What is the Peace Corps and what does it mean to volunteer?
The Peace Corps is a U.S. Government agency started in 1961 by John F. Kennedy to promote peace and friendship through worldwide volunteer service. I applied in April 2017 for a specific job posting for Business Development in Peru both for the nature of the work and the location.
Our “cohort” of 48 volunteers is named “Peru 31” (#31 Class) and we are a combination of CED (Community Economic Development) and WASH (Water and Sanitation Hygiene) volunteers.
How long are you volunteering?
It is a 27-month volunteer position; three months of training and two years of service in a specific region where the Peace Corps team places us.
Where are you now?
For the three months of PST (Pre-Service Training) I am in Chaclacayo, Perú. This is a smaller community (approximately 40K) about an hour from Lima, capital of Perú. My host family’s home is closer to the town of Chosica than Chaclacayo.
What will you be doing? Where are you going?
My sector is CED, or Community Economic Development. This is essentially being available in our community as a resource for 1) business opportunities 2) women and youth business education (think business plans) and 3) micro-loans and micro-financing.
Examples of types of CED work: producer associations, eco-tourism, business plans, strategic plans, organizational & youth/teacher education & entrepreneurship, and women and economic empowerment / micro-businesses. E.g. How to start a community bank and get access to micro-finance and credit and more importantly… why.
The first three months of Pre-Service Training is preparation for living remotely, often far from comforts and amenities and/or other PC volunteers, and being ready to self-direct and immerse into a new community and figure out where / how best to serve.
At Week Five of PST will be be assessed for our skill base, training performance, language skills, and regional preferences and matched to a specific community and region for two years of service.
Wait –what- you don’t know where you’re going to be for the next two years yet?
Here’s what I have sleuthed:
Currently PC Peru operates in a variety of towns in la sierra (highlands), la selva (jungle), and la costa (coast) in Northern Peru.
The five regions (districtos) where 22 “fresca and crispy” (Peru 31) CED volunteers will be placed are: Amazonas, Ancash, Cajamarca, Juñin, and La Libertad.
Of the 22 new volunteers there are
- 12 sites in the highlands
- 5 sites in the coast
- 5 sites in the jungle
The size of communities vary from 2000-50,000 in population.
What is the living situation?
For the first three months (PST) we live with a host family. These families are in a 30-minute radius of the training center. I live closest to a small city named Chosica.
For my two years of service I will be placed with a second host family in my assigned community. I will live with them at least for the required 6-months (for safety, security, and community integration. 90% of volunteers choose to live with their host families for their entire service.)
Host families are paid a weekly rent by the volunteers, from a modest stipend provided by the Peace Corps. It includes a private room (often the nicest in the home) and three meals a day. We need to take care of our own toilet paper, towels, laundry, and other incidentals.
What sort of food are you eating?
I am eating rice on potatoes on additional starches covered in oil and butter with the occasional fresh salad and vegetable. It is DELICIOUS. Basically, if I were made out of food, it would be RICE and potatoes. So we are all good here. And no, there is not a gym nearby.
What does a typical day look like for you during training?
Training is five to six days a week, from 8am-5pm, with a one-hour break for lunch. We need to catch a combi around 7:15am to arrive at el Centro by 8am during commuter rush hour. Three days a week I have extra Spanish tutoring sessions after training from 5-6pm. I get back home around 7pm, eat a small dinner, do some homework and head to bed around 9-10pm.
Anything else? Leave me a comment.