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Volunteers in Jamaica do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi.  
Volunteers in Jamaica do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi.  
Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a host agency’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the Country Director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.  
Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a host agency’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the Country Director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.
:You can drive a rental vehicle with a US Driver's License.  There's a law regarding how long you can live in Jamaica before you must use an IDL or Jamaican DL when driving, and this is when creative descriptions come in handy.  Volunteers are of course forbidden from driving without the CD's permission, though when on vacation on-island this is a bit hazy.  It's often safer for the volunteer, versed in the Jamaican road system, driving on the left, and honk-communication, than it is for a visitor.
===What should I bring as gifts for Jamaican friends and my host family? ===
===What should I bring as gifts for Jamaican friends and my host family? ===

Revision as of 13:11, 13 July 2007

For the official Welcome Book for Jamaica see here



History of the Peace Corps in Jamaica

The Peace Corps was first asked to work in Jamaica in 1962, and Volunteers worked in cities, towns and the countryside as teachers, agricultural extensionists, health educators, and rural development workers. In the mid-1970s, Volunteers were assigned to schools, hospitals, health clinics, and other government ministry offices as teachers, nurses, and loan officers.

The most recent shift in approach to development was conceived in 1989 and is now a reality. Current assignments are part of a uniform plan that has a significant community development core. While each project plan has specific tasks and skill requirements, Peace Corps/Jamaica assignments generally involve facilitating the growth and development of communities and their members in a way that empowers them to make and carry out better decisions about their own lives. Not all Volunteers are placed in small rural communities. Sites also exist in small towns, peri-urban centers, inner cities, and tourist cities such as Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios. No Volunteers are assigned to Kingston (the capital) or Spanish Town.

An age-old dilemma in development work involves charity and dependency versus facilitation and empowerment. It has been—and still is—easier to give and to “do things yourself” than to be the facilitator and help others to grow and learn on their own. But such charity-based practices have proven to be short-lived, unsustainable, and not desirable in many developing countries, including Jamaica. Therefore, you will learn how to build capacity and empower people to improve their own living conditions, thus making development more fulfilling and sustainable. A successful development specialist gives ownership of a development or project to the entire community. When everyone strives to reach a common goal, the effort is conceived, implemented, and achieved with a much greater sense of ownership, accomplishment and satisfaction. This sense of ownership by all is the key to success and sustainability when working in community development.

History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Jamaica

More than 3,500 Volunteers have served in this hospitable country of loving and dynamic people struggling for success. Jamaica’s population faces the same struggles as those of many other island nations. There are many areas where people still practice subsistence agriculture. Many youth are without jobs or lack the skills to contribute to the development of their communities. In addition, a wealth of biodiversity exists in the country, and protecting its valuable natural resources, while benefiting from tourism, is essential to Jamaica’s economy.

Volunteers are engaged in development work that is essential to the Jamaican people at the grassroots level. They are working to conserve natural resources, to promote hygiene and healthy living, helping to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, to promote information technology and small business, and to help youth gain the skills and education they need for their future.

Peace Corps/Jamaica has three primary sectors or projects: youth as-promise, community environmental health, and environmental awareness. All three sectors/projects are fully integrated with small business and information and communication technology (ICT). These two cross-cutting areas are critical to all Peace Corps projects in Jamaica and more generally to the development of the country. All Volunteers are trained in basic small business development, HIV/AIDS prevention, and ICT instructional techniques. They are able to integrate ICT into their projects as appropriate and to train counterparts and community members in ICT integration.

One of Jamaica’s primary concerns is marginalized youth, defined as young men and women ages 10 to 25 who are not in school and have few skills or opportunities for employment. In helping the government of Jamaica address these critical issues, the youth as-promise project focuses on youth development, HIV/AIDS education, prevention and support, ICT, and small business development.

Volunteers assigned to “The Green Initiative,” or environmental education project, focus on increasing awareness of issues such as solid-waste management and recycling, watershed protection, overfishing, coral reef conservation, and appropriate farming practices. Volunteers work with environmental organizations, schools, and community groups to promote knowledge and skills that will foster environmental conservation.

