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The government of Azerbaijan invited Peace Corps to work in the country, beginning with a project in the education sector in 2003. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Peace Corps work together at the community level to improve the teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL) programs at schools and universities. The post launched its second project, the Community Economic Development (CED) project, in 2005.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan
The government of Azerbaijan has expressed keen interest in having a Peace Corps program since 1997. However, because of intense lobbying efforts by anti-Azerbaijani Armenian-Americans, the Freedom Support Act of 1992 contained a special provision (Section 907) that banned U.S. foreign assistance to Azerbaijan without presidential approval. This act effectively blocked any initiative by the Peace Corps until 2002, when President George W. Bush lifted the provision.
Shortly thereafter, Vilayat Guliev, minister of foreign affairs for the government of Azerbaijan, formally requested a Peace Corps presence. This was strongly supported by the U.S. embassy staff in Baku (Azerbaijan’s capital), and in April 2002, the Peace Corps began an assessment. The assessment team declared Azerbaijan “highly suitable for a new Peace Corps program,” citing the enthusiastic support of the U.S. embassy, Azerbaijani ministry officials, local government officials, Azerbaijani students and teachers, and local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). On the strength of this assessment and the U.S. president’s declared interest in increasing the size of the Peace Corps and enabling citizens in predominantly Muslim countries to interact with Americans, the Peace Corps director approved the establishment of a program in Azerbaijan for 2003.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles
Main article: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles in Azerbaijan
As a Volunteer, you will live in a town or village outside of Baku. Peace Corps/Azerbaijan staff, with some consideration of your desires, selects your site carefully, its principal considerations being safety and security and matching the needs of the local community with your skills and aptitudes. We want to ensure that your talents are as fully engaged during your tour of service as possible.
Your housing might be a private room in a family’s dwelling, a shared house, or a small apartment. You will live with a host family during training as part of your language and cultural orientation. Upon being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will again live with an Azerbaijani host family in your assigned community for the first six months of your service. The Peace Corps will select your host family for this period, except that you may choose a different family for the last two months with prior approval by the Peace Corps. Just as we make every effort to select sites that will fully engage you, we expect that you will make every effort to absorb Azerbaijani culture by spending at least one-fourth of your service living directly with a host country family. After this six-month period, alternative housing arrangements may be considered in consultation with your program manager and the medical officer. Many Volunteers remain in host family housing for their entire service. In some parts of Azerbaijan, appropriate independent housing is scarce; you should prepare for the possibility of living with a host family for your entire service.
Main article: Training in Azerbaijan
Following a brief pre-departure orientation (staging) in the United States, you will participate in an intensive 11-week pre-service training program in Azerbaijan. Peace Corps/ Azerbaijan uses a community-based training model that is designed around real-life experiences and emphasizes community involvement. Trainees live with host families in one of several training villages around a central training facility outside the capital. The goals of community-based training are: (1) to provide experiential learning in settings similar to those at Volunteer sites; (2) to give trainees the best possible opportunity to gain competence in technical, cross-cultural, language, and health and safety areas in a culturally and linguistically appropriate context; and (3) to guide trainees in self-directed learning so they can continue independent learning at their site.
Pre-service training contains six main training components: technical, Azerbaijani language, cross-cultural, health, and safety, and the opportunity to visit your potential site. Most of pre-service training time is spent on the first three of these components.
Your Health Care and Safety in Azerbaijan
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Azerbaijan
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 Azerbaijan maintains a clinic with one or two (depending on the number of Volunteers) medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available in Baku at an American-standard hospital. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Azerbaijan
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Azerbaijan, 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 Azerbaijan.
Outside of Azerbaijan’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 Azerbaijan 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
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Azerbaijan
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Azerbaijan?
- What is the electric current?
- 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 Azerbaijani 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?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing List for Azerbaijan
This list has been compiled by Peace Corps/Azerbaijan and Volunteers 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. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have a weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Azerbaijan.
- General Clothing
- For Women
- For Men
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- List of resources for Azerbaijan
- Volunteers who served in Azerbaijan
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports