Training in Kiribati
Your first stop after leaving your home will be staging, where you will receive last-minute information about service in Kiribati and have the chance to rethink your commitment to Peace Corps service. Your flight to Kiribati may involve a one-night stopover in Fiji. Don’t unpack; you are not there yet! Once you arrive in Kiribati, you will begin the nine-and-one-half-week pre-service training program. One purpose of this training is to help trainees make an informed commitment before they are sworn-in as Peace Corps Volunteers.
Week one takes place on South Tarawa, where you may stay in a modest local hotel. The week includes an initial orientation to Kiribati and Peace Corps staff, along with completion of some preliminary medical and administrative paperwork. There will also be language, cross-cultural, and project overview sessions. During week two, you will visit a current Volunteer at his or her site on an outer island to gain a realistic perspective of Volunteer life and work. This will help you take full advantage of the learning opportunities presented during training. The rest of the training occurs on North Tarawa, where you will be dispersed in small groups to villages away from the training center and live with a host family. Language and cross-cultural instructors accompany each small group and will live and work with you in the community. They will be staying with other host families. Your host family will provide you with lodging and food throughout training. You will come to the training center about once a week as a group for technical, medical, and core training (which covers safety and security, administration, and Peace Corps policies).
Training will cover language, culture, history, government, preventive health practices, and safety and security. Although some sessions will be attended by all trainees, technical training sessions generally will be separated by project (primary or junior secondary education or health and community development). There will be changes of instructors during training to expose you to a wider group of I-Kiribati.
North Tarawa is an ideal setting in which to get a taste of what your life will be like when you become a Volunteer. Remember that it is only a taste, however, as living on rural North Tarawa with other trainees is very different from living on an island by yourself. Although living with a host family may be awkward at times, such an arrangement is valuable for learning the I-Kiribati language and culture. Your host family will make every effort to see that you are comfortable and have what you need.
Young female trainees will face a particular challenge that they will have to deal with throughout their service. Villagers will not want you to be alone in the house or to go anywhere alone or with a single male. This practice is meant to preserve your reputation as a “good” woman, since you are considered part of their family, as well as to protect you against the possibility of sexual harassment. Such loss of privacy and independence is one of the hardest adaptations Volunteers—especially young females—have to make.
At the end of pre-service training, there will be a formal ceremony to swear you in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Special guests including the president of Kiribati and the U.S. ambassador are usually invited, and sometimes attend.
Technical training prepares you to work in Kiribati by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps training staff, I-Kiribati guest presenters, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training will include sessions on the environment, economics, and politics in Kiribati and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your project’s goals and will meet with the Kiribati ministries and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Kiribati language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of four to five people.
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to your swearing-in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with an I-Kiribati host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Host families have gone through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of the pre-service training program and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Kiribati. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural and community development will be covered to help improve your skills of perception, communication, and facilitation. Topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, and traditional and political structures are also addressed.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Kiribati. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.
Safety and Security Training
During the safety and security training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety and security throughout your service.
Additional Trainings during Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides trainees and Volunteers with continuing opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually four in-service training (IST) events. The titles and objectives for those events follow.
- Reconnect/IST: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for four months.
- Technical/IST: Provides Volunteers with an opportunity for dialogue, information sharing, and skills upgrading. This event is conducted approximately eight months into service.
- Mid-service conference: Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.
- Close-of-service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences. This event is held three to four months prior to the end of your service.
The number, length, and design of these training events are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and the Volunteers.