Saturday 22 May 2010

Peace Corps Basics

As I prepare for life in Cameroon, I find that I frequently get asked a multitude of questions regarding my future Peace Corps service. Though most are aware of the organization, allow me to address the questions I hear most often:

So what exactly is the Peace Corps?

Created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the Peace Corps Act states that it's purpose is “To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”

Almost 200,000 p
articipants to date have provided their service and built mutual cross-cultural understanding in 100+ developing countries.

How long do Volunteers serve?

27 months. Three months training and two years at post working on your project(s).

What does Small Enterprise Development (SED) consist of?
Cameroon's SED program centers around two goals:
  1. Promoting the development and sharing of resources available to businesses and entrepreneurs
  2. Strengthening community members' management and business skills through training and consulting
Just think microfinance and international business development for my primary project. Secondary projects could include youth development and/or HIV and AIDS education.

Where is Cameroon?

Courtesy of the Peace Corps website

Do you get paid?

Though I will (hopefully!) officially be known as a Volunteer once training is completed, I will receive a stipend and essentially have no expenses. No rent or house bills, no student loan payments as they are deferred, medical and dental benefits fully covered, a stipend that covers food, entertainment, cell phone, etc. As long as I complete training, I'll be set for the next two years.

Do you get vacation days?

As it's a job, of course! Two vacation days each month = 24 vacation days a year.

Will you have Internet access?
Maybe, maybe not. As I'm in SED in Cameroon, it's assumed that I'll have internet access; however, I shouldn't be surprised if I don't. Thus, I can write ridiculously romantic Nicholas Spark-esque letters like in "The Notebook" or "Dear John."

Can I visit?

Yes! And you should!
Sato Travel (1-800-698-2554) can work with friends and family to arrange travel to visit a Volunteer. Peace Corps also specifically addresses this matter online. Now doesn't that make it easy for you to come and see me?

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