Waste management and water quality are key issues in Jamaica as the demands of tourism and a large population, coupled with unhealthy practices, pressure the country’s water supply. Some Volunteers in community environmental health serve at the national and regional levels influencing policies by government agencies to support the development of sustainable water treatment systems. Other Volunteers serve in rural, peri-urban, and urban squatter settlements, assisting communities in health hygiene and implementing water sanitation projects.



Taino Indians inhabited Jamaica prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. The island was then colonized by the Spanish until they were displaced by the British in 1655. After a long period of direct British colonial rule, Jamaica gained a degree of local political control in the late 1930s. The island held its first election under full universal adult suffrage in 1944. Jamaica joined nine other British territories in the West Indies Federation in 1958 but withdrew in 1961 after Jamaican voters rejected membership. Jamaica gained its independence from Britain in 1962 and remains a member of the Commonwealth.

Jamaican emigration historically has been heavy. Since the United Kingdom restricted immigration in 1967, the major flow has been to the United States and Canada. In 2005, 17,500 Jamaicans emmigrated to the United States and 56,000 obtained non-immigrant visas.


Jamaica’s official head of state is the Queen of England, who appoints and is represented in the country by the Governor General. The head of government is the Prime Minister who is also the leader of the political party that wins the electoral majority in the House of Representatives.

Members of the Senate are appointed from the two major parties, the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). The PNP has been in power since 1989, after winning four consecutive general elections. Members of the House of Representatives serve five-year terms while members of the Senate are appointed by the Governor-general with recommendations from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor-general. The current Prime Minister is Portia Simpson-Miller, who took office in March 2006. She is the first female to occupy the office.


Jamaica is striving to strengthen its economy and escape from its burden of debt. The government is struggling to provide the services and education that Jamaicans need to improve their standard of living and to promote productive enterprise in the country. Between 30 and 35 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and providing opportunities for marginalized youth is a main concern, especially in urban areas. Prime Minister Simpson-Miller, who comes from rural Jamaica, said in her inaugural speech: “We all have a responsibility to lift up the poor and the downtrodden.”

The government’s economic policies encourage foreign investment in areas that will earn foreign exchange, such as tourism, bauxite, and export crops like coffee, banana, spices, and sugarcane. These areas can curtail or reduce unemployment, which averages 11.5 percent. Employment can be generated by investments that use the country’s raw materials. The sugar industry is suffering from a reduction in the European Union quota and chronic low productivity. The government provides a wide range of incentives to investors, including remittance facilities to assist them in repatriating funds to the country; tax holidays, which defer taxes for a period of years; and duty-free access for machinery and raw materials imported for approved enterprises. Free-trade zones have stimulated investment in garment assembly, light manufacturing, and data entry by foreign firms. However, over the past few years, the garment industry has suffered from reduced export earnings, factory closures, and rising unemployment. These factors can be attributed to intense competition, the absence of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) parity, and the high cost of operations, including security costs. The government hopes to further encourage economic activity through a combination of privatization, financial sector restructuring, and reduced interest rates.

People and Culture

Jamaica is a small island nation of 2.7 million people, the majority of whom are of African origin. Other ethnic groups include East Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, and Europeans. The country’s ethnic diversity is reflected in the national motto, “Out of Many, One People.” Christianity is the predominant religion. Religion is an important part of the culture, and school days begin with a devotion, while most meetings open with a prayer. Members of the Rastafarian sect are a small but visible group, constituting approximately 12 to 15 percent of the population.

As a former British colony, Jamaica is an English-speaking country; however, most Jamaicans speak a patois, the Jamaican dialect derived from several languages including English. Music is a significant aspect of the culture, and the rhythms of reggae, calypso, and soca commonly emanate from dance halls and the streets.


Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island, located approximately 90 miles south of Cuba. It is 146 miles long and 45 miles wide at its widest, and boasts 635 miles of coastline.

