Training in Suriname
Pre-service training (PST) consists of 12 weeks of intensive in-country training in five major areas: language (in Dutch, Sranan Tongo, Saramaccan, or Aucan), cross-cultural adaptation, technical skills, health, safety and security, and administration. Peace Corps/Suriname uses a community-based training (CBT) model. This means that most of your learning will take place at the community level and is experientially based. For most of the 12 weeks, you will stay with a Surinamese host family—sharing meals, language, and other experiences which provide an important opportunity for you to work on cultural understanding and adaptation. At least once a week you will return to a central training site to share experiences with other trainees, listen to guest speakers, and coordinate various training activities.
Host families are carefully chosen by the training staff based on suggestions from current Peace Corps Volunteers. The families are carefully screened by the Peace Corps medical officer (PCMO) and the safety and security coordinator (SSC). Some of the families live within walking distance of the training site; others require the use of public transportation to reach the site. Most homes have electricity and running water (tap points). Since some people in these communities sleep in hammocks, it is possible you may sleep in one. PST staff is available to support you during this homestay. Staff members are important resources to help you process your experiences in cultural understanding and integration.
Trainees are divided into two or three small groups or communities at a community-based training site. The site placement is based on the language you will need during your assignment. The language and technical trainers assigned to each training site conduct formal classes and support you in completing self-directed, community-based projects and activities. Although you will spend much of your time in language classes, you will also have classes on cross-cultural, technical, community development, and health and safety topics. Assignments and projects in the community will provide trainees with experiential learning based on the content of the classes.
In addition to community-based activities, you will join your full training group at a central location for certain general sessions such as medical, safety, and administration. These sessions also give you time to reconnect with your group and share experiences. Toward the end of PST, you will also have the opportunity to meet with your counterpart or community partner at a two-day conference. Together, you will discuss the relationship between the Peace Corps Volunteer and the community, the expectations of the host agency, and the skills and experiences you bring to the assignment. You will also develop a work plan to guide your first three months at site.
Another important aspect of pre-service training is assessment, a process that continues throughout Peace Corps service. During training, you will evaluate yourself and be assessed by training staff. The goal of assessment is to provide specific feedback concerning your progress in relation to the pre-service training competencies for effective Volunteer service.
Trainees’ performance is evaluated in all five major areas of pre-service training. In addition to meeting the required competencies, you must demonstrate personal behaviors that positively reflect and support the goals and image of the Peace Corps in Suriname. As part of the assessment process, you will also complete a self-evaluation on personal attributes, such as taking initiative, motivation, cultural and social sensitivity, responsibility, flexibility, and emotional maturity. This process encourages you to reflect on your original motivation for joining the Peace Corps and on your current level of commitment so that by the time you are asked to swear-in as a Volunteer, you are making an informed, serious decision that will sustain you through two years of service.
Technical training prepares you to work in Suriname by building on the skills you have and by helping you develop new skills needed to be an effective development worker. The Peace Corps staff, Surinamese nationals, and other 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 includes sessions on the economic and political environment in Suriname and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Surinamese agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them.
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 host community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program. You must meet minimum language standards to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Surinamese language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of four to five people. Additional help and tutoring is provided to trainees who need more support in learing the language.
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 for you to a acquire a basic foundation so that you can continue to develop language skills once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn-in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies for ongoing language learning during your service.
During most of your training, you will live with a Surinamese host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Host families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain Peace Corps’ mission and goals, their role in your training and how they can support you in adapting to life in Suriname. This experience is a rich, rewarding learning opportunity. 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 learn community development tools and techniques, project planning, monitoring and reporting, conflict resolution, gender and development, and Suriname political structures.
Health and Wellness Training
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 Suriname. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also covered.
Safety and Security Training
During the safety and security training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at 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 throughout your service.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
Peace Corps is committed to ongoing quality training throughout Volunteer service. Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual 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. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- Reconnect and Project Design and Management
- In-service Training: 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 three to four months. The focus of the training is to strengthen the tools you need to implement projects within your community.
- Mid-Service Training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to reveiw the successes and challenges of the Volunteer’s service, to share ideas, to review the project and get feedback, and to provide additional skills and support as necessary. This workshop is usually held after one year of service.
- Close-of-Service Conference: Prepares Volunteers for their re-entry into American culture, school, and the job market. Volunteers are also encouraged to identify ways they can support the Peace Corps’ third goal of taking their experience back home. Volunteers also plan how they will make the transition out of their project and their communities. Peace Corps staff uses the conference to obtain feedback on the project, training, and issues, such as Volunteer support.
The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to Suriname-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation at staging through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by Peace Corps headquarters, local Peace Corps staff and trainers, and Volunteers.