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''Main article: [[Health Care and Safety in The Gambia]]''
''Main article: [[Health Care and Safety in The Gambia]]''
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Possible Issues for
Volunteers of Color
Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
Volunteers With Disabilities
Revision as of 19:56, 23 March 2008
US Peace Corps The Gambia ACTIVE!
|Post opening date:||
The Peace Corps' relationship with the Gambia dates back to 1967, when the Peace Corps signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of External Affairs. Volunteers began working in The Gambia later that year, initially serving as mechanics and teachers. Since then, many Gambian institutions and communities have benefitted from the services of over 1,200 Volunteers. The Peace Corps' development priorities in the areas of education, the environment, and health match those of the government. Information technology, HIV/AIDS, and youth are all important areas of focus.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in The Gambia
The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in The Gambia at the invitation of the Gambian government in September 1967. They worked in skilled trades as mechanics, engineers, and carpenters, and they organized village cooperatives.
Two years later, another group of Volunteers arrived to work in education. Since that time, education has been a principal focus of Peace Corps activities in The Gambia. Education Volunteers have organized resource centers for primary schools; planned and launched libraries; developed teaching curricula and materials for classes in math, science, English, and environmental and forestry conservation; provided training for teachers in these subjects; and set up computer laboratories and taught information technology (IT) skills. Environment Volunteers have helped improve vegetable and fruit tree production in school gardens and orchards; helped control freshwater runoff and saltwater intrusion; constructed handmade dams that have doubled rice production; and assisted in managing seven Department of Forestry divisional nurseries. Health Volunteers work to prevent common diseases including malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhea, and HIV/AIDS. They also promote maternal and child health through education and community development.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in The Gambia
Once you become a Volunteer, you will be provided with safe and adequate housing by the Gambian agency or organization you work with in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria (see the Health Care and Safety chapter for further information). The Peace Corps will provide you with items such as an all-terrain bicycle, a helmet, a mosquito net, medical kit and a water filter for use during your service.
Most Volunteers live in family compounds with one or two private rooms at their disposal. You will need to be very flexible in your housing expectations, as you probably will not have running water or electricity and may have to collect water from a well or borehole and spend your evenings reading by candlelight or lantern. Most Volunteers will have latrines.
Peace Corps staff will visit your site periodically to provide personal, medical, and technical support.
Main article: Training in The Gambia
Pre-service training will probably be the most intense period of your Peace Corps service, as you will need to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to successfully serve as a Volunteer in just 10 weeks. While the training period will be extremely busy, it should also be a time of excitement, discovery, and self-fulfillment. The effort and challenges of adapting to a new culture will draw on your reserves of patience and humor but will be handsomely rewarded with a sense of belonging among new friends. The long hours of study and the accomplishment of difficult tasks will pay off in your ability to work effectively in a challenging job that will directly benefit a great number of people.
The training approach is best described as discovery-oriented and self-directed. Based on adult learning methods, it emphasizes individual responsibility for developing the competencies to function independently as a Volunteer.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in The Gambia
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. Peace Corps/The Gambia maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in The Gambia at local 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.
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. While The Gambia is considered one of the safest countries in West Africa, Volunteers have experienced petty theft, pickpocketing, and home break-ins. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions, especially in large towns, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in The Gambia of which you should be aware.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in The Gambia
The Peace Corps staff in The Gambia recognizes 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.
Possible Issues may arise for
- Female Volunteers
- Volunteers of Color
- Senior Volunteers
- Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Volunteers With Disabilities
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to the Gambia?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in The Gambia?
The electric current is 220 volts, but electricity is extremely irregular outside Banjul and in rural areas.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. If you bring extra money, U.S. dollars and traveler’s checks are recommended because credit cards are not widely accepted (though they are useful for travel outside the country and cash advances). Personal checks can be cashed, and if you think you will be doing any banking with U.S. banks, bring a checkbook.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Volunteers accrue two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase such insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in The Gambia do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most local travel is by bush taxi.
What should I bring as gifts for Gambian friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. Small tokens of friendship are sufficient.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have begun pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s skills and needs in order to make a placement that will be mutually beneficial to the Volunteer and the assigned community.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580; select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2317 or 2318.
