From Peace Corps Wiki
For the official Welcome Book for Morocco see here
PEACE CORPS / MOROCCO HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Morocco
Morocco was among the first countries to invite the Peace Corps to assist in its development process. A group of 53 surveyors, English teachers, and irrigation supervisors arrived in Morocco in 1963 at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since then, more than 3,800 Volunteers have served in the Kingdom of Morocco in areas such as lab technology, urban development, home economics, commercial development, education of the blind and deaf, rural water supply, vocational education, maternal child health, natural resources management, youth development, marine and inland fisheries, small business development, sports, beekeeping, architecture, and English language training.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Morocco
In collaboration with governmental partners, Peace Corps/ Morocco works in four primary areas: youth development, health, environment, and small business development.
In 1995, education Volunteers began teaching English in community youth centers (Dar Chebab), enabling youth to practice the English they learned in school. While content-based English teaching is still widely used, the program today focuses on youth leadership, strengthening youth networks, capacity-building of professionals who work with youth, and promotion of girls’ education. Volunteers work with local professionals and youth to promote volunteerism and youth leadership through activities such as sports, study of world geography, libraries, exercise classes, environmental projects, project management training, thematic English teaching, and self-esteem activities for girls.
The Peace Corps/Morocco health project focuses on promoting health and hygiene practices through various activities, including: 1) educating individuals (men, women and children) on nutrition, vaccination, dental hygiene, hand-washing, water purification/disinfection, proper storage of drinking water, proper waste disposal, STD-HIV/AIDs awareness and prevention; 2) training health services providers (traditional birth attendants, nurses) to reinforce their ability to deliver quality service and improve their communication skills; and, 3) training and coaching local NGOs and development association leaders to build and sustain their capacity in assessing community needs, planning and writing health-related project proposals (e.g., water, sanitation, waste disposal, HIV/AIDs awareness), searching for funds, and training youth leaders in life skills. Health Volunteers work at the Ministry of Health and are assigned to rural communities throughout Morocco.
In 1985, the Government of Morocco invited Peace Corps to assist with environmental monitoring and management of Morocco’s national parks and biological reserves. Today, Peace Corps/Morocco’s environment sector collaborates with the Department of Water and Forests, the Ministry of Rural Development, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They address natural resources management and rural development issues in Morocco as well as the needs of rural communities living in or near protected areas. Volunteers work with community leaders, local community groups (men’s, women’s or joint associations), and other counterparts and partners to initiate activities to sensitize the communities to the importance of their local environment.
This is done by promoting environmental education programs and eco-tourism. They work on socio-economic projects such as improving arboriculture, potable water, and agriculture; developing aromatic and medicinal plants; decreasing the impact of erosion; and restoring habitat. Volunteers also promote the use of renewable energy sources and the use of appropriate technologies to improve living conditions. Support is provided to local women, in particular, though training opportunities, income-generating projects, educational opportunities, and literacy programs.
The small business development project began in 1999 in cooperation with Morocco’s Ministry of Social Economy and Artisans (now the Ministry of Tourism, Artisans and Social Economy). Volunteers advise and train small-craft businesses, providing assistance with marketing, accounting, basic finance, quality control, and creating feasibility studies and business plans. In addition, Volunteers help NGOs develop and improve their organizational skills and fundraising techniques.
Peace Corps/Morocco will continue to work with Moroccan government partners to address the expressed needs of the Moroccan people. The program will increase its efforts to integrate gender activities across all sectors and continue to improve the effectiveness of pre-service training through closer integration of programming and training.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW: MOROCCO AT A GLANCE
The Berbers were the original inhabitants of Morocco, and were followed by Carthaginians and Romans. Arabs conquered Morocco in 683, but by the 11th century, a Berber empire ruled over all of northwest Africa and most of Spain. A succession of native dynasties then ruled the country. In 1904, French and Spanish colonists occupied parts of Morocco, establishing protectorates in 1912.
Morocco became a sovereign state in 1956 when France and Spain recognized its independence. It was ruled by King Mohammed V until his death on February 26, 1961. His son, Hassan II, then ascended the throne.
On April, 14, 1976, tens of thousands of Moroccans crossed the border into the Spanish Sahara to back their government’s contention that the northern part of the territory was historically part of Morocco. Spain had withdrawn from the territory in February of the same year.
King Hassan II was the second Arab leader to meet with an Israeli leader and was active in promoting peace in the Middle East. The king died in July 1999, after reigning for more than 37 years. He was succeeded by his son, Mohammed VI. The young king, born in 1963, has taken courageous measures to improve political, economic, and social conditions in the country. Dubbed the “King of the Poor” by the French and the local press, King Mohammed VI is keen on improving the quality of life in rural areas, raising the social and legal status of women, and alleviating poverty. These reforms have gained him great popularity among the people and made the country attractive to foreign investment. In April 2002, the king married Salma Bennani, a computer engineer, who is perceived as a force for the promotion of women’s issues. Their child, Prince Hassan III, was born in May 2003.
The Kingdom of Morocco (Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah) is a constitutional monarchy with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The Constitution, which dates from 1972, was revised in 1996 to create a bicameral legislature, which is organized under a parliamentary system.
Since 1999, the head of the executive branch has been King Mohammed VI, who holds the titles of chief of state and Commander of the Faithful. The head of government is Prime Minister Driss Jettou, who has held that position since 2002. The legal system is based on Islamic law and both the French and Spanish civil law systems. Judges are appointed on the recommendation of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, which the king also presides over.
There is a wide variety of political parties in Morocco, and Moroccans are eligible to vote once they are 21 years of age.
Tourism plays a large part in the Moroccan economy, and visitors seek out classic Moroccan handicrafts such as carpets, ceramics, and silver jewelry. Minerals such as bauxite are found in certain parts of Morocco and are mined for export. Oil reserves have been discovered, but the industry is still in the fledgling stages of development. Morocco has a temperate climate, and citrus fruits and vegetables are grown for export to Europe.
