Training in the Eastern Caribbean
Pre-service training (PST) is seven weeks in length and begins with the arrival of a new group of trainees, once a year. Phase One of PST, the first three weeks, is conducted on St. Lucia, where Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean headquarters is located.. Phase Two of PST takes place on the island nation of assignment and lasts four weeks. During the entire training period and for two weeks after swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will live with a homestay family. Qualification for Peace Corps service is determined according to an established set of competencies and upon successful completion of PST. After seven weeks of PST, trainees are sworn-in as Volunteers and are expected to serve 24 months from that date.
Pre-service training in the Eastern Caribbean is a unique and challenging opportunity that requires your active and full participation. There are two interrelated goals. First, training is designed to provide you with the basic cross-cultural, technical, language, behavior norms, and health and personal safety skills necessary to live and work effectively as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Second, training is a mutual assessment process, whereby you will have the responsibility to assess whether Peace Corps service is the right thing for you at this point in your life. At the same time, Peace Corps staff will assess your suitability to provide the Eastern Caribbean with Volunteers who are effective and qualified.
During the last week of training in St. Lucia, you will be assigned to serve in one of the six Eastern Caribbean island nations. Peace Corps staff will make site assignment decisions by matching your skills, knowledge, personality, and medical status with the needs of a particular community, not on the basis of your personal preferences. You should expect to serve anywhere in the Eastern Caribbean, including rural areas on the more remote islands. When you accept our invitation to serve in the Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean, you are agreeing to serve in any of the six main islands and in any one of the smaller islands, such as Barbuda, Nevis, and Carriacou, which are also part of the region.
Our training has been designed with the following two goals in mind: (1) to assist you in developing the skills that will make you a self-sufficient Volunteer in your new environment by learning to access resources and information, engage safely and communicate easily with your communities, and adjust to cultural differences; and (2) to equip you to work as a partner in change with your community to accomplish its goals in accordance with the Peace Corps’ project framework. To meet these goals, training uses both competency-based and community-based training models. Your training activities have been designed to facilitate learning information and acquiring skills that will allow you to carry out the tasks outlined in the project framework and meet competencies in safety and security, health, personal behavior, culture, language, and technical areas. Additionally, the community-based training (CBT) model incorporates coaching, demonstration, and self learning. CBT focuses on individual autonomy where trainees are expected to take responsibility for their own learning. You will participate in field facilitated sessions and carry out self-directed activities on your own or with assistance from your community support network, including your homestay family.
Technical training prepares you to hone the skills that you bring, to feel confident in using your skills, and to learn new skills necessary to meet the needs of your community. Technical training will help prepare you to operate in the community development context, with specific technical topics including asset-based community development approaches, manangement tools for group dynamics, conflict managment, team building, learning methodologies for literacy, nonformal education tools, and a behavior change communication metholdogy. Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean experts facilitate most of the training program. Current Volunteers assist in facilitating some sessions on the individual island nations. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Besides training in the area of community development, technical training will include sessions on the economic and political situations in the Eastern Caribbean and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review the community development technical goals and will meet with the local agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated by the training staff throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you will need to undertake your project activities and to be a productive member of your community.
For the most part, competencies in language, personal behavior, cross-culture, health and safety and security will be incorporated within the technical training sessions. Some sessions will be stand-alone, however, to ensure that critical elements of some compentencies are addressed.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are important for personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, will help you integrate into your host community, and ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Our goal is to help you acquire basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills more thoroughly once you are at your site. Although the language of business on most of the islands is English, many of the islands also have a second widely used language. Trainees assigned to St. Lucia and Dominica are taught the French-based Creole or Kweyol, which is spoken on these island nations. Volunteers going to other islands will have language sessions in the various dialects spoken there during Phase Two of pre-service training.
Throughout your pre-service training, you will live with a host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition into life at your site. Families are thoroughly briefed and familiar with the Peace Corps’ homestay policy. They 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 the Caribbean. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families, and maintain those bonds long after their return to the United States.
Cross-culture and diversity are covered to help improve your skills of perception, communication, and facilitation within the community development focus. Topics such as ”liming” with a purpose, the cycle of adjustment, comfort zone exercises, group dynamics, and gender and development will be addressed.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic health and nutrition training. You are expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all Peace Corps policies. You are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that Volunteers may encounter while in the Caribbean. Sexual health, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), harassment, nutrition, and mental health issues are among the topics covered.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service. There will be instruction on coping with crises and emergencies, and the regional emergency action plan will be explained and discussed.
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 continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there is a minimum of three training events. Additional workshops are planned on the basis of resources and special initiatives. The titles and objectives for the minimum number of trainings are as follows:
- 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 six months.
- Mid-Service Training: Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, gaining and refining skills for their second year of service, and beginning to plan for life after Peace Corps.
- Close-of-Service Conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews Volunteers’ respective projects and personal experiences. Volunteers’ views are solicited in the planning process to ensure that their needs are adequately met.
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 the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.
Remember, you are responsible for your own learning. Peace Corps training will support you by providing opportunites for gaining experience, information and resources.