The waters of its north coast are home to striking coral reefs and more than 700 species of fish. The terrain is quite diverse, with swamps and wetlands in the south, rough terrain in the interior, and the Blue Mountains, whose highest peak exceeds 7,000 feet.

Residents enjoy a tropical climate with temperatures generally between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. During hurricane season, June to November, the island receives rain and sometimes experiences windy storms; however, most hurricanes pass by without hitting Jamaica directly. Gilbert in 1988 was one major hurricane to directly hit Jamaica, and Peace Corps Volunteers played an important role in relief and mitigation efforts in its aftermath. In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan, with wind gusts of more than 140 miles per hour and torrential rain, hit Jamaica, damaging homes and infrastructure and causing disruptions in water, telephone, and electrical services. Fortunately, the eye of Hurricane Ivan veered slightly south, and Jamaica was spared from total devastation. Similarly, since the start of the 2005 hurricane season, Jamaica was again spared the ravages of two hurricanes (Dennis and Emily) that occurred within a week of each other in July. All Peace Corps Volunteers are trained during pre-service training in disaster preparedness and emergency management with the assistance of the Jamaica Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). Furthermore, Peace Corps/Jamaica and ODPEM have signed a memorandum of understanding to enable Volunteers to assist communities in damage assessment and relief operations.


Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Jamaica and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.

A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that 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 Jamaica

On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Kingston to how to convert from the U.S. dollar to the Jamaican dollar. Just click on Jamaica and go from there.

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 Jamaica and learn more about its social and political history.

This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.

This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.

This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.

This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.

Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees

This website offers information on the Friends of Jamaica, an organization that supports development and self-help projects in Jamaica. Initially most of its members were Volunteers who served in Jamaica as Peace Corps Volunteers, but membership is NOT limited to former PCVs.

This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, composed 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 known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring. Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about their service.

This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.

Online Articles/Current News Sites About Jamaica

Site of the Jamaica Gleaner, a local newspaper

Site of the Jamaica Observer, a local newspaper

A Peace Corps/Jamaica site hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica

Sites of Jamaica’s two local television stations

The information service of the government of Jamaica

Site of the National Library of Jamaica

International Development Sites

Pan American Health Organization

United Nations Development Programme

United Nations Children’s Educational Fund

Recommended Books

Some of these books may be hard to find in bookstores in United States . However, most are available from online book sources.

  1. Adams, L. Emilie. Understanding Jamaican Patois: An Introduction to Afro-Jamaican Grammar. Kingston: LMH Publishing, 1991.
  2. Clarke, Edith. My Mother Who Fathered Me: A Study of the Families in Three Selected Communities of Jamaica. The Press University of the West Indies, 3rd revised edition, 2002.
  3. Monteith, Kathleen ed. Jamaica in Slavery and Freedom: History, Heritage and Culture. University of the West Indies Press, 2002.
  4. Read, Michael. Lonely Planet Jamaica. Lonely Planet Publications, 2006.
  5. Sherlock, Philip, and Hazel Bennett. The Story of the Jamaican People. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1998.

Books About the History of the Peace Corps

  1. Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
  2. Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
  3. Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.

Books on the Volunteer Experience

  1. Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
  2. Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
  3. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
  4. Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
  5. Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
  6. Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).




Mail from the United States usually takes one to three weeks to arrive, but it has been known to take several months or not arrive at all. Despite the delays, we encourage you to write to your family regularly. Family members often become worried when they do not hear from you, so it is a good idea to advise them that mail service is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly. If a serious problem were to occur, Peace Corps/Jamaica would notify the Office of Special Services at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., which would then contact your family. Also advise your family that in the case of an emergency, they can contact the Office of Special Services in Washington at 800.424.8580, extension 1470.

