History of the Peace Corps in Benin
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Revision as of 09:46, 18 October 2009
|History of the Peace Corps|
|Since 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries, more than 182,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 138 countries all over the globe.
Since 1968, more than 1,500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Benin. The initial program included projects in animal traction, small-farm grain storage, rice production, and secondary English education. From the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, the number of Volunteers in Benin remained at approximately 50. During the late 1970s, Peace Corps/Benin received fewer requests for assistance, and by 1980 only six Volunteers remained in-country. In 1981, the government of Benin (GOB) expressed renewed interest in having Volunteer assistance in implementing its new development plan, particularly in the areas of education, reforestation, and rural development. The Peace Corps responded by developing projects and recruiting Volunteers in those areas.
Currently, about 100 Volunteers work under the direction of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Promotion of Employment (small enterprise development Volunteers), the Ministry of Family, Social Protection, and Solidarity (rural community health Volunteers), the Ministry of Environment (environmental action Volunteers) and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (TEFL Volunteers) to respond to the four national priorities:
- Increased development of small enterprise;
- Improved quality of health delivery for rural populations and HIV/AIDS education;
- Environmental awareness and protection; and
- Expanded secondary educational opportunities;
The education, health, and environmental sectors account for approximately 60 percent of the national budget; and 75 percent of Volunteers serving in Benin work in these sectors.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Benin
Small enterprise development Volunteers work with rural credit unions, small business owners, artisan groups, community cooperatives and municipal governments to strengthen management skills and to improve income generation. Volunteers in the education program teach English as a foreign language in secondary schools.
Volunteers in the rural community health project are assigned to government social centers where they work closely with host country counterparts to promote improved maternal and child healthcare. Environmental Volunteers assist communities with natural resource protection, training, and conservation activities.
The Peace Corps/Benin program emphasizes full development of a “core training curriculum” for Volunteers to achieve gender and development sensitivity; cross-cultural (American and host country) skills; and safety, language, project design/management, and HIV/AIDS education competencies. In addition, staff seek more interactive engagement with host agencies through clearer delineation of roles and responsibilities, action planning to achieve sustainability, and a mutually agreed-upon exit strategy from each community/ agency. As such, each community will only have access to the skills of a Volunteer for a maximum of six years (three rotations) to convey the urgency of capacity building and skills transfer. A recently prepared Partners’ Manual for each supervisor reinforces the mutual expectations of Peace Corps and the agencies to which Volunteers are assigned.
Additionally, Peace Corps/Benin continues to explore more fully innovative opportunities to support Volunteer assignments and secondary activities through partnerships with host country and international agencies.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.