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|Peace Corps Welcome Book|
English, Krio, Mende, Temne, Limba, Loko
The Peace Corps enjoys a rich history in Sierra Leone, having initially arrived in 1962 - just over a year after it had declared independence. Volunteers served the country in consecutive years until 1994, when the program was closed. Until that departure, 3,479 Volunteers had served in agriculture, education, and health.
Sierra Leone will welcome a new group of Volunteers in 2010. Education has been identified by the government as the most pressing need and Volunteers will provide English, math, and science teachers to help fill a shortage of qualified individuals. Peace Corps Response will also have a presence. Having already served as Volunteers, these contributors will arrive at their posts already in possession of the appropriate technical and cross-cultural skills needed to make an immediate impact.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone
The Peace Corps program in Sierra Leone began in January 1962 as one of the first countries entered after Peace Corps’ launch in March 1961. In fact, Peace Corps signed an agreement with the new government of Sierra Leone just nine months after the country became independent from the United Kingdom.
The first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to arrive in Sierra Leone were 37 secondary school teachers in January 1962. They were joined by another 70 Volunteers in August 1962. For much of the 1960s, PC/Sierra Leone (SL) concentrated on education, with Volunteers involved in teaching at many levels and throughout the country. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s PC/SL branched out into the sectors of agriculture, community development, design-construction manpower development, and health.
In the early 1990s political turmoil and civil unrest in the region engulfed Sierra Leone and Peace Corps was forced to evacuate its 82 Volunteers as a result of a bloodless coup d’état that took place in Freetown on April 29, 1992. In July 1992 Peace Corps staff returned to reopen the program, with 15 former Volunteers; another 11 new agriculture trainees arrived in August 1992. Projects in Health, Education and Agriculture were re-established in areas not immediately affected by the civil conflict, but growing violence soon made it difficult for Peace Corps to continue. Following the evacuation of the remaining Volunteers, the program was finally closed in October 1994. More than 5,900 Volunteers served in Sierra Leone up until this closure.
Peace Corps conducted a partial assessment in 2001, hoping to utilize Peace Corps Response Volunteers. Agency finances did not allow a return, but full assessments were conducted in 2003 and 2007, both recommending that the security situation in-country was conducive to Peace Corps’ return and that there was a tremendous need for, and goodwill toward, the Peace Corps. With the availability of funding in 2009, the agency made the decision to re-enter Sierra Leone with a group of 40 Volunteers.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Before Volunteers arrive, Peace Corps/Sierra Leone staff, in collaboration with local partners, identify safe and secureVolunteer housing. Housing is provided by the school and/or community. Housing is in short supply in many regions of Sierra Leone, so be prepared for very basic housing. It is possible that you will share a house with another PCV, have your own house, or live with a host family. Electricity may not be available and water may need to be carried from a neighborhood pump. You must be prepared to accept the living conditions to which you are assigned as you will be living under the same conditions as the people with, and for whom, you work. Peace Corps inspects all potential housing to ensure it meets our standards for health and safety.
Most Volunteers are assigned to work in rural towns or large villages. The workplace will be within walking distance of your home, but it might be a long walk! Dependent on community need, Peace Corps makes every effort to cluster Volunteers within reasonable distances of each other in order to promote collaborative efforts and minimize isolation.
Main article: Training in Sierra Leone
Pre-service training is the first event within a competency-based training program that continues throughout your 27 months of service in Sierra Leone. Preservice training ensures that Volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively perform their jobs. On average, nine of 10 trainees are sworn in as Volunteers.
Pre-service training is conducted in Sierra Leone and directed by the Peace Corps with participation from representatives of Sierra Leone organizations, former Volunteers, and/ or training contractors. The length of pre-service training varies, usually ranging from 8-12 weeks, depending on the competencies required for the assignment. Sierra Leone measures achievement of learning and determines if trainees have successfully achieved competencies, including language standards, for swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Throughout service, Volunteers strive to achieve performance competencies. Initially, pre-service training affords the opportunity for trainees to develop and test their own resources. As a trainee, you will play an active role in selfeducation.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Sierra Leone
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of each Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps maintains a clinic in Sierra Leone with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Sierra Leone at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Sierra Leone
In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Varying Ages
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Sierra Leone
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Sierra Leone?
- What is the electric current in Sierra Leone?
- 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 Sierra Leone 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 Sierra Leone?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be email and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Sierra Leone
This list has been compiled by Volunteers and staff and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage.
Here is an updated list from a current PCV in Sierra Leone serving June 2010-August 2012. These are just reccomendations for making travel easiers and of course this is a minimalist's lists. Most of the contents on the main list are exactly what I came with. Have yet to regret bringing any of these items. Nothing more, nothing less.
1. 70litre pack. (Ideally with a removable “brain” for market trips). I brought my EMS Long Trail 70 liter pack to carry all my gear. The Kelty Lakota 65 is another solid pack. Both feature sleeping bag storage and daisy straps for tent/sleeping pad. For the initial travel to staging/Freetown/PST a 65/70litre pack will make your life and those traveling with you much easier. Imagine the cluster of 50 people plus two to three bags each at check-in. Bummer. It will carry everything necessary for living in-country for the next 27 months. During holiday when you’re looking to travel for longer than two or three days, a pack like this is perfect.
2. Travel sack/sleeping bag. (REI +55◦f) In-country camp rules. Either a sleeping bag liner or this travel slack will suffice for camping/sleeping. Once acclimatized to the weather, mornings can be rather cold. I usually roll over around 4a.m., and slid into my sleeping back for the last few hours of sleep.
3. Sleeping pad. (1.75” = sleep like a bump in a log) Going camping? Not necessary, but could be an added perk; especially if staying at a fellow PCV’s site. You should be kind and share the bed though. Head to feet for the uncomfortable ones.
4. Stuff/Compression sacks. (2-3 Medium or 7x15”). You’ll need to put your clothes in something. These are the best option for that and are rather cheap. When staying out on weekends put some clothes in one, take an extra for dirty laundry, and feel clean.
5. Small travels toiletries kit. Small, real small.
6. One pair of khaki pants. (Dickies are tough as nails). Dresses for woman. (Knee length or longer). Take a pair of slacks/or several dresses you’ll be comfortable in for teaching/events. Women will most likely wear lapas, which makes life easier. For the men one pair of rugged slacks is enough for teaching/swear-in.
7. Pair of jeans. (Levi’s recommended. American strong, ‘49 miners tough). During a cold Harmattan night a pair of jeans will feel real nice. As a culture people dress well when heading into the city/market/capital. A pair of jeans will do the trick.
8. Four button-up shirts. (Short or long sleeved). The John K’s (johnks) or dead man’s clothes sellers are everywhere. Finding clothes is easy. Bring a few that are “work” acceptable or one you’d wear to swearing-in. Woman, four teaching appropriate tops. The same is to be said for women. Also, for both sexes, Africana dress is always kosher in work/business environments.
9. Comfortable pair of shoes. (Toms, Vans, Birkenstocks. Dirt cheap and low-maintenance). Shoes can take a beating and get hot. Birkenstocks are light, comfortable and easy to clean up. Running shoes might be nice for travel or, well, running.
10. Five pairs of underwear. (Or, 3-4 exofficio. Wash ‘em with your dishes, dry em’ in the lorry). You can certainly bring ‘em. But, after some time the commando conversion feels good, real good.
11. One pair of shorts. For women: knee length. Knee bearing is not too accepted here, unless around the house.
12. Three of your favorite t-shirts.
13. One awesome tie. I.e. an office appropriate tie.
14. One very comfortable hoodie. (Pullover or Zip-up). Camping is chilly.
15. Good belt. Warning: Leather can get beat up and acquire mold rather quickly.
16. Pocket knife. (Winchester or Crkt). Always something to cut.
17. Swiss Army Knife. Multipurpose life saver. Whether you need to cut your hair, trim your nose hairs, open a can of tomato paste, kill a chicken, pluck its feathers, or tweeze out a sliver a Swiss Army knife will be there.
18. Two Nalgenes. (One liter each).
19. S-shape carabineers. (Nite-ize recommended).
20. Day Pack. (30/40litres. Functional…DO NOT SKIMP). Going to the market or the city for a weekend? Bring this. Small enough to be discrete yet large enough to carry necessities for a weekend. Don’t skimp because it will be getting thrown around the roofs of lorries. You’ll want something that can take a beating.
21. Moleskines. (Any durable journals).
22. Headlamp. (Petzl or Black Diamond. 30 Lumens or higher). There is about a zero percent chance you’ll have electricity. Candles and headlamps light the way. Purchase a decent headlamp; it’s worth your vision.
23. TSA locks. (Look for the one that is packed with a cable wire).
24. Mini-medical kit. Good for weekends. Check out army navy stores.
25. Rain shell. (Mountain Hardware, the North Face. DO NOT SKIMP). Rainy season is no joke. Being wet sucks. Bottom line.
26. Swim trunks/bathing suit. Woman a two piece is acceptable.
27. Bandanas. Sweat happens. Six months of dry season and lorry rides will get your mouth all dusty.
28. Towel. (REI or Tech Towel. Fast-drying). A lapa is a solid towel, which you’ll indubitably purchase. Makes for a perfect towel.
29. Tent. (One person or Bivy).
30. Camera. (Digital or film). Film is dirt cheap. Point and shoot, DSLR, or film all work well. Film is rad to have here, you can get photographs developed in about 30 minutes. The quality doesn’t look all that great as they skimp on the chemicals, but they are a killer addition to letters. Also, film cameras are cheap, if it gets stolen no worries.
1. Ipod/Walkman. Yes. A Walkman. Cassettes/CDs are at lorrie parks/markets. 2. Solio. Electronics charger. 3. Hand sanitizer. 4. Sunglasses. 5. Toothbrush holders. 6. Watch.
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