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Peace Corps Volunteers assist the government of Mali in an effort to address multiple development challenges. Currently, the Peace Corps places its emphasis on sustainable capacity-building projects in the areas of food production, water availability, environmental conservation, micro-enterprise development, and preventive health care, including water sanitation work and HIV/AIDS awareness.
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
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in The Gambia
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
- What is the electric current?
- 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 Gambian 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?
- 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 The Gambia
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.
- General Clothing
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- List of resources for The Gambia
- Volunteers who served in The Gambia
- Friends of Senegal and The Gambia
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports