Training in Nicaragua
Upon your arrival in Nicaragua, you will participate in a three-day orientation that will provide you with basic, pertinent information on living in Nicaragua. You will find out about Peace Corps administrative issues as they pertain to Peace Corps training. Additionally, you will learn what the Peace Corps expects from you during training and what you can expect from the Peace Corps. You will have the opportunity to speak with current Volunteers in your project and ask questions about any initial medical concerns. After this orientation, you will begin living with a host family, spending Saturday night and Sunday with them before beginning pre-service training on Monday morning.
Peace Corps/Nicaragua uses a community-based training model that was pioneered in Nicaragua in January 1995. Many Peace Corps training programs worldwide have since adopted this model, in which most training activities take place in the community where one lives during training. This type of immersion has proven more successful than other methods in preparing Volunteers for the realities of service.
Training will consist of several components, including Spanish language, technical skills, cross-cultural awareness, the role of Volunteers in development, and health and safety issues. You will attend Spanish classes and carry out technical and cross-cultural tasks in your community Monday through Friday. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, the entire training group usually will come together for more formal training sessions. During training you will be regularly evaluated on your ability to acquire and demonstrate the language, technical, cross-cultural, and safety skills needed to be a Volunteer.
You will live with your host family for the entire 11-week training period. Two or three other trainees will live in the same community with different families, and you will study Spanish and carry out individual technical tasks together. Even though the entire training group will be spread out among five or six communities, Peace Corps staff members will be present on a daily basis. The training director and other Peace Corps staff will make frequent trips to each community to ensure that training objectives are being met.
Technical training is competency-based. This component of pre-service training will prepare you to work in Nicaragua by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate for your project goals. Peace Corps staff, Nicaraguan experts, and current Volunteers will facilitate the training sessions. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to community members at your site.
Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Nicaragua and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Nicaraguan agencies and organizations that have invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated by the training staff so you can build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are essential 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, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Nicaraguan language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of three to four people.
Your language training will incorporate the 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 help you achieve a level of basic social communication proficiency 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 to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Nicaraguan host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Nicaragua. 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 the development process. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, project sustainability, nonformal and adult education strategies, and working with youth.
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, which include such topics as preventive health measures, and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Nicaragua. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living situation, 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.
Special Note on Couples
Peace Corps/Nicaragua encourages married couples to participate in our program; couples have found service in Nicaragua to be very rewarding. More specific advantages and challenges to serving as couples are mentioned later on in this document. However, if you are considering service in Nicaragua, it is important to note that you will be separated during the 11-week pre-service training period. You will each live with a different host family and will most likely also be separated by training site. This will better enable you each to develop your language and technical skills separately, and to share in the rich cross-cultural experience of spending time with your own host family and community. The success in the training program will be due in large part to a couple’s willingness to put their individual learning objectives first, realizing that each person will need time and personal space to meet the challenges ahead and to fully engage in the training activities. Depending on the project, couples have varying opportunities to see one another as the training schedules permit. Please contact your placement officer or the country desk unit for more specific information.
Additional Training 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 service, there are three primary training events. The titles and objectives for those 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.
- Midterm conference (done in conjunction with technical sector in-service): Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences.
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.