During pre-service training, your mail should be sent to the following address:

“Your Name,” PCT

c/o Country Director

Peace Corps

8 Worthington Avenue

Kingston, 5, Jamaica, West Indies

Once you become a Volunteer and are at your site, you may choose to have your letters sent directly to your new address, but packages should always be sent by the U.S. Postal Service to the Peace Corps office at the above address. Packages sent to any other address, or sent through services like UPS, DHL, and Federal Express, will be held at the airport until you make the trip to claim them and pay duty.

Packages can take from two weeks to four months to arrive. They must be lighter than 22 pounds and are cheaper to mail if they are less than 11 pounds. Note that books and documents that weigh a minimum of 11 pounds can be sent to you in an “M-Bag” through the U.S. Postal Service at a relatively economical rate. Further information is available at U.S. post offices and at www.usps.com.


Land-line telephones are available throughout the island except in very remote areas, and international phone service to and from Jamaica is fairly reliable. AT&T, Sprint, and MCI offer toll-free numbers that directly connect you with an operator to place a collect call. Prepaid calling cards called “World Talk” are available island-wide for local and overseas calls on public and private phones, but they can be expensive for long-distance calls. U.S. calling cards are not accepted. If calling home collect is not an option, the most economical option is for your loved ones to call you directly. Many cellphones from the United States do not function in Jamaica, but there are four major cellphone companies providing reliable island-wide coverage. You are strongly encouraged to purchase a cellphone in-country rather than bringing one from home.

Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

If you bring a laptop, make certain it is insured and bring a power surge protector. (You might also consider bringing a portable printer.) E-mail access is becoming more available and is an economical way to communicate. Peace Corps/ Jamaica’s resource center is equipped with four computers with Internet access for use by Volunteers. There are also Internet cafes in the larger cities.

Housing and Site Location

Your living conditions in Jamaica may not be as rugged as those in many Peace Corps posts. Most Volunteers have indoor plumbing and running water. The water usually is not heated, however, so be prepared for cold showers. Laundry, while usually washed by hand, is usually done in a sink or a washtub. Electricity exists island-wide, except in very remote areas. Very few Volunteers go without a refrigerator and other electrical appliances, and many Volunteers have amenities such as cable television.

Living conditions will vary depending upon whether your site is rural, peri-urban, or urban. Areas with tourism will have a higher standard of living. The agency to which you are assigned will assist you in identifying suitable housing. All Volunteers must live in the initial housing identified by their agency for at least the first four months of service after which Volunteers may move to different housing if they so desire (with the approval of Peace Corps staff). If accommodations do not meet your needs, it will be your responsibility to locate housing that meets specified budgetary, health, and safety criteria and is approved by Peace Corps staff. The most common living situations are a room with its own entrance, attached to a bathroom and kitchen that you share with a family; an apartment you share with another Volunteer; or your own place. Generally, Volunteers remain in the housing initially identified by their agency.

During pre-service training, you will be placed with a host family for the community-based portion of training. Here you will receive a firsthand orientation to Jamaican culture and community life.

Living Allowance and Money Management

The local currency is the Jamaican dollar, and the exchange rate changes constantly. The Peace Corps will open checking accounts for you in local and U.S. currency at a branch of the National Commercial Bank, which will issue you an ATM card. Your living allowance and leave allowances will be deposited monthly into these accounts. To help facilitate this process, please send a scanned photo ID to [email protected] once you accept your invitation.

Food and Diet

Your diet may not need to change drastically while you are in Jamaica. The main source of meat is chicken, and you are likely to become a culinary expert in its preparation.. Beef, goat, and fish are also readily available.

Vegetarians need not be concerned. Although there may be a smaller variety of foods than you are used to, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as dried beans and rice, are plentiful. Note that Jamaicans love hot and spicy foods. For those who crave a taste of home, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Wendy’s, T.G.I.Friday’s, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut can be found in many urban areas. Also available in urban areas are imported food items. Once you move to your site, you will learn to make do with what is available locally—a little creativity does go a long way.


