Training in Benin
From Peace Corps Wiki
The Peace Corps employs a community-based model during pre-service training. Community-based training is best described as discovery-oriented and self-directed. It is based on adult learning methods that emphasize individual responsibility for developing the competencies to function independently as a Volunteer. Training takes place in a village or town, where you will encounter the day-to-day realities of Volunteer life. You will live with a family, take care of your own needs, and work either independently or in small groups to accomplish tasks that build your skill levels. Each “learning group” will be assisted by a Beninese facilitator who will help you learn the necessary language skills to accomplish your living and work tasks. You will be assigned to a learning group based on your French language competency level and project assignment.
Training will be stressful at times as you try to learn new skills in a different and often confusing environment. Our highly experienced training staff is here to help you help yourself learn the skills necessary to become an effective Volunteer.
Your progress will be evaluated by the staff and country director throughout training to determine if you meet the qualifications to serve as a Volunteer. You cannot be sworn-in to Peace Corps service until you have clearly demonstrated the attributes and skills necessary to meet the needs of your assignment. You can monitor and demonstrate your own progress through self-evaluation, consistent feedback from staff and facilitators, and participation in daily activities.
Your success in this learning period—and your success as a Volunteer—depend on your maturity, self-discipline and motivation. Success requires full participation and some measure of sacrifice in terms of time and personal comfort. But investment of effort during this time will be well worth the rewards of satisfaction and well-being you will experience as a Volunteer.
The town or village where you will live during training is referred to as a “learning site.” Each learning site is different and has been selected by Peace Corps staff and current Volunteers because of the range of resources available to facilitate preparation for your work. The local authorities and families of these posts are aware of your mission and eagerly await your arrival. Each host family has been carefully selected to ensure that you will be warmly received and have a safe, productive environment for this important preparatory period. You will have your own private room, which will be equipped with a bed, mosquito net, table and chair, gas-burning camp stove, water filter, and a small footlocker to store your valuables. The Peace Corps and our partners have explained to the families that each member has an important role to play in the development of their country by helping you prepare for your work.
Families are asked to include you in the routine and the special activities of the household (cooking, going to the fields, shopping at the market, and visiting family members and friends) and special ceremonies (weddings, funerals, and baptisms). You will find Beninese family hospitality generally gracious and warm. Your family will do their best to make sure you are comfortable, and will probably be doing many extra things that they normally don’t do for themselves. They look forward to learning more about you, your family and friends, your culture, and life in the United States. You should also seize the opportunity to learn about them and their culture. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting bonds with their host families.
The families have been encouraged to prepare nutritious and varied meals, but they are limited by food availability and their own cooking habits. They are aware that some trainees may be vegetarians. They will cook Beninese food and are not required to prepare American food. If you must have American cuisine, the Peace Corps is not for you.
You should be aware that personal privacy is not a strong cultural concept; on the contrary, many Beninese feel that something must be wrong if you are off alone, and will make an extra effort to keep you company. To help families understand that you will be spending some time alone, they have been told that you will need private time to study.
Because the host families are making a commitment and effort, you are expected to make an equal commitment to them. You will be expected to eat all of your meals with the family, and accept what is offered. You can get involved with the cooking and demonstrate some of your favorite dishes using locally available foods. You will be expected to respect the norms of your households (e.g., hours, manners, and customs). You should integrate yourself into daily activities to learn the daily living skills you will need as a Volunteer. The time you spend with family members will not only show respect and interest, but will help improve your language, cross-cultural, and living skills, as well as increase your understanding of the community social structure. Don’t hesitate to ask your host family about anything and everything that you don’t understand; they are eager to help you learn. You should politely express your needs regarding privacy and diet rather than try to hide your feelings and end up frustrated. The families are very motivated to making this experience positive. Your learning group facilitator will always be available to give you advice, background, and guidance on how to address any problem.
Typically, the weekly schedule will consist of both formal and nonformal language classes conducted by your facilitator. The scheduling, location, and learning methodology will be decided jointly by each learning group and facilitator. The language classes and exercises will focus on helping you develop the competencies to communicate in French and to conduct assigned learning tasks.
Technical learning will be facilitated through formal seminars conducted at or near your learning sites and through the assignment of weekly tasks that you will undertake in your community using local resources. Technical tasks will require you to use language and cross-cultural skills, and they will become progressively more demanding as your capabilities increase.
Once a week, during the first half of your learning, you will participate in larger formal sessions on health and cross-culture. At these sessions, you will also be assigned self-directed tasks to undertake at your posts to prepare for upcoming sessions.
Additional Trainings during Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system which provides trainees and Volunteers with continuous opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually three training events:
- Early Service Conference: Allows staff to touch base with new Volunteers after their first three months at site.
- In-Service Training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for four to six months.
- Close-of-Service Conference: Prepares Volunteers for post-Peace Corps service and to review Volunteers’ respective projects and personal experiences.
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that events are integrated, interrelated, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by staff and Volunteers.