Training in Paraguay
Peace Corps/Paraguay’s pre-service training consists of 11 weeks of intensive in-country training in five major areas: language (Spanish and Guaraní), community development and personal adaptation, technical job orientation, Volunteer safety and security, and health. By the end of training, each trainee has to pass qualifying criteria in each of these areas to be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
The training center is located in the town of Guarambaré, which is approximately one hour by bus from the capital, Asunción. Trainees also make visits to Volunteer sites to begin preparing for the realities of life in Paraguay. After eight weeks, trainees spend a week at the site to which they will be permanently assigned.
Trainees live with a Paraguayan family during the entire training period, sharing meals, conversation, and other experiences. The families live in small satellite communities within a few kilometers of Guarambaré, whose residents are from the lower-income to middle-income strata of Paraguayan society. Trainees spend most of their time in language classes at their satellite training facility. Technical, cultural, and community development studies are combined with practice of new skills at the community level, often in cooperation with nearby schools, organizations, and community groups. Combining formal classroom study with ample opportunity for practicing a new language and cultural and technical skills has proved to be an extremely effective way of preparing Volunteers to work as independent professionals during their service.
Throughout training, you will be encouraged to continue examining your personal motivation for serving in the Peace Corps and your level of dedication and commitment. By the time you are sworn in as a Volunteer, you should have made an informed and serious commitment that will sustain you through a full two years of service.
The training center is staffed by technical specialists who present a detailed curriculum tailored to the job requirements specified by Peace Corps/Paraguay. Technical training will prepare you to work in Paraguay by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer; in fact, you will be involved in practical, hands-on training during your first week in-country.
Technical training will include sessions on the economic and political environment in Paraguay and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Paraguayan agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.
The importance of language ability cannot be emphasized enough, especially because Volunteers in Paraguay need to gain competency in two languages. Your ability to share information, serve as a community resource, and integrate into Paraguayan culture will be directly related to your ability to communicate not just in Spanish but also in Guaraní.
Because of the importance of competency in Guaraní, all
language training will be in Guaraní once you reach a basic level of Spanish. Therefore, you are strongly urged to initiate Spanish language studies before you leave for Paraguay. Guaraní is not an especially difficult language for an English speaker, but it is much easier if one has basic competence in Spanish. (Invitees choosing to come to Paraguay to improve their Spanish skills should think twice, since most Volunteers will speak Guaraní at their sites.)
From the beginning, 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 once you are at your site. Prior to your swearing in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your service.
The overall goal of personal and cultural training is to help you work within Paraguay’s cultural norms and modify behaviors when appropriate. You will learn about issues related to cross-cultural adjustment and isolation and methods of dealing with them. A key element of this training is living with a Paraguayan host family, who will be your greatest resource for easing the transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Paraguay. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.
Health training is designed to enable trainees to become more self-sufficient. As a Volunteer, you will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies.
You will learn how to use locally available food to prepare nutritionally balanced meals. You also will be given basic medical training and information. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Paraguay. Mental health and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered. Current Volunteers will participate in some of the health sessions to highlight the value of peer support in health maintenance.
When Peace Corps Volunteers are confronted with difficult situations or crises, they are most likely to go to a friend, rather than to someone they do not know very well. Although ideally a Peace Corps Volunteer will complete service without facing major problems, sometimes a Volunteer is presented with a difficult problem or situation. During pre-service training as well as in-service trainings, you will learn to deal with sensitive issues such as depression and stress, as well as how to help other Volunteers when they experience difficulties.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during travel. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service. You will also be briefed on the post’s emergency action plan.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system throughout the two years of service that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their language, technical, and community development skills. During your service, there are usually four training events. The titles and objectives of those trainings are as follows:
- Reconnect in-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their language, safety and security and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three months.
- Project design and management workshop: Provides Volunteers and community contacts with the skills necessary to identify needs, set priorities, and design sustainable community projects. This workshop is usually held after the sixth month of service.
- Technical in-service training: Provides focused technical training towards the close of the first year of service and helps Volunteers review their first year, reassess personal and project objectives, and plan for their second year of service.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the transition after Peace Corps service, reviewing their work and personal experiences as well as identifying future aspirations.
The number, length, and design of these trainings 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 to the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.