Buses are crowded and often do not operate on regular schedules. The government is working to improve the urban transportation system, introducing more buses, especially during peak hours, and getting them to operate in a timely manner. Rural travel options range from large buses, minibuses and route taxis to pickup trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. It may be necessary for you to walk or bike long distances in hot, humid, or rainy weather. The Peace Corps issues bicycles and helmets to those who need them to get to work (supplies permitting). Volunteers are required to wear a helmet while riding bicycles.

Geography and Climate

Jamaica has a tropical climate. Temperatures vary between 80 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and are about 10 degrees lower at higher elevations. Both days and nights generally are hot and humid in the summer months, while evenings are noticeably cooler during the winter. At higher elevations, especially between November and March, evenings can be quite chilly, and a light wrap, long-sleeved shirt, or sweatshirt may be necessary. Rain can occur any time throughout the year, though most likely from May through June and from September through October.

Social Activities

Activities available for entertainment will depend on where you are assigned and how creative you are. Among the possibilities are reading, walking, writing letters, riding a bicycle, swimming, socializing with friends, taking classes, doing arts and crafts, going to the movies or plays, watching videos or television, listening to music or a shortwave radio, dancing at clubs or DJ parties, snorkeling, scuba diving, playing games (e.g., cards or dominoes, the national pastime), and playing musical instruments.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

You will be working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in cooperation with a government ministry or Jamaican organization and will be expected to dress and behave as a professional. Most professional Jamaicans dress well and follow a conservative dress code. If this dress code is not maintained, it is seen as disrespectful. While tourists may wear short shorts and transparent clothing, such attire is not appropriate for Volunteers.

Peace Corps/Jamaica has guidelines for appropriate professional dress, which you are expected to adhere to when visiting business establishments or the Peace Corps office, especially during working hours. Men should wear long trousers (not jeans), a short- or long-sleeved shirt with a collar, and leather shoes with socks. Women should wear a skirt and blouse, a nice pantsuit, or a dress, with nice closed-toe dress shoes or flats. Jeans, T-shirts, sneakers, casual sandals (e.g., Tevas or Birkenstocks), and other casual wear are inappropriate except during some field-oriented activities.

Flip-flops should not be worn during pre-service training or during work hours. Any body piercings besides in the ear are inappropriate; please remove these piercings before you arrive in Jamaica. Visible tattoos are also inappropriate and should be kept covered to the extent possible.

Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained 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, oftentimes alone, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off 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, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Jamaica. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.

Rewards and Frustrations

The real sacrifices you will make in the Peace Corps are in the form of the tremendous daily, even hourly, efforts you will make to operate and be effective in another culture and the constant struggle to be self-aware and sensitive. A former Volunteer explains:

“Most of us agree that although we knew the Peace Corps was going to be hard, it is often hard in a different way than we expected. We all worried about adjusting to the bugs and the heat, but that’s the easy part. It’s more of a challenge to get used to dealing with perplexing bureaucracy, the lack of motivation in some host country counterparts, the lack of technology and education, and cultural barriers.” As with most developing countries, there will be challenges such as irregular transportation, disruptions in electrical and water supplies, and inordinate delays in getting things done.

Your maturity, openness to change, and commitment to the Peace Corps will greatly enhance your ability to adapt to living and working in Jamaica. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the rewards are well worth the difficulties, and most Volunteers leave Jamaica feeling that they have gained much more than they gave during their service.


Overview of Pre-Service Training

Once you arrive in Jamaica, you will participate in an intense, eight-week training program, beginning with four days of orientation in a university campus setting. There, you will be introduced to the staff and support services pertaining to medical and administrative matters, as well as to cross-cultural, safety and language issues, and local cuisine.