Morocco faces challenges typical of many developing countries: restraining government spending, reducing constraints on private activity and foreign trade, and keeping inflation within manageable bounds. In 2005, the unemployment rate was 19 percent. Although the government has made reforms in the financial sector and state enterprises are gradually being privatized, agriculture still plays a key role in the economy. Moroccan agriculture, largely rain-dependent, has, unfortunately, suffered over the past 9 years due to continuous drought conditions. A long, wet winter in 2005-06, is expected to have a positive impact on agricultural activity, however, with grain harvests (e.g., wheat, barley), expected to surpass previous records. Long-term challenges for Morocco include servicing external debt, preparing the economy for freer trade with the European Union, improving education and living standards, and finding jobs for its youthful population (about 60 percent of Moroccans are under age 25). Effective January 1, 2006, the Moroccan government implemented a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S., consolidating the two countries’ existing good ties.
People and Culture
Morocco has a population of almost 30 million and an annual growth rate of just over 1.4 percent. The country’s birthrate is 22.8 per 1,000 people, and the death rate is 5.7 per 1,000 people. The average life expectancy is just under 68 years for men and just over 72 years for women.
More than 99 percent of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber ancestry. The country’s Jewish minority numbers between 3,000-5,000. Most of the 60,000 foreign residents, many of them teachers or technicians, are French or Spanish. Arabic is the official and principal language of Morocco, but various Berber dialects are also widely spoken. As a remnant of Morocco’s colonial history, French is the predominant second language and Spanish is widely spoken in northern Morocco.
There is not a lot of interaction between men and women in public, so it may take some time to get to know the people in your community. However, once you do, you will find Moroccans to be warm, generous, and hospitable.
Morocco has a total area of 172,000 square miles. With an abundance of sand, sea, and snow, the country is bordered on the north by the Mediterranean Sea and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and extends to the edge of the Western Sahara in the south. The majority of Morocco’s population lives in the foothills of the often snowcapped Atlas Mountains in the north. Between the mountains and the Atlantic coast are plateaus and fertile, well-watered plains. In the extreme south, at the edge of the Anti-Atlas Mountains, river gorges gradually fade into the endless sands of the vast Sahara.
The “coolest of the hottest countries,” Morocco has a climate that is rather un-African. In the higher elevations, in particular, winter conditions can be positively arctic. In summer, the mountains are hot during the day and cool at night. The rainy season is normally from November to April, and the amount of rainfall will vary depending on the region.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Morocco and also to connect you to returned Volunteers. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee this.
A note of caution: as you surf the Internet, you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experiences, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Morocco
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Morocco and learn more about its social and political history.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, which contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background information.
This guide to travel in Morocco offers city-specific descriptions, photos, and sound clips.
This site operated by Virtual Countries presents business, cultural, and travel information on Morocco.
This site features the latest news from Arabic newspapers around the world.
Gateway officially launched by the Moroccan Goverment in April 2006 to introduce Moroccan institutions, society and culture to net surfers as well as offer online public service to Moroccan citizens and expats in country.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is a membership organization for Americans, mostly returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) with experience in Morocco, and Moroccans living in the U.S. The site has a wealth of articles and information on Morocco and features a weekly update on Morocco-related events and news clippings.
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, composed of RPCVs. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities.
This site is hosted by a group of RPCV writers. Designed to be a monthly online electronic newsletter, this site presents essays and accounts of Peace Corps Volunteers’ service.
Online Articles/Current News About Morocco
The site of Morocco’s official national news agency, Maghreb Arab Press.
The is the first electronic English language newspaper to be issued in Morocco (2005). It is hosted by a private press agency and is updated regularly.
A news site on Morocco as well as other parts of the world.
This journal offers commentary and in-depth analysis of political, economic, and business issues in North Africa. Available by subscription only.
International Development Sites About Morocco
http://www.tanmia.ma (english version available on homepage)
The first gateway that aims to bring together local, Moroccan development NGOs, providing an interactive site for discussion of development-related issues and sharing of information.
United Nations Development Programme (in French)
Statistical data from the United Nations’ Children’s Fund
Nearly all of these books are available in the Peace Corps/ Morocco Resource Center. Those that are out of print may be available through a consortium of booksellers called Bibliofind or through a university library.
- Ardizzone, Tony. Larabi’s Ox: Stories of Morocco. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1992.This collection of loosely connected stories about Americans in Morocco, which grew out of the author’s stay there as a Fulbright scholar, presents many interesting aspects of the culture.
- Baker, Alison. Voices of Resistance: Oral Histories of Moroccan Women. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. Baker chronicles the involvement of women leaders and working-class activists in Morocco’s struggle for independence from France.
- Ben Jelloun, Tahar. The Sand Child. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. This book won France’s prestigious Goncourt Prize for literature. It questions gender in an interesting way, though some may not like the postmodernist style.
- Bowen, Donna Lee, and Evelyn A. Early (eds.). Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East (2nd ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.
- Bowles, Paul. The Sheltering Sky (2nd ed.). Echo, 1998. Bowles was an American writer and composer who spent much of his life in Morocco; he died in Tangier in 1999. This novel describes the impact of Arab life on three jaded Americans in the mid-20th century. A film of the same name by Bernardo Bertolucci shows the gorgeous fortified villages in the south.
- Brett, Michael. The Berbers. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1997.
- Hargraves, Orin. Culture Shock! Morocco. Portland: Graphic Arts Books, 2006.
- Hart, David M. Tribe and Society in Rural Morocco. London: Frank Cass & Co., 2000.
- Lowerre, Susan. Under the Neem Tree. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993.
- Maxwell, Gavin. Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua, 1893-1956. Guilford, CO: Lyons Press, 2000. A lively account of the colorful leader who held parts of the High Atlas Mountains against the sultan early in the 20th century.
- Mernissi, Fatima. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in a Modern Muslim Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. This book contrasts the views of Sigmund Freud and al-Ghazali, a famous 11th-century Islamic philosopher, on sexuality, discussing conflicts in this area for modern Moroccans.
- Moran, Michael. Younger Than That Now: A Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Morocco. Full Court Press, 1994.
- Nydell, Margaret K. Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Modern Times. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 2005.
- Pennell, C.R. Morocco Since 1830: A History. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
- Ponasik, Diane Skelly. Tangier, A Novel. Booksurge.com, 2006.
- Porch, Douglas. The Conquest of Morocco. Cincinnati: Forward Movement, 1986. A lively account of the French takeover of Morocco in the early 1900s, described by the author as “a story of people, of chaos, villainy, glory, misery, violence, greed, avarice, and maladministration.”
- Wagner, Daniel A. Literacy, Culture and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco. Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the Peace Corps/Morocco office, which will forward mail to the training site at least once a week. Please do not have packages sent to you during training. After you are assigned to your permanent site, you will receive mail at a local post office or at your workplace. Packages should be sent directly to your site after training. Depending on the distance to your site from Rabat, mail may take anywhere from three days to three weeks to get to you.
Your mailing address during training will be:
“Your Name,” Trainee
s/c Corps de la Paix
2, rue Abou Marouane Essaadi
Agdal, Rabat 10100, MOROCCO
It normally takes 10 to 12 days for an airmail letter to arrive from the United States. Surface mail takes from one to four months. Mail that goes through the Moroccan post office is subject to customs inspection, censorship, and currency control. Advise your friends and relatives that mail delivery is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. Also, they should never send cash through the mail, as it will seldom reach you. Please check the U.S. Post Service website at www.usps.com for the latest updates on how best to send your letter or package. Currently, the USPS recommends air Parcel Post (not surface mail) for packages, or airmail for letters.
Although having packages sent from home is not recommended because of the unreliability of mail service and the customs fees, if you do have packages sent, brown padded envelopes work well. Make sure they have the green customs label and are marked as gifts, which should prevent the imposition of fees. It is best to wait to have packages sent until you know your permanent address. Again, please do not have your family send you packages during pre-service training.
Telephone and telegraph services are available in all parts of the country. Volunteers in larger cities may have a telephone in their home. Many Volunteers purchase inexpensive cellphones in Morocco, an expense that is not covered by the Peace Corps. Public telephones (called teleboutiques) suitable for making direct-dial international calls exist in most towns. Collect calls can be made only at a post and telecommunications office, and you should anticipate a wait. AT&T and MCI calling cards work in Morocco.
The Peace Corps office in Morocco can be reached by direct dialing from the United States. During normal working hours, the office number (from most states) is 011.212.3.768-3780, and a duty officer monitors calls for emergencies after office hours. Volunteers are not permitted to use telephones at the Peace Corps/Morocco office to call family or friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director.
Computer, E-mail, and Internet Access
Volunteers, typically, are able to access e-mail and the Internet at cybercafes. Cybercafes are affordable, generally reliable and can be found in increasing numbers in just about any town or city. Most Volunteers do not have a cyber café at their site, but most are within a few hours’ travel from one. The Volunteer lounge at the Peace Corps office in Rabat is equipped with two computers, both with Internet access, and a printer reserved for Volunteer use. Volunteers are not allowed to use staff computers.
Some Volunteers bring their laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the computers themselves. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.
Housing and Site Location
You will be assigned to your permanent site towards the end of pre-service training. After your site announcement, you will visit your assigned site to meet your counterparts and other members of your community. Once you move to the site, you will spend your first two months living with a host family that has been chosen by the Peace Corps. This family has prepared for your arrival and will provide you with a safe and secure place to live while you continue to learn the language and adapt to the culture. An additional objective of this period is to help you integrate more effectively into the community.
After the mandatory two-month stay with a Moroccan family, you are free to change your housing, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ safety and security criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety). The Peace Corps will give you a modest settling-in allowance to purchase household necessities such as a stove, dishes, and furniture. Peace Corps will provide additional items, such as a carbon monoxide detector and water filter, if necessary. Volunteers in areas that experience unbearably cold winters can be reimbursed for the purchase of an appropriate heater. Depending on the site, Volunteer housing generally consists of two or more rooms and private bath and latrine facilities. Some Volunteers live in family compounds with one or two private rooms for their use.
While many Volunteers in Morocco have running water and electricity, you may not have these amenities and may collect your water from an outside faucet or well and spend your evenings reading by candle or lantern. You need to be very flexible in your housing expectations, as there are no guarantees of continuous electricity or water.
Depending on your program and assignment, you may be placed in a community that ranges from a large, semi-urban town to a very small rural village. Some Volunteers share a site, while others are quite a distance from other Volunteers. Peace Corps staff members visit all sites to ensure that they meet the Peace Corps’ safety and security criteria. Staff also visit all Volunteers intermittently to provide personal, medical, and professional support.
Living Allowance and Money Management
As a Volunteer in Morocco, you will receive four types of allowances. The first is a one-time settling-in allowance, currently five thousand Moroccan dirhams (MAD 5000), that is used to buy basic household items when you move to your site. This amount is reviewed once a year through a “settling-in survey” to ensure that the allowance is sufficient. You will receive a monthly living allowance, currently MAD 2000, to cover your basic expenses, i.e., food, utilities, household supplies, clothing, recreation and entertainment, communications costs (e.g., cell phone cards, internet access), transportation, reading material, and other incidentals. Your monthly rent will be covered separately by the Peace Corps. The living allowance is paid in local currency and is sent to Volunteers during the third week of each month for the following month. The living allowance is reviewed once a year through a market survey to ensure that it is adequate. You may find that you receive more remuneration than your counterpart or supervisor.
You will also receive a vacation allowance of $24 (currently MAD 220) per month and a travel allowance to cover the cost of work-related trips (pre-approved work-related leave, official Peace Corps events, etc.). The current travel allowance policy is under review.
Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Morocco with these allowances. Volunteers are strongly discouraged from supplementing their income with money brought from home, as they are expected to live at the economic level of their neighbors and colleagues. Nevertheless, credit cards are handy for vacations and travel and can be used in several establishments in the larger cities. Traveler’s checks can be cashed for a small percentage fee. ATM machines can be found at most major banks in large cities.
Food and Diet
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available year-round, and all meats except pork are readily available. Dairy products like yogurt and milk can usually be obtained. Although maintaining a vegetarian diet should not be difficult, you will be confronted with cultural issues when visiting Moroccan families, as they will offer you, and expect you to accept, traditional foods. Thus vegetarians need to be flexible about sharing the Moroccan diet when visiting friends and neighbors.
Fresh bread is widely available and is an important part of the Moroccan diet. Pastries are available in larger towns, and pasta is available in almost any small shop.
Mint tea is Moroccans’ favorite drink. It is traditionally very sweet and is served throughout the day. The numerous cafes in Morocco, which are mostly frequented by men, also serve coffee and fresh orange juice. Because Morocco is a Muslim country, beer and wine are not usually available in rural areas.
Most Volunteers travel within the country in commercial buses or long-distance taxis (grand taxi). Local taxis (petit taxis) are available in all medium and large cities. If required for their work, Volunteers are issued bicycles with bicycle helmets. To reduce safety risks, Peace Corps/Morocco prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on any two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicle (such as a motorcycle) for any reason. Nor are Volunteers allowed to own or drive private cars. Violation of these policies may result in termination of your Volunteer service.
Geography and Climate
Morocco is sometimes referred to as the cold country with the hot sun. The sun shines most of the year, but the cold can penetrate straight to your bones. The country has a varied geography, with beaches, mountains, desert, and agricultural land. The north tends to receive more rain than the south, so the majority of agriculture occurs in the north.
Moving southward, the landscape changes to desert, turning into the Sahara in the deep southeast. Morocco boasts a popular ski resort in the Atlas Mountains outside Marrakech, and on either side of the mountains are flat, hot, and dry plains. Summer is hot all over Morocco, with coastal areas experiencing greater relative humidity than inland areas.
Morocco is more tolerant than many other Muslim nations toward Western cultural norms. But while people in large cities tend to dress in Western clothing, those in rural communities are still very traditional. Most Volunteers live in small towns or rural settings and need to conform to local customs. Men have more external freedom than women do in that they can circulate freely outside the home. Cultural norms do not allow men and women to mix freely outside the home, and women tend to spend more time in the home, taking care of domestic affairs and socializing with other women. Moroccans are known for their hospitality, and you should expect invitations to dinner, weddings, and other social functions.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
The people of Morocco take pride in their personal appearance. To gain their acceptance, respect, and confidence, it is essential that you dress and conduct yourself professionally. Dress standards for Volunteers are generally conservative. Women may wear pants with long-sleeved shirts for normal work-related activity, but are expected to wear long, casual skirts or dresses for more professional activities (e.g., meetings and/or workshops with Ministry representatives). Men are expected to wear long trousers for most activities.
Adhering to the conservative dress codes in Morocco is a test of your motivation and commitment to adapt to your new environment. If you have reservations about this, you should consider the amount of sacrifice and flexibility required to be successful and reevaluate your decision to become a Volunteer.
The Peace Corps expects Volunteers to behave in a way that will foster respect within their communities and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the United States. You will receive an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest, and thus you need to be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.
Certain behaviors can jeopardize the Peace Corps’ mission in Morocco as well as your personal safety and thus cannot be tolerated by the Peace Corps. Engaging in these behaviors may lead to administrative separation, a decision by the Peace Corps to terminate your service. The Volunteer Handbook provides more information on the grounds for administrative separation.
More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (often alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as wealthy are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Rewards and Frustrations
Although the potential for job satisfaction is quite high, like all Volunteers, you will encounter numerous frustrations. Because of financial or other challenges, collaborating agencies do not always provide the support promised. Moreover, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to, and some people you work with may be hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.
You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work—perhaps more than in any other job you have had or will have. Often you will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. You might work for months without seeing any visible impact from, or without receiving feedback on, your work. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.
To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. The Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave Morocco feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.
Overview of Pre-Service Training
Training is an essential part of Peace Corps service. The goal is to give you enough skills and information to enable you to live and work effectively in Morocco. In doing so, we build upon the experiences and expertise you bring to the Peace Corps. We anticipate that you will approach training with an open mind, a desire to learn, and a willingness to become involved. Trainees officially become Volunteers after successful completion of training.
The 11-week training program provides you the opportunity to learn new skills and practice them as they apply to Morocco. You will receive training and orientation that integrates components of language, cross-cultural communication, area studies, development issues, health and personal safety, and technical skills pertinent to your specific assignment. Trainees work together as a group and have a chance to experience local culture and customs on their own during a stay with a host family and community-based technical training.
When you arrive in-country, you will spend the first four days in Rabat and then travel to a sector-specific seminar site. While in Rabat, you will be welcomed by the Country Director and receive an overview of Peace Corps in Morocco, be introduced to your program’s training staff, receive vaccinations, and participate in introductory sessions on safety and security, cross-culture, and technical aspects of your sector program. Next you will travel overland to your seminar site where you will begin learning one of three Moroccan languages and Arabic script. After the first week, you will leave the seminar site and begin community-based training (CBT). During this phase of training, groups of 5-6 trainees learning the same language will be assigned to continue training in a pre-selected village. At your CBT site, you will live with a host family. Staying with a host family will bring to life some of the topics covered in training, giving you a chance to practice your new language skills and directly observe and participate in Moroccan culture. Throughout the training period you will be spending some time at the seminar site (approximately 30 % of your time) and the majority of your time at the community-based training (approximately 70% of your time). Bring a small travel bag so that you don’t have to bring all of your luggage, each time you move from the seminar site to the CBT site. For the final week of training, all trainees will be brought together at a common training site where, upon completion of the final sessions, you will be sworn in as a Volunteer.
At the onset of pre-service training, staff will outline your goals and the criteria that will be used to assess your progress. Evaluation of your performance during training is a continual process of dialogue between you and the training staff. Staff will work with you toward the highest possible achievement of training goals by providing you feedback throughout training. After successfully completing pre-service training, you will make the final preparations for departure to your site.
Technical training prepares you to work in Morocco by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Moroccan experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training includes sessions on sector-specific trends and how to translate and use your skills to work effectively in your community. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Moroccan agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated by staff throughout training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.
Training can be intense and is sometimes stressful. The best advice we can give you is to maintain your sense of humor while trying to get as much out of pre-service training as possible. The Peace Corps believes that all of the information and experience you gain are crucial to your success as a Volunteer.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your 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. Moroccan language and culture facilitators teach formal classes six days a week in small groups of five or six people.
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 get you to have basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service. After you settle in at your site, the Peace Corps will provide funds for a language tutor. As Nelson Mandela has said, “If you talk to a man in a language that he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Four major languages are spoken in Morocco: Moroccan Arabic (Derija) and the Berber dialects Tashelheit, Tamazight, and Tarifit. For the most part, Moroccans who work for the government have pursued their secondary and university studies in French. Moroccans may also use French at their jobs. The Peace Corps therefore highly recommends that Volunteers begin studying or reviewing French before coming to Morocco.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Moroccan host family. This experience will ease your transition to life at your site. Families have gone 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 Morocco. 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 development. You will learn the social and behavioral skills needed to enter your community and function in a culture significantly different from your own. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive health care and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Morocco. Setting up a safe living compound, bicycle maintenance, fuel safety, nutrition, water treatment, mental health, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.
Safety and Security Training
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 to cope with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides trainees and Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually three 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 with fellow Volunteers and Moroccan counterparts.
- Mid-service conference: During mid-service physical exam time, Volunteers will have the opportunity to meet together, reflect on their first year in Morocco, and start planning the 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. Training is planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.
YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN MOROCCO
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Morocco maintains a health unit with two full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Morocco at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an appropriate medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Health Issues in Morocco
Major health problems among Volunteers in Morocco are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most common illnesses in Morocco are minor ones that are also found in the United States: colds, diarrhea, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, STDs, and emotional problems. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in Morocco because certain environmental factors in the country raise the risk or exacerbate the severity of illnesses and injuries.
The most common major health concern is amoebic dysentery, but it can be avoided by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and either boiling your drinking water or using the water purification tablets issued in your medical kit. You will be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, meningoccal meningitis, tetanus/diphtheria, typhoid, rabies, MMR (mumps, measles and rubella), polio and regular flu.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Morocco, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a medical handbook and a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the Peace Corps medical officer in Morocco will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Morocco, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
As a Volunteer, you must accept a certain amount of responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Morocco is to take preventive measures for the following:
Rabies is prevalent throughout the region, so you will receive a series of immunizations against it when you arrive in Morocco. If you are exposed to an animal that is known to have or suspected of having rabies, inform the Peace Corps medical officer at once so that you can receive post-exposure booster shots.
Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Morocco during pre-service training.
Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer.
It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions which require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.
Some female Volunteers have found that disposable tampons and pads are rather expensive and bothersome to dispose of in Morocco, and have found that bringing cloth sanitary napkins and other reusable feminine products is much more convenient. If you are interested, here are a few websites that offer such products:
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
Ace bandages Adhesive tape American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook Antacid tablets (Tums) Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B) Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens) Band-Aids Butterfly closures Calamine lotion Cepacol lozenges Condoms Dental floss Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl) Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s) Lip balm (Chapstick) Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit) Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed) Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough) Scissors Sterile gauze pads Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine) Tinactin (antifungal cream) Tweezers
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
To avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Morocco.
Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service.
While awaiting shipment—which can take several months— you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but these may come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you — a pair to use and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination.
We discourage you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over the age of 50, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in health-care plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary health care from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health-care benefits described in the Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.
The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.
The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control. Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).
- Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
- Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
- Absence of others: Assaults ususally occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompannied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.
For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed.
After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Morocco as compared to all other Europe, Mediterranean and Asia region programs as a whole, from 2000–2004. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.
What If You Become a Victim of a Violent Crime?
Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.
Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.
If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.
In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at [email protected]
Security Issues in Morocco
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Morocco. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are some safety concerns in Morocco.
Motor vehicle accidents. These represent the single greatest risk to your safety in Morocco. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear seat belts when available and to avoid riding in overcrowded taxis, buses, or vans. Because of the high safety risk, Volunteers in Morocco are restricted from traveling at night. If you have to travel for official business, the Peace Corps will reimburse expenses for the safest mode of transport.
Robbery/burglary. Although such crimes have not been a serious problem in Morocco, you will need to take the same precautions you would take in the United States. The Peace Corps requires locks on all Volunteer homes.
Harassment. One of the greatest challenges for Volunteers in Morocco, especially females, is harassment. Normally this comes in the form of unwanted attention, but Volunteers have reported incidents such as having small stones or objects thrown at them by children, especially in large cities where they are not known. Strategies for dealing and coping with harassment will be discussed during pre-service training.
Alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is not a significant problem, but it is best to avoid frequenting non-hotel bars, particularly at night. Alcohol use can impair judgment, and Volunteers who drink must do so responsibly. Peace Corps/Morocco has a stringent alcohol-free policy at all Peace Corps events and training sites.
Sexual assault. Volunteers in Morocco have rarely been targets of sexual assault. Those who take seriously the training provided on dealing with assaults, which are often associated with alcohol consumption and cross-cultural differences in gender relations, can minimize their risk. The Peace Corps urges Volunteers to report all assaults and threats of assault to the medical officer so that staff can respond with appropriate support.
Community integration is key to the success of a Volunteer. Investing time in your site demonstrates your commitment to the community and, in turn, your community will consider you a part of them, and not a tourist. Peace Corps requires that each Peace Corps country have an “out-of-site” policy and that you, as a Volunteer, comply fully with this policy. Peace Corps/Morocco has developed an out-of-site policy that encourages Volunteers to invest time in their sites, but at the same time realizes that “down time” is also important for Volunteers. The current policy, for example, does allow you to leave your site twice a month for two non-work days with an overnight. There will also be times that you will be out of your site for work-related purposes. You will be expected to follow established procedures any time you contemplate leaving your site by requesting approval and/or providing notification of your travel prior to leaving your site. The complete “outof-site” policy will be explained in greater detail during your in-country training. Although this policy will put limitations on your travels, something you need to recognize, it will lessen any risks that you may face while traveling around the country. Most importantly, it will enable Peace Corps/Morocco to locate you at any time should there be an emergency either relating to family back in the States or natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.
Sex outside of marriage is illegal in Morocco and may jeopardize your safety or your ability to develop mutually respectful relationships in your community and at your job. In addition, homosexual behavior is also illegal in Morocco, and gay and lesbian rights are not protected under the Moroccan Constitution. Moreover, some Moroccans are homophobic, and there have been instances of violence toward individuals who are openly gay. Gay and lesbian Volunteers therefore will have to practice discretion. The Peace Corps is committed to providing support for all Volunteers regardless of sexual orientation.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Morocco, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States: be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Morocco may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers where they are anonymous, than at their sites, and in smaller towns, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While unwanted attention is fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond. In addition, keep your money out of sight; do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs; and always walk with a companion at night.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Morocco
The Peace Corps’ safety program takes a five-pronged approach to helping you stay safe during your two-year service: information- sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Morocco’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Morocco office will keep Volunteers apprised of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates are offered in Peaceworks, the Volunteer newsletter, and in memoranda from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in Morocco. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risks in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
Site selection criteria are used to determine viable work assignments and safe sites for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure host family homes and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, appropriate housing and markets; and other Volunteer support needs.
You will also learn about Peace Corps/Morocco’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Morocco will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps medical officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
DIVERSITY AND CROSSCULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are 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.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Morocco, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Morocco.
Outside of Morocco’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Morocco are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Morocco, 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 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 limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in Morocco
The Peace Corps staff in Morocco recognizes the challenges and adjustment issues that come with diversity and endeavors to provide meaningful support and guidance. Peace Corps/ Morocco has a working group of Volunteers representing American diversity tasked with sharing, documenting and presenting their experiences to Peace Corps staff and Volunteers in order to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges that they have faced. This group is also developing materials that can be used by all Volunteers to educate Moroccans about the diversity of Americans.
During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
With more and more people from other countries visiting Morocco, people in your community may initially think you are a tourist. It will take time and patience to help people in your community understand who you are, why you have come and that you plan to stay for more than a few days. Many Moroccans find it hard to believe that Americans would altruistically and voluntarily donate two years of their lives to assist the people of another country. Because the concept of volunteerism is not readily understood, you may be suspected of being an agent for the intelligence-gathering community. Alternatively, you may be perceived as someone who is still doing research to complete a degree rather than someone who is already technically competent.
Another potentially problematic area is politics. Any public expression of opinion by Volunteers on issues considered political or controversial in Morocco could seriously compromise their effectiveness and that of the Peace Corps program. Whatever your views, for instance, with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict or the political status of the Western Sahara, the Peace Corps’ policy is that you should not make public statements of any kind on these or similar matters during your service in Morocco.
The information below is intended to stimulate thought and discussion and may or may not be relevant to your own Volunteer experience. It is included here to make all Volunteers aware of issues that one group or another may have to deal with. As you read, you might ask yourself, “How would I feel if that happened to me?” and “How could I help a Volunteer if it happened to him or her?” Each section concludes with comments by individual Volunteers on their experience in Morocco.
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Morocco has a traditional, patriarchal culture. While Moroccan women are gaining more authority in society, there are still few women in top positions in government or in the private sector. Women tend to live with their families until they get married. Thus, female Volunteers can play an important role in modeling to their communities behavior that demonstrates the additional capabilities of women. Indeed, gender and development activities are an integral part of the Peace Corps’ programming in Morocco.
Female Volunteers may find that a single woman living alone goes against the cultural norms of her community. Besides receiving more unwanted and inappropriate attention from Moroccan men than American men, female Volunteers may also have to work harder than male Volunteers to gain the professional respect of colleagues in the workplace. Finally, the Peace Corps encourages female Volunteers to keep a low social profile and practice discretion in public (e.g., not smoking in public or drinking in bars) to avoid developing an undesirable reputation.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
Moroccans are a diverse people in many ways, including appearance. The socio-cultural relationships among Moroccans of lighter and darker hue ranges from apparent tolerance and integration to overt, although non-threatening, racism. As a result, it is impossible to predict what a Volunteer of Color may experience, initially, in their community. Once the Volunteer becomes established, however, undesirable attitudes and behaviors tend to subside and acceptance and a very positive experience is the norm.
As a Volunteer of Color, you may be the only minority trainee or Volunteer within a particular project. You may feel that you do not receive the personal support you need from other Volunteers, or you may not find minority role models among the local Peace Corps staff. All Volunteers do, however, participate in diversity training as part of their pre-service training and Peace Corps/Morocco staff are prepared to do all they can to provide support to all Volunteers.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
During training and at their sites, senior Volunteers may face challenges solely due to age. Since the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s, you will work and live with individuals in the Peace Corps community who may have little understanding of or respect for the lives and experiences of seniors. Your interactions with Peace Corps staff may also be different from that of younger Volunteers. You may be reluctant to share personal, sexual, or health concerns with the staff. You may also find that younger Volunteers look to you for advice and support. While some seniors find this to be a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, others choose not to fill this role. The logistics of dealing with family emergencies, maintaining lifelong friendships, and managing financial matters from afar may be more problematic for older Volunteers than younger Volunteers.
Training may present its own special challenges. Older trainees may encounter a lack of attention to their specific needs for an effective learning environment. You may need to be assertive in developing an effective individual approach to language learning.
There are benefits to being older. Respect comes with age in Morocco, and a younger Volunteer is likely to have to work much harder than an older colleague to be accepted as a professional.
Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
While married couples come with a built-in support system, they may face challenges that single Volunteers do not face. If you are a married couple, you will be training in the same Community Based Training site and living with the same host family. Couples should consider how varying degrees of enthusiasm about Peace Corps service, adaptation to the physical or cultural environment, or homesickness will affect their lives. A husband and wife may also face changed marital roles resulting from Moroccan societal expectations. A married man may be encouraged to take on a more dominant public role in the relationship, while a married woman may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to. This can create tensions for a couple both at work (e.g., a wife being expected to perform traditional domestic chores instead of working) and at home (e.g., a husband being ridiculed for performing domestic tasks or for refusing to have extramarital affairs). Finally, coping with competition (e.g., one spouse learning faster than the other) or differences in job satisfaction may also be challenging.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
Moroccans are generally very tolerant of religious and ethnic differences, and may or may not ask you about your religious beliefs. Since Morocco is a Muslim country, public profession of one’s Jewish faith, such as wearing a yarmulke, could result in tension with Moroccan counterparts. Volunteers should also be aware that the Jewish community in Morocco is small and there are very few synagogues at which to worship.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
As a disabled Volunteer in Morocco, you will face a special set of challenges. There is very little infrastructure to accommodate people with disabilities in Morocco. There are no ramps in public places, and roads and sidewalks are uneven or otherwise in poor condition. Nevertheless, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Morocco without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Morocco will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, and job sites to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Morocco?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to take pets, weapons, explosives, mace, radio transmitters, automobiles, motorcycles, or motor scooters to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, or aerosol containers.
What is the electric current in Morocco?
If you have electricity and it works, the current is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Since there are surges and cuts in power that put a strain on voltage converters and appliances, bring good-quality items. The Peace Corps does not provide transformers. We recommend CD or tape players that use “D” batteries because “C” batteries are a little harder to find. “AA” as well as watch and calculator batteries are easy to find, but their quality is sometimes questionable.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and ATM cards are preferable to cash and traveler’s checks. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers are cautioned not to ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Morocco do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating any motorized vehicles while in Morocco. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. If you rent a car while on vacation outside Morocco or any other Peace Corps country, however, you will need the appropriate driver’s license.
What should I bring as gifts for Moroccan friends and my host family?
As you will be staying with two different homestay families, gifts for the children are greatly appreciated but should not be large or elaborate. Some gift suggestions include pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes, souvenirs from your state, hard candies that will not melt or spoil, games, or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until the last few weeks of Pre-Service Training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with ministry counterparts. Many factors influence the site selection process and the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually less than an hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require more than a 15-hour drive from the capital. Come with the attitude that you are here to serve Morocco and not a particular geographic region.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580; select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from the Morocco desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2421 or 2422.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There are businesses that offer Internet access in most towns in Morocco. Because of weaker telephone and electrical infrastructure in outlying areas, however, Volunteers posted to rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to larger towns or regional hubs. Before leaving the United States, many prospective Volunteers sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as those offered by Yahoo or Hotmail, which they can access worldwide.
Because of the high value of laptops, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. Additionally, you will not find the same level of technical assistance and service in Morocco as you would at home and replacement parts can take months to arrive. Also note that gaining Internet access via a laptop is only a remote possibility because very few Volunteers have telephone lines in their home or adequate lines at their workplace. If you bring a laptop, be sure to bring a high-quality surge protector, as electrical lapses and surges are common.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers
serving in Morocco and is based on their
experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we list, so consider those items that make the most sense personally and professionally. One of the most difficult tasks in preparing for Peace Corps service is deciding what to pack and what to leave behind. This generally involves a gradual whittling-down process as more and more items shift from the “Necessities” list to the “If There’s Room” list. Remember that you can get almost everything you need in Morocco and can always have things sent to you later.
Remember that Morocco gets very cold in the winter and layering is important!
- Lightweight, waterproof jacket (e.g., a windbreaker)
- Heavy jacket or waterproof shell to wear over layers
- A few sweatshirts, fleece tops, or sweaters for cool evenings
- Bathing suit
- Bandannas or handkerchiefs (indispensable for dusty road trips)
- Several long skirts/dresses or pairs of khaki trousers (though it is acceptable for women to wear trousers, it is not the norm to teach or attend professional meetings in them)
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Knee-length dressy shorts
- Athletic shorts (for sports or leisure time at home only)
- Several pairs of jeans
- One dressy outfit
- Sweatpants or leggings to wear under long skirts (not Lycra, which is hot and inappropriate)
- T-shirts (without controversial slogans on politics, drugs, or sex)
- A favorite hat
- Wool or fleece scarves and gloves
- Thermal underwear
- Sturdy sandals
- All-purpose shoes (which you can walk, run, or bike in)
- Sneakers or hiking boots
- For women, one pair of dress shoes, preferably flat
- Two lightweight towels
- Water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
- Coleman camp shower
- Hand wipes
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- One or two sets of double-sized bedsheets and pillowcases
- Compact umbrella (can be bought in Morocco)
- Backpack for day trips
- Swiss Army knife, Leatherman, or the equivalent
- Travel alarm clock (battery-operated)
- Bicycle gloves (if you use them at home)
- Duct tape (you would not believe all of its uses)
- Pocket-size dictionary and thesaurus
- Maps (good for traveling and wall hangings)
- Plenty of pictures of your home, family, and friends
- Money belt or other means to conceal your passport and valuables when traveling
- Favorite music, CDs or tapes
- Frisbee, hacky sack, and travel-sized games (Yahtzee, cards, Uno, etc.)
- Sleeping bag and pad
- Art supplies
- Lightweight exercise equipment (e.g., jump rope, yoga items)
- Sticky tack to attach photos and artwork to walls
- Postcards from home to share
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
All of the following items are available in Morocco, but they are sometimes expensive and may not be of the quality you are used to.
- Shaving cream
- Contact lens solutions (Bausch & Lomb’s Renu brand is available in the capital; if you require a special brand, bring a two-year supply because the Peace Corps does not provide contact lens supplies)
- Scissors or other hair-cutting device (there is usually at least one Volunteer in a group who can cut hair)
- Lotion (Lubriderm is provided by the Peace Corps upon request, and Vaseline Intensive Care and Nivea are available locally)
- Lip balm (Chapstick comes in the medical kit, but you may want to bring a different brand)
- Tampons (available in large cities for a price)
- Three-month supply of any prescription drugs you take (to last until the medical unit at the Peace Corps can order them)
- Two pairs of prescription eyeglasses, if you wear them; also consider bringing a repair kit
- Any favorite brands of personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)
You can easily buy most kitchen supplies—dishes, pots, glasses, and utensils—in Morocco. There are, however, a few items we highly recommend bringing:
- Plastic food storage bags (freezer bags are best)
- Favorite spices
- French coffee press (if you drink coffee)
- Favorite cookbook (you can purchase a Volunteer-produced cookbook filled with recipes using locally available ingredients in-country)
- Laptop computer (be sure to insure it, and bring a good surge protector and backup disks to fix any software problems); a flash drive is optional but very useful for carrying large files.
- Good-quality adapter for electronic gadgets (Morocco uses 220 volts)
- Electric or solar-powered battery charger and rechargeable batteries 112
- Camera supplies (a variety of film types is available in the large cities, but the quality of film processing may vary)
- Shortwave radio, for listening to programs on the VOA and the BBC
- Discman with speakers (can be bought in Morocco for about the same prices as in the United States)
- Flashlight (a small Maglite is great, but bring extra bulbs; or an LED flashlight, the bulbs last longer and take less energy)
- Hand-held tape recorder (to record language lessons or tapes of your voice to send home). Sector Specific Suggestions
Small Business Development Volunteers (SBD):
While SBD sites range from small villages to larger cities, almost all SBD Volunteers have electricity and running water. If you have an iPod or portable CD player, bring it with you. CD players can be purchased here, but the quality is not always good. Electrical appliances can be charged with an adapter, which you can buy in the States or here in larger towns. Most SBD Volunteers bring laptops with them. Laptops are great not only for personal entertainment, but also can save lots of time sitting in the cybercafe. SBD Volunteers often create business cards, brochures, and other promotional materials as part of their jobs, and having your own computer is a great help. Surge protectors can be purchased here.
It may be useful to bring any examples of work you have done, such as cards, brochures, or anything related to small business. When creating these materials for your Moroccan counterparts, it helps to be able to show samples to people. Also, bringing some home decor magazines, craft magazines, etc. can be helpful when dealing with product development.
You may want to bring a few simple office supplies with you, although most can be purchased here. Paper, pens, markers, and even something like a hole-punch can come in very handy.
Don’t stress too much about the business casual clothing suggestion. Although you do want to look presentable, business casual here is not necessarily the same as in the U.S. Khakis, long, loose-fitting skirts, and light blouses and shirts are great for the warmer months. Although women do not wear shorts and rarely wear short-sleeved shirts, don’t leave all of them at home, as you will definitely want to be cool and comfortable around the house in the summer.
Do bring lots of warm clothes, and things that are easily layered. You may find yourself wearing all your sweaters at once during the colder months! Homes are not well insulated, and most often not heated, so the temperature inside is the same as outside (sometimes colder). Clothes do take a beating here, so the more durable the better. Hiking boots or shoes, and Chacos or Tevas in the summer are invaluable.
Bring a few things that will make you feel at home. Pictures, favorite books and/or music, and things like playing cards can be lifesavers. Also, bring a good supply of any toiletries you really need, particularly specialty items. Packages almost always get here, but remember they usually take a month to arrive, which can be a long wait for your favorite toothpaste. Most things can be bought here, but if you have something you can’t live without, bring some with you.
Health sites in Morocco are all over the spectrum, from being on a main road, having hot water, satellite TV, and DSL in the house to being a few hours away from a main city on limited transportation, with no running water or electricity. For the most part, health sites tend to be more rural and in small villages. All but a handful of the sites have electricity. Some sites only have running water for a few hours a day; some have to rely on wells or public fountains.
Many health Volunteers have laptops, DVD players, iPods and speakers, camera equipment, and many other electronic gadgets. These things make life easier and help pass the time, but are not necessary. Some Volunteers buy CD players or speakers here (quality may not be as good) and just bring CDs with them. It is a good idea to bring some simple art supplies, too (construction paper, colored pencils, markers, etc.).
Bring clothing that is comfortable but keeps you covered. Some sites are very conservative; generally T-shirts are ok, but shorts are not. Women in small villages almost always wear long skirts, although this is not a must for female Volunteers. Pants (as long as they are not tight) are fine. It is a good idea to bring one nice outfit for special occasions, like your swearing-in ceremony, or if you just want to get dressed up and head into a city, where people are much less conservative.
The most important thing to remember is not to stress too much about packing. Most Volunteers rush out and buy a lot of new clothes and gadgets to take with them, and it’s not necessary. Pack the basics, and any specialty items you know you’ll want (certain toiletries, a favorite sweater, etc.), and the rest you can almost certainly get here. Best of luck and see you in Morocco!
Youth Development (YD) Volunteers:
First, you will almost certainly have electricity and running water. Most of us are placed in fairly large sites with many amenities including cybercafes, post offices, and shops to buy most everything we might need for our houses and everyday lives. Many YD Volunteers choose to bring a computer with them, as it is helpful for typing monthly reports and lesson plans, and if it has a DVD player, it can provide hours of entertainment during downtime. More and more, YD Volunteers have started to get Internet access in their houses, which can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family back in the States, as well as to work more comfortably and conveniently. If you do decide to get Internet in your house, it will come out of your monthly living allowance and is not covered by Peace Corps, but it is something to consider when deciding whether or not to bring your computer.
In terms of clothing, you can wear jeans (not too tight) to almost any event, including teaching at the dar chebab, but it is nice to have a pair of pants/skirt for dressier occasions. As mentioned earlier, Morocco is deceptively cold in the winter and many evenings, so be sure to bring warm clothes and good layers. You might want to bring some basic supplies for teaching/activities, including art supplies, index cards (invaluable), markers, plays (if you’re interested in doing theatre projects), music, cards, books, and either a CD player or iPod with small speakers (for playing music in class).
The most important thing to remember is not to stress too much about packing. Most Volunteers rush out and buy a lot of new clothes and gadgets to take with them, and it’s not necessary. Pack the basics, and any specialty items you know you’ll want (certain toiletries, a favorite sweater, etc.), and the rest you can almost certainly get here. Best of luck and see you in Morocco!
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.
- Forward all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas to the Peace Corps travel office.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Although the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.