Archive | May, 2012

Assignment + Job Description

5 May

Now that I’ve shared a little bit of the history of the PC program in Peru, I wanted to touch on the overall role of a youth development facilitator (I wont be given my specific assignment until I complete training sometime in August)…

Although Peru is a fast growing country, its young people have seriously been affected by the current global economic crisis.  Peru is the country with the lowest reading comprehension standards in Latin America, and many children don’t stay in school.  Some are still sent to the streets to sell candy or find other ways to earn a few coins a day.  Among disadvantaged low-income youth, there is often a feeling of hopelessness and low self-esteem that can result in a myriad of problems including drug use, illegal activities and unemployment.

The Youth Development Project in Peru looks to address the fundamental challenges of preparing low income adolescents to lead productive, fulfilling lives.

The goals of the Youth Development Project are:

1. Healthy Lifestyle Development – Peruvian youth will be engaged in strengthening their personal and social skills to become better equipped to meet life’s challenges through healthy lifestyle programs and activities that meet the youth’s individual needs.

2. World of Work Development – Peruvian youth will be better prepared with the skills and knowledge to participate in future vocational and/or advanced educational opportunities through developing goal-setting skills and by enhancing their ability to access local resources to develop livelihood and educational opportunities.

3. Youth Leadership Development and Community Involvement – Peruvian youth will be engaged as active and contributing members of their community through developing their leadership skills, connecting to supportive community networks, and being involved in community-benefiting projects and youth service groups.

Some specific duties might include:

  • establish a summer program
  • organize career fairs
  • encourage youth to identify personal goals
  • promote business ideas
  • help families understand the importance of diet and exercise
  • promote parenting techniques that improve familial communication
  • explain to youth the importance of healthy behaviors and choices

This is the part of the experience I am looking forward to the most! Since my application process took forever and a day, I was willing to accept whatever assignment they chose for me, but secretly I was hoping (and wishing, and praying) to be placed in a youth development program.  The year and a half I volunteered at the Miami Bridge, a transitional home for at-risk youth, was extremely challenging but incredibly rewarding and I knew I would love to continue the same kind of work.

 

A Brief History…

3 May

**The following information was obtained from Peace Corps Wiki

The Peace Corps first opened a program in Peru in 1962.  Over the next 13 years, some 2,600 Volunteers worked in health and nutrition, city planning, social work, agricultural extension, agricultural cooperatives, savings and loan associations, elementary and secondary education, community development, and earthquake reconstruction (after the severe earthquake and landslide of 1970). Peace Corps’ departure from Peru in 1975 was due to political and economic instability.

In 2001, then-President Alejandro Toledo invited the Peace Corps to return. As well as seeing Peace Corps as part of his development plan for the country, President Toledo had a personal relationship with the Peace Corps. When he was young, his family had hosted a Volunteer in their home in Chimbote.  Volunteers taught him English and were instrumental in his attending college and graduate school in the United States.  President Toledo also worked at the Peace Corps training center in California, teaching Spanish while he was going to college.

Teams from Peace Corps headquarters made assessment visits to Peru in late 2001 and early 2002, and a country agreement was signed in Lima on March 23, 2002. Staff was deployed to Lima in May 2002. The first four Volunteers, third-year transferees from other Latin American countries, arrived in August 2002. They were followed by the first new group of Volunteers, who arrived for training in November and were sworn-in in February 2003. A second group arrived in September 2003. Since then, two new groups of trainees arrive to serve in Peru each year.

All Volunteers in Peru are required to live with a family during their entire service. Living with a Peruvian family allows volunteers to quickly integrate into the community and greatly enhances their safety and security. In addition, living with a family reinforces language and cross-cultural skills daily.

Volunteers sent to Peru today find that it is a poor country with significant development challenges.  According to USAID, 48 percent of the population lives below the official poverty line (U.S. $58 per month), with 18 percent living in extreme poverty (under U.S. $32 per month).  Peru is plagued by high unemployment (around 10 percent) and underemployment (estimated at 43 percent). Health indicators show that large sectors of the population suffer from nutritional deficiencies (24 percent of children are chronically malnourished), a high infant mortality rate (43 per 1,000 in rural areas), and limited access to basic healthcare services.

Learning about President Toledo’s personal connection to the Peace Corps Peru program was an eye-opener.  His experience alone stands as a testament to the power of the Peace Corps.  Would Toledo still have learned English, attended school in the US and reached his full potential to become president of his country without the help of the Peace Corps? We’ll never know, but probably not.  And that’s why he made it a priority to bring this program back to his country in 2002.

 

Planning Ahead

2 May

From the time I submitted my application until I received an invitation to serve as a volunteer, I read as much as I could about what Peace Corps service was like, including many blogs written by PCVs from around the world.  I began to notice that many, if not all, of the volunteers I followed seemed to go through a kind of emotional rollercoaster throughtout their service.  And each had their own way of reacting to the occasional feelings of excitement, nostalgia, frustration, achievement, isolation, etc. How each individual handled the mental and spiritual aspect of PC, not the physical, is what ultimately made their experience.

Soon, I will find myself joining the ranks of these volunteers and I have kept their writings present in my mind.  In an effort to better prepare for the aformentioned emotional rollercoaster– I have decided to store my happiness in a jar and take it with me to Peru.

write down memories that make you smile. revisit when you need a little boost. remember life is good.

I came across this idea while pinning on Pinterest (follow me here).  I think its cute and practical for everyone to put one of these together.  Who doesnt enjoy recalling their fondest memories?  But, if you’re moving to a foreign country, away from friends and family, for the next 27 months, this Memories Jar will be indispensable in holding on to the slightest sliver of sanity necessary to survive.

 

The First Gift

1 May

small gift. big reaction.

The regional Peace Corps office sent me a welcome packet that included a custom luggage tag. I love receiving packages from PC (and emails too, for that matter) but receiving this small gift jolted me back to reality — I have to start packing soon. Also, OMG ITS MAY ALREADY.

Seasoned travelers/adventurers/RPCV-ers have assured me the jitters are normal, so expect more freak-out posts as the day draws closer.