You will then be divided into your technical skill groups and depart to a community to take part in community-based training for approximately seven and half weeks, living with a Jamaican family while gaining technical skills and adjusting to the language, culture, climate, and food. Training uses current adult-learning methodologies. During the final week, you will come together as a larger group again to process your experience, complete your assessment, and finalize your commitment before being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

You, along with your training staff, will assess your progress throughout training to ensure you are meeting or exceeding the expectations of training. You will engage in a number of assessment exercises during pre-service training, which will enable you to accumulate points toward swearing- in. Toward the end of pre-service training, each trainee will participate in a final oral exam before a panel of Peace Corps staff, trainers, and host agency partners as a final assessment to determine suitability for swearing-in. After the satisfactory completion of training, you will be sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Technical Training

Technical training will prepare you to work in Jamaica 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, Jamaican experts, and current Volunteers will facilitate 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 will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Jamaica and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your sector’s technical goals and will meet with the Jamaican agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated by training staff throughout the training to build the confidence and sharpen the skills you need to undertake your project activities and be a productive member of your community.

Language Training

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.

Community-based training will provide the opportunities for you to learn the Jamaican Creole (patois). 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 a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.

Cross-Cultural Training

As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Jamaican host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go 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 Jamaica. 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 be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.

Health Training

During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare 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 Jamaica. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.

Safety Training

During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at home, at work, and while traveling. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping 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 Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During service, there are three or four training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:

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, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.


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/Jamaica maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Jamaica at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported to the United States once your condition is stable enough to allow for safe travel.

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 Jamaica, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive 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 your first eight to ten weeks in Jamaica, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officers. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require during pre-service training, as the Peace Corps 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 mid-service and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officers in Jamaica will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Jamaica, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.

Maintaining Your Health

As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities may not be up to the standards of the United States.

Many diseases that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. The medical officers will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Jamaica during pre-service training.

Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 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 officers about this important issue.

Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. The medical officers can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officers.

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 your medical officers know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.

Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that 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.

Feminine hygiene products are available for purchase in local stores. If you require a specific brand, please bring a supply from home.

Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officers provide Volunteers 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)
Butterfly closures
Calamine lotion
Cepacol lozenges
Dental floss
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)

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 if you need to update your records. If your dentist or the 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.

If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office to obtain a copy of your immunization record and bring it to your staging event. 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, beginning shortly after you arrive in Jamaica.

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, it 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 they might 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 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. The Peace Corps discourages 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 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare 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 healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps 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).

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:

Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:

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 Jamaica as compared to all other Inter-America and Pacific region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. 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 Jamaica

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 Jamaica. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite work sites for pickpockets.

Choosing to be safe as a Volunteer in Jamaica entails following the “awareness, vigilance, avoidance, escape, and defense” model of safety. You must be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, be vigilant by paying close attention at all times to your environment, and consciously avoid situations where your safety and security could be at risk. Where avoidance is not possible (e.g., on public transportation), you must first try to escape (or “run to safety”) and, if that fails, and only then, take defensive action.

Generally, past and current serving Volunteers consider themselves to be very safe in Jamaica. The regional security officer at the U.S. embassy confirms that Volunteers are not targets of crime in Jamaica.

It was my group's experience serving in Jamaica that this is not true. Robbery, pickpocketing, theft, threats and sexual assaults (at varying levels) are all common experiences; I don't think anyone was not held up, pickpocketed, or threatened. The important lesson is not to become afraid, but to be prepared. Don't carry around massive amounts of money, or use a well-hidden moneybelt when you must, let people know where you're going (even if it's a "I'm off to the corner grocer" yelled to your roommate or landlord on your way out). 05:59, 13 July 2007 (PDT)

Still, the following are some safety concerns in Jamaica:

Verbal and sexual harassment (including being the object of vulgar remarks) and assaults on male and female Peace Corps Volunteers have occurred in the past. Although verbal harassment often has no harmful intent, it can be a real challenge to deal with. For example, you might be called “Whitey” if you are fair-skinned, “Fatty” if you are overweight, or Mr. or Miss “Chin” if you have Asian features. The ice cream vendor is likely to be called “Fudgie,” the guard “Guardie,” and the peanut vendor “Nutsie.” Annoying as it is to be addressed according to one’s skin color, physical characteristics, or occupation, these remarks are usually simply descriptive.

Although homosexual Volunteers have served successfully in Jamaica, local law prohibits homosexuality, and revealing one’s homosexuality could result in harassment or assault.

