initiatives in conservation and health. However, in February 1993, severe political instability in Rwanda led to the evacuation of all Volunteers. The office eventually closed in April 1994. All records were burned by the U.S. Embassy, leaving very little documentation of Peace Corps’ operations there.
On July 15, 2007, an assessment team traveled to Rwanda to explore the viability of re-establishing Peace Corps operations. This was the first assessment team to visit the country since the program closed in 1994. From the initial meetings it became clear that both the community and the current government of Rwanda are eager to welcome Peace Corps back to the country.
On July 18, 2008, U.S. Ambassador Michael Arietti and Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Rwanda Amandin Rugira signed an agreement officially reestablishing the U.S. Peace Corps program in Rwanda.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Rwanda
As a Volunteer, you will most likely live in a small town or rural community, and not have access to indoor plumbing or electricity. Expect to use lamps and candles for lighting and to cook using a single-burner kerosene stove, wood, or charcoal.
The standards and conditions of Volunteer housing vary widely, from mud houses with thatched roofs to very modern cement houses with running water and electricity. The type of house you have will depend on your project, the area of the country to which you are posted, and the types of houses available in the community. You may also be required to share housing with other staff or to live in a room behind a shop at a market center. You can expect to have, at the very least, a room to call your own. The decision as to whether housing standards are “acceptable” lies with the Peace Corps staff. When it comes to your housing, you should not lose sight of the guiding goal of the Peace Corps. Maintain your focus on service to the people of Rwanda and not on the level of your accommodations.
Main article: Training in Rwanda
The most important function of Peace Corps staff is to provide support for Volunteers. Support does not imply daily supervision of Volunteers’ work, nor does it imply assuming parental roles. Volunteer support implies an ongoing interaction between Volunteers and all Peace Corps staff regarding how you handle such matters as your overall adjustment to the Peace Corps, your job assignment, and your community. Your Peace Corps staff is responsible for making regular visits to your site to assist you in any way possible in your orientation in-country.
Training will be busy for everyone. Often you will work over eight hours a day, five or six days a week. Be prepared for a rigorous, full schedule. The principal objectives of training are to provide a learning environment that enables you to develop the language (Kinyarwanda), technical and cultural skills, knowledge, and attitude necessary to work and live in Rwanda.
Your training will be a mixture of classroom instruction and training in the community, where you will learn by doing and then reflect on your experiences during formal sessions. You will spend time in the field, completing hands-on, practical tasks and participating in group discussions, lectures, and field trips. Each week you will spend time discussing what you learned the previous week, preparing for the next work week, and attending essential cross-cultural, health, administrative, and integration sessions.
Most of the training staff will be Rwandan nationals.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Rwanda
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 Rwanda maintains qualified staff to take care of Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Rwanda at local, and equivalent American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an equivalent of 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 Rwanda
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Rwanda, 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.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Rwanda
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Rwanda?
- What is the electric current in Rwanda?
- 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 Rwandan 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 Rwanda?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be email and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Rwanda
This list has been compiled by Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. 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 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Rwanda.
Peace Corps News
- Trip across the world delayed - Pilot Tribune (Apr 14)
- Peace Corps Volunteers Conclude Two-Year Mission in Rwanda - AllAfrica.com (Mar 30)
PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
( As of Friday April 25, 2014 )
Contributions to the Rwanda Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Rwanda. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.