In 1995, the government of Suriname requested Peace Corps' assistance in rural community development activities for the Amerindian and Maroon communities. Volunteers work in two project areas: community health and small business development. Working in the interior, Volunteers work on activities that increase awareness of basic hygiene practices, encourage parental involvement in educational activities, promote economical development of community members, and conduct life skills training, incorporating healthy water and sanitation practices.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Suriname
In 1994, the Peace Corps received a formal invitation from the Government of Suriname to establish a program in the country. It asked for the Peace Corps’ assistance in rural community development of the interior Amerindian and African/Maroon communities. The formal agreement between the United States and Suriname was signed in January 1995.
Peace Corps staff arrived in March 1995. The first two Volunteers—with two years of Volunteer experience in another country—arrived in August. In September 1995, the first training group, consisting of eight married couples, began the Peace Corps’ 12-week intensive pre-service training program (PST). Since then, a new group has arrived annually.
The Peace Corps/Suriname program has changed since its start in 1995. In 1998, Suriname welcomed the first single Volunteers into the program, and in 1999, Volunteers were placed for the first time in the capital to work with health agencies on health issues facing rural communities. Peace Corps/Suriname began using a community-based training model in 1999.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Suriname
Trainees are placed with a host family for most of pre-service training. After swearing-in as Volunteers, they typically live in their own homes within their communities. Volunteers are located at sites in the interior, in districts or in the capital.
The sites in the interior are along the Suriname and Marowijne rivers or in the savanna region. Interior villages often do not have running water or electricity, or have those services for a limited number of hours each day. Houses are rustic, consisting of a thatch or tin roof and wood-plank walls.
Because villages are asked to furnish housing for Volunteers, the size, condition, and style of housing can vary widely. A few sites are located in the southern part of the country. The houses in the far south generally have thatch roofs, no running water and limited electricity if any.
Some Volunteers are placed in District sites best characterized as small towns; or they may work in the capital city, Paramaribo. Volunteers living in these areas generally have access to running water and electricity day and night and other conveniences.
Main article: Training in Suriname
Pre-service training (PST) consists of 12 weeks of intensive in-country training in five major areas: language (in Dutch, Sranan Tongo, Saramaccan, or Aucan), cross-cultural adaptation, technical skills, health, safety and security, and administration. Peace Corps/Suriname uses a community-based training (CBT) model. This means that most of your learning will take place at the community level and is experientially based. For most of the 12 weeks, you will stay with a Surinamese host family—sharing meals, language, and other experiences which provide an important opportunity for you to work on cultural understanding and adaptation. At least once a week you will return to a central training site to share experiences with other trainees, listen to guest speakers, and coordinate various training activities.
Host families are carefully chosen by the training staff based on suggestions from current Peace Corps Volunteers. The families are carefully screened by the Peace Corps medical officer (PCMO) and the safety and security coordinator (SSC). Some of the families live within walking distance of the training site; others require the use of public transportation to reach the site. Most homes have electricity and running water (tap points). Since some people in these communities sleep in hammocks, it is possible you may sleep in one. PST staff is available to support you during this homestay. Staff members are important resources to help you process your experiences in cultural understanding and integration.
Trainees are divided into two or three small groups or communities at a community-based training site. The site placement is based on the language you will need during your assignment. The language and technical trainers assigned to each training site conduct formal classes and support you in completing self-directed, community-based projects and activities. Although you will spend much of your time in language classes, you will also have classes on cross-cultural, technical, community development, and health and safety topics. Assignments and projects in the community will provide trainees with experiential learning based on the content of the classes.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Suriname
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 Suriname maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer and a medical assistant who support Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available at local hospitals that meet American standards. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to Panama or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Suriname
In Suriname, 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 Suriname.
Outside of Suriname’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to cultures and lifestyles of people from other countries. What people view as typical North 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 Suriname 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.
- 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 Suriname
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Suriname?
- What is the electric current in Suriname?
- 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 Surinamese 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 Suriname?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Suriname
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Suriname and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that every Volunteer’s experience is unique and that 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. The sort of work you expect to be doing—in both your official project and your secondary projects—should be your ultimate guide. You can always have things sent to you later.
Suriname has a tropical climate with high humidity and rainfall. Temperatures range from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and tend to be cooler in the rain forest interior than along the coast. The climate in Suriname can ruin some items, so do not bring things you would be heartbroken to lose. Although Volunteers are expected to project a professional image at all times, dress in the capital of Paramaribo is more formal than in the interior communities. In the capital, Volunteers work in office settings where “smart casual” attire is appropriate (trousers and collared shirts for men; slacks or skirts and blouses for women). In the interior, clothing varies depending on the culture and the location of the community. Men tend to wear pants or shorts with T-shirts or other casual shirts and sandals or flip-flops, while women wear skirts with T-shirts or other tops and sandals or flip-flops.
- General Clothing
- For Men:
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Kitchen and Household Items
- Things You May Be Glad You Brought
Peace Corps News
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Suriname Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Suriname. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.