Can I call home from The Gambia?
You will need an international phone card to call the United States. The Gambia’s public telephone company, Gamtel, provides phone service in larger towns and villages throughout The Gambia. In smaller villages, there are coin-operated public phone booths that you can use to reach an AT&T or MCI operator for international calls. There are also many “telecenters” around the country, which may charge a bit more than Gamtel.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Differences in technology make most U.S. cellular phones incompatible with the cellular service in The Gambia. Local communication methods are reliable enough and are more compatible with the Peace Corps’ belief that Volunteers should live modestly at the level of their local colleagues.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Because the availability of electricity is so sporadic in the rural areas where most Volunteers live, it is inadvisable to bring your own computer. Volunteers have access to e-mail and the Internet at the main Peace Corps office and some Volunteers also have access to e-mail at the schools where they teach.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in The Gambia 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 80-pound weight limit on baggage.
- Lightweight, waterproof jacket
- Sweatshirt or sweater
- One or two bathing suits
- Bandannas or handkerchiefs
- Baseball cap or hat
- Lightweight cotton pants
- Lightweight long shorts
- At least one dressy outfit for official Peace Corps functions and outings in the capital (“Western” styles are fine to wear in the capital)
- Several good bras, including sports bras (quick-drying, cotton material is best, and dark colors are easier to keep clean-looking)
- Plenty of sturdy cotton underwear (again, dark colors are recommended)
- A variety of casual and dressier dresses—long, loose, and lightweight (rayon and cotton are best)
- Capri pants
- Durable shoes for work
- Sturdy sandals (Teva, Birkenstock, and Chaco brands are recommended by Volunteers)
- All-purpose shoes for walking, hiking, and biking
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- A three-month supply of any prescription drugs you take, to last you until the post can order refills
- Good scissors
- Skin lotion
- Two pairs of eyeglasses, if you wear them; also consider bringing a repair kit
- Lip balm (provided in the Peace Corps medical kit, but you may prefer your own brand)
- A small initial supply of tampons or pads, if you require a particular brand (a limited variety is available in The Gambia)
- Any favorite brands of shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, etc., which may not be available locally
- Makeup (the quality of local items is okay, but if you are picky, pack your own)
- Towels (good-quality ones are not available in-country)
- Packaged mixes, e.g., sauces, salad dressings, soups, soft drinks (some of these are available at local supermarkets)
- Good can opener
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Rubber spatula
- Plastic freezer bags
- Small plastic food containers
- Shortwave radio for listening to BBC, VOA, and other news stations
- Inexpensive, durable, water-resistant watch with extra batteries
- Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool
- Reliable alarm clock and extra batteries
- Biking gear such as padded shorts, gloves, toe clips, water bottle, and cage (helmets and repair tools are provided by the Peace Corps)
- Small or medium-size daypack without frame
- Camera (35 mm compacts are best for travel)
- Film and extra batteries (although these are available in The Gambia, they are expensive and are not always of the best quality)
- Pictures of your home, family, and friends
- Magazines and catalogs with pictures of clothing you might want to have copied by tailors in The Gambia
- World maps and travel guides
- A supply of good pens (also available in-country)
- Journals or diaries
- Tape, CD, or MP3 player and music (do not skimp, as you will be listening to whatever you bring for the next two years, and Volunteers usually are open to swapping), along with small speakers
- Plastic sturdy water bottles for travel (e.g., Nalgene)
- U.S. stamps (you can often have letters mailed in the United States by people traveling home)
- Games (e.g., Scrabble, chess, Frisbee, hacky sack)
- Art supplies
- Softball glove (Peace Corps/Senegal has an annual tournament with other West African countries)
- Combination padlocks (good-quality key locks are available in-country, but padlocks are more useful)
- Duct tape (a Volunteer “must-have”)
- Good flashlight or headlamp
- Phone card for international calls
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.
- Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a six-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.
- Volunteers who served in The Gambia
- Friends of Senegal and The Gambia
- List of resources for The Gambia
- Inspector General Reports