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The Peace Corps entered Mozambique in 1998 during a critical time in the country's history. Emerging from the devastation of 30 thirty years of war, Mozambique faces immense challenges. Perhaps most pressing is the need for re-construction and expansion of the educational system. Nearly 60 percent of the country's schools were either destroyed or closed during the war, and trained personnel departed the country, leaving behind a broken infrastructure. Less than half of school-age children actually attend primary school, while only 22 percent reach secondary school.
The climate for development is extremely hopeful as the peaceful transition to decentralized multiparty democracy evolves. The government has placed education as a top priority; schools are being rebuilt, curricula developed, and children are enrolling in record numbers. Fuelled by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the government has also prioritized development in the health sector, particularly as only 40 percent of the population has access to healthcare services. The Peace Corps is working with government institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community and religious leaders, teachers, students, out-of-school youth and communities in Mozambique to develop their own human resources and achieve greater self-sufficiency.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Mozambique
The government of Mozambique first approached the American government about the Peace Corps in the early 1990s, at a time when the more than 20-year liberation and civil war was coming to an end. In October 1998, the first Volunteers arrived to start teaching English in district secondary schools in the 1999 school year. The second group of Volunteers included a complement of science teachers. The next group included not only secondary school English and science teachers, but also English teacher trainers, and began teaching in February 2002. In 2004, Peace Corps Volunteers began working on a new community health project. Health Volunteers are working in a variety of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including international, national, community, and faith-based organizations that have projects in HIV/AIDS care and prevention as well as other aspects of health and wellness.
There are approximately 120 Volunteers in Mozambique, many of whom will be a resource to you as you prepare for and begin your Peace Corps experience. You may be placed in a community with another Volunteer, replace a Volunteer who has just finished his or her service, or even be the first Volunteer assigned to a particular school, NGO or community.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Mozambique
Education Volunteers live in provincial capitals, district capitals or in rural areas where the secondary schools and teacher-training institutes are located. These areas generally have populations that average 10,000 to 20,000 people. Most NGOs have offices in provincial and/or district capitals, although not all health Volunteers live near their offices; some live in small communities near where their NGO activities take place. Other health Volunteers work in smaller community organizations and live within walking distance. The provincial capitals all have electricity. In the district capitals, many buildings have electricity some of the time. Generally, in rural areas, electricity may or may not be available. Your house will be located within a reasonable distance to a general market/ store where you can buy basics such as bread, batteries, rice, soap, spaghetti, beans, and pots and pans.
Most people in the surrounding areas make their living from subsistence agriculture, with sugar cane, cashew nuts, and corn being the primary cash crops.
The staff of Peace Corps/Mozambique works closely with host government officials and NGOs to ensure that Volunteers have safe accommodations—with mosquito screens on the windows, locks on the doors, and access to water and a latrine. All Volunteers have access to nearby pumps or boreholes, so water for washing is readily available. Drinking water requires boiling and Peace Corps provides every Volunteer with a water filter.
Your host institution will provide your housing. Housing conditions for teachers and health workers are poor, and the availability of acceptable housing is extremely limited.
Volunteers may live in new government housing made of cement, reed houses with cement walls and floors and tin roofs, or old cement houses that need repairs. The toilet, bath, and cooking facilities may be indoors or outdoors. Some Volunteers have electricity and/or running water, but many do not. There may be a small plot of ground around your house where you can grow flowers, herbs, and vegetables or begin some type of interesting secondary project Some Volunteers share a house with another Volunteer or Mozambican co-worker of the same sex (except in the case of married couples); in this case each person has a separate bedroom but shares the bathroom, kitchen, and living space. Note that American concepts of privacy and personal space are not necessarily shared by or are realistic for Mozambicans, and adapting to a more communal lifestyle may require considerable flexibility on your part.
Main article: Training in Mozambique
Pre-service training takes place in a community-based setting in a rural village about 35 miles from downtown Maputo, a 45-minute drive. It is a 10-week program designed to help you gain the skills needed to successfully begin your Peace Corps service. These skills will help you integrate into your community and develop an appropriate work plan with your community and co-workers. Because training occurs six days a week, trainees have few opportunities to visit the capital.
The training content consists of five major interrelated components: technical, language, cross-cultural, health, and safety. You must demonstrate specific competencies related to each component to complete training and be sworn in as a Volunteer. You will be expected to take an active role in the process by setting goals for learning and evaluating your progress.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Mozambique
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. Peace Corps/Mozambique maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health care needs. The medical unit has two additional Mozambican physicians. In the case of a serious illness that cannot be properly cared for in Mozambique, the Peace Corps will move the Volunteer either to an American-standard medical facility in South Africa or to the continental United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Mozambique
In Mozambique, 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 Mozambique.
Outside of Mozambique’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 in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Mozambique 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.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers with Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Mozambique
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Mozambique?
- What is the electric current in Mozambique?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Mozambican friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Mozambique?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access?
Main article: Packing list for Mozambique
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Mozambique 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 mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. You can get almost everything you need in Mozambique, including clothing, so do not try to bring two years’ worth of everything.
When choosing luggage, remember that you will be hauling it in and out of taxis, trains, and buses and often lugging it around on foot. It should be durable, lightweight, lockable, and easy to carry. Wheels are a plus, especially those that allow you to wheel the luggage over nonpaved surfaces. Nylon is the best material for resisting mold. A backpack without a frame is very practical, and a midsize backpack (2,000 to 3,000 cubic inches) for weekend trips is essential. A regular-size book bag is also a good thing to bring.
Peace Corps News
Contributions to the Mozambique Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Mozambique. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Mozambique
- Inspector General Reports
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- List of resources for Mozambique