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The Peace Corps currently operates in the countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and Carriacou, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis. The countries of the Eastern Caribbean face special development challenges because of their small size and vulnerability to natural disasters. They are poised on the edge of technological innovation, yet hampered by a limited economy subject to any changes in the global economy. One such example is the island of Dominica. In 2005, it reported a 60 percent drop in exports, while remaining in the top third of the United Nations Development Index. Despite these complexities, there remains a natural beauty formed from the many rugged mountains, extensive rain forests, dynamic volcanoes, and lush vegetation found throughout the islands.
The islands are confronted with increased unemployment, growing drug trafficking, and periodic natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanoes. Opportunities for youth are particularly limited. Economically, the Eastern Caribbean nations are sustained primarily by single cash crops or tourism. There is growth among communication and technology sectors in some areas.
Peace Corps programs focus primarily on providing job skills training and health services to youth. In collaboration with government ministries and nongovernmental organizations, Peace Corps /Eastern Caribbean has integrated the following into its integrated community development program: information technology, disaster preparedness and mitigation, and HIV/AIDS education and prevention.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean
The Peace Corps entered the Eastern Caribbean in 1961, when St. Lucia became one of the first countries in the world to receive Volunteers. Since then, approximately 3,300 Peace Corps Volunteers have served on various island nations in the region. Volunteers were initially assigned to education, agriculture, health, youth, and community development projects. The contributions of Volunteers in these areas have provided strong and consistent technical support to the Eastern Caribbean for more than 40 years. Basic human needs programming in the 1970s encouraged health, special education, preschool education, teacher training, forestry, fishery, and livestock extension projects. The 1980s were a period that focused on four projects: education, health, agriculture, and small enterprise development. At the beginning of the 1990s, education, environment, health, and youth initiatives were priorities. Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean has made significant progress since January 1991 to establish project-based programming and to provide focus to the program. After concluding an assessment of the program in 1993, efforts focused on developing partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and moving steadily away from formal education into educational projects targeting at-risk youth.
Peace Corps Volunteers currently serve in six island nations in the Eastern Caribbean:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia, and
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
During this time, you will begin to integrate and establish links with your host community. Your associate Peace Corps director will identify proper housing for you. It is very likely that all homes will have running water and electricity. The houses will also be fully furnished and a few may include a television set with cable service. Volunteer sites can be as close as 15 minutes and as far as 90 minutes from the capital and the Peace Corps office.
Main article: Training in the Eastern Caribbean
Pre-service training (PST) is seven weeks in length and begins with the arrival of a new group of trainees, once a year. Phase One of PST, the first three weeks, is conducted on St. Lucia, where Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean headquarters is located.. Phase Two of PST takes place on the island nation of assignment and lasts four weeks. During the entire training period and for two weeks after swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will live with a homestay family. Qualification for Peace Corps service is determined according to an established set of competencies and upon successful completion of PST. After seven weeks of PST, trainees are sworn-in as Volunteers and are expected to serve 24 months from that date.
Pre-service training in the Eastern Caribbean is a unique and challenging opportunity that requires your active and full participation. There are two interrelated goals. First, training is designed to provide you with the basic cross-cultural, technical, language, behavior norms, and health and personal safety skills necessary to live and work effectively as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Second, training is a mutual assessment process, whereby you will have the responsibility to assess whether Peace Corps service is the right thing for you at this point in your life. At the same time, Peace Corps staff will assess your suitability to provide the Eastern Caribbean with Volunteers who are effective and qualified.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in the Eastern Caribbean
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean maintains its own in-country health unit with three full-time medical officers. One, based on St. Lucia, is responsible for the medical needs of Peace Corps Volunteers on Dominica and St. Lucia. Another, based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines looks after Volunteers on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Grenada. The third, based on St. Kitts, takes care of Volunteers on Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis. The medical officers travel regularly to the island nations in their care. Consultant medical services are also available throughout the Eastern Caribbean. In addition, the Peace Corps has a well-organized system for moving seriously ill Volunteers to the continental United States or another appropriate site when necessary.
The Peace Corps medical program emphasizes the preventive approach to disease rather than the curative mode. As a rule of thumb, good healthcare comes from good health maintenance. Health conditions in the Caribbean are good by international standards, but certain immunizations are required and must be kept current during your tour.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
In the Eastern Caribbean, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from your own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics considered familiar and commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
The Caribbean people are well-known for their generous hospitality to foreigners. However, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in the Eastern Caribbean, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental 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 will 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 limits. 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 will ultimately 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
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in the Eastern Caribbean
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to the Eastern Caribbean?
- What is the electric current in the Eastern Caribbean?
- 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 Caribbean 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 any of the island nations?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access?
Main article: Packing list for the Eastern Caribbean
There is no perfect packing 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 later.
One essential item to bring is a shortwave battery-operated radio. We strongly encourage all Volunteers to keep a radio at home so that in the event of an emergency or hurricane you can be kept informed of the latest developments
You will need clothing for work, special occasions, and relaxation and fun. Bring clothes that are washable (although you can always have your nice clothes dry-cleaned, as this is available in the capital and main towns). For work, both men and women should stick to cotton and poly-cottons so you can dress to stay cool. Military-style clothing (i.e., camouflage or olive-green Army surplus items) is inappropriate for a Volunteer.
- For Work
- For Relaxation and Fun
- For Men
- For Women
- Overnight Bag