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Turkmenistan is a land of deserts, mountains, camels, yurts, melons, shashlik stands, and ruins of ancient cities. Volunteers living in this breathtaking country experience the richness of Turkmenistan's culture and the warmth of its people.
A former republic of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan declared independence in October 1991. The first Volunteers arrived in 1993. Peace Corps Volunteers work in two program areas in Turkmenistan: English education and health education and extension.
Turkmenistan has had little contact with the outside world, even before being absorbed by the Soviet Union more than 70 years ago. The first American a Turkmen will meet is often a Peace Corps Volunteer.
At the same time, working in a part of the world few people have even heard of is one of the unique aspects of Peace Corps/Turkmenistan.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan
The Peace Corps first entered Turkmenistan in 1993 with an education project. In this project, Volunteers taught English in secondary schools, institutes of higher learning, and the Institute of Curriculum Development. Volunteers are catalysts in addressing Turkmenistan’s desire to expand English education programs in primary and secondary schools nationwide, to increase English teachers’ ability to communicate in the language, and to introduce contemporary teaching methodologies.
To support Turkmenistan in its efforts to improve English education, the education project emphasizes the teacher-training component. Local teachers are already well qualified to teach grammar, but Volunteers can contribute significantly to their communication skills and are placed more in regions where teachers’ needs are the greatest.
In 1995, the Peace Corps began working in the health sector, offering training to maternal and child health providers. Responding to the needs of Turkmenistan’s healthcare system, the Peace Corps later shifted the project to community health, placing more emphasis on community health education, extension, and prevention.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Peace Corps/Turkmenistan requires that Volunteers live with host families for the first three months of service to better understand the cultural context within which they are living and working. Host families receive training in safety and security support for Volunteers and in issues of American diversity and values. Any change in host family or move to an apartment or home after the required host family stay must meet Peace Corps safety and security standards and be approved by your program manager in advance. In some communities, it may not be culturally appropriate to live alone, particularly for women (of any age).
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is based on the premise that Volunteers are safest and most effective when they are fully integrated into their communities and have gained the trust and respect of the local people. Before making site assignments, the Peace Corps considers site-specific information, input from host country sponsors (i.e., local schools, hospitals, or health facility directors), and trainees’ skills, abilities, and special concerns (e.g., medical, health, and safety). This careful matching process aims to place Volunteers at the sites most in need of their type of assistance in the hope that this will result in a positive, rewarding experience for both Volunteers and the people of Turkmenistan. The program manager and program assistant are responsible for finding initial housing for Volunteers in coordination with host country site supervisors.
Main article: Training in Turkmenistan
The primary goal of pre-service training is to prepare you for the first three to six months of Volunteer service. By the end of training, you will not be fluent in Turkmen, or understand everything you want to know about your primary assignment, but you will have enough knowledge and skills to get started. Pre-service training is designed to help you meet challenges as they arise and adapt to unanticipated occurrences. During training, you will also receive important information regarding administrative aspects of Volunteer service such as financial matters and Peace Corps policies.
Community-based training facilitates your integration into your community and work by helping you learn cultural adaptation skills, begin to develop good working relationships with host country colleagues, and gain the skills needed to carry out your projects and activities independently. You will be given many opportunities to demonstrate your skills during training so that you can see and evaluate your progress. As a trainee, you are required to attend all training sessions; optional events, such as certain outings, parties, and specially called meetings, will be clearly stated as such.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Turkmenistan
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Turkmenistan maintains a joint medical unit with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs as well as those of the U.S. embassy staff. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Turkmenistan at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to a medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Turkmenistan
In Turkmenistan, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Turkmenistan.
Outside of Turkmenistan’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Turkmenistan are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Turkmenistan, you may need to make some compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Turkmenistan
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Turkmenistan?
- What is the electric current in Turkmenistan?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Turkmen friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Turkmenistan?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Turkmenistan
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Turkmenistan and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you at the Peace Corps office (and unlike Volunteers in many Peace Corps countries, you will not be charged customs taxes). As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Turkmenistan.
- General Clothing
- For Men
- For Women
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
Peace Corps News
PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
( As of Monday April 21, 2014 )
Contributions to the Turkmenistan Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Cameroon. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Turkmenistan
- Friends of Turkmenistan
- List of resources for Turkmenistan
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports