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.
Technical training will prepare you to work in The Gambia by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. Technical training will include sessions on the environment, economics, and politics in The Gambia and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your project’s goals and will meet with the agencies 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.
By the end of training, health trainees will be able to contribute to the improvement of The Gambia’s primary health care through the planning and implementation of educational activities that promote maternal and child health. Education trainees will be ready to teach computer literacy, math and science, social and environmental studies, and English, as well as to implement in-service teacher-training programs. Environment trainees will be prepared to teach agroforestry and improved agricultural and horticultural techniques to rural farmers, as well as to promote community forestry projects and environmental education in schools and communities.
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. Experienced Gambian language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of four to five trainees.
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 continue to learn the language once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
One of the most important aspects of the training program is the experience of living with a Gambian host family. There is no other way to learn as much about Gambian attitudes, customs, and day-to-day life. Your host family can be invaluable in helping you learn the language and in introducing you to other members of the community. 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.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected 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 The Gambia. 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.
During the safety 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
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the 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, a variety of training events may be conducted. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- Reconnect in-service training: Provides Volunteers with an opportunity to assess their first six to nine months of service and make plans for the following year. Volunteers work with associate Peace Corps Directors to develop training to increase their technical, language, and project development skills.
- Life Skills Manual training of trainers: Provides interested Volunteers and counterparts with training to assist youth in building their self-esteem, making responsible decisions, fighting HIV/AIDS, and acquiring skills to enhance their upward mobility.
- Gender and development and information technology in-service training: Provides interested first-year health and environment Volunteers and counterparts with the skills and information necessary to teach gender issues in their schools and communities and to incorporate information technology in everyday life.
- Nursery management and fruit tree grafting in-service training: Provides first-year environment Volunteers and counterparts with information on these topics and strengthens the skills Volunteers acquired during pre-service training.
- Gardening in-service training: Equips Volunteers with the skills and information to grow and maintain vegetables and to encourage their communities in gardening for greater income and improved nutrition.
- Beekeeping in-service training: Provides first-year environment Volunteers with information on and skills in beekeeping, including honey harvesting, wax production, income generation, and nutrition.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for their future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.
The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation (staging) through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the Peace Corps staff, the training staff, and Volunteers.