Volunteers have experienced break-ins and holdups, with and without weapons. Thus, Volunteers should not travel alone in unfamiliar areas, especially at night. While many Americans enjoy the solitude of isolated beaches or forests, being alone in such places is unsafe in Jamaica.

Public transportation in Jamaica ranges from large, overcrowded buses to minibuses and taxis. Vehicle accidents, some involving injuries and fatalities, occur, as they do elsewhere in the world. All Volunteers should use “red plate” taxis because these are licensed public passenger vehicles and are considered to be safer.

That being said, you'll rapidly become familiar with the "route taxi" drivers in your area, and can take non-red-plated taxis. That being said, a volunteer in our group, comfortable with the informal taxis, took one from the airport and were it not for her quick-thinking would have been abducted by a kidnapper.

Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime

You must be prepared to take on a large degree of 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 Jamaica, do what you would do if you moved to a new 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 Jamaica 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 than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. Volunteers are nearly always protected by community members and are generally even safer than Jamaicans. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch. Do not keep your money in outside pockets or backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. Always walk with a companion at night.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Jamaica

The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Jamaica’s in-country safety program is outlined below.

The Peace Corps/Jamaica office will keep you informed through information sharing of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety, such as security concerns related to transport, housing, or work sites, political tensions, or the threat of a hurricane. In most instances, you will be contacted through the Peace Corps’ emergency communication network via the warden system which utilizes Volunteers.

Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in Jamaica. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.

Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help 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 housing 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, and markets; housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.

You will also learn about Peace Corps/Jamaica’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, you will gather with other Volunteers 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 safety and security coordinator (SSC) and country director or another senior staff member. The SSC coordinates all safety matters on behalf of Volunteers island-wide. 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.


In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in its Volunteers. 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 thoroughly American despite our many differences.

Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Jamaica, 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 Jamaica.

Outside of Jamaica’s capital and tourist towns, 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 Jamaica 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 Jamaica, 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 Jamaica

The Peace Corps staff in Jamaica recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will provide support and guidance. 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?

The comments below are intended to stimulate thought and discussion. They come from Volunteers serving in many countries, so not all of the issues discussed may have an impact on your Volunteer experience. Rather, they are included here to make all Volunteers aware of issues that one particular group or another may face. As you read them, you might ask yourself, “How would I feel if that happened to me?”

Possible Issues for Female Volunteers

Female Volunteers find that women’s equality and independence are defined differently in Jamaica than in the United States, with different expectations for women’s roles. In Jamaica, female Volunteers may be expected to have a husband, children, a boyfriend, or some combination of the three. They may be expected to “stay at home.” They may be proposed to on a daily basis or subjected to sexual advances or touching. Verbal harassment can be extremely crude.

Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color

A person of color may be the only minority trainee or Volunteer within a particular project, and may work and live with individuals with no experience or understanding of his or her culture. They may not receive necessary personal support from white Volunteers or be questioned about socializing exclusively with other minority Volunteers. Assumed to be Jamaicans, African-American Volunteers may be accepted more readily into the culture than other Volunteers and treated according to local social norms. They may also be categorized according to local stereotypes concerning skin pigmentation, such as the view that those with lighter skin are smarter or more dependable. Another stereotype Jamaicans make is calling fair-skinned blacks “red” or “white” Jamaicans.

Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers

Seniors may find themselves treated with more respect than younger Volunteers and thus have different interactions with Jamaicans. They may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support; some seniors find this a very enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, while others choose not to fill this role.

Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers

Homosexuality is generally not accepted in Jamaica’s culture, and local laws prohibit homosexual behavior. Revealing one’s sexual orientation could result in a violent verbal or physical attack, so it is safer to be discreet outside the Peace Corps family. Gay men may be referred to derogatively as “Batty Man,” “Batty Boy,” or “Chi-Chi Man.”

Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers

Volunteers in Jamaica, a predominantly Christian nation, can expect many meetings to begin with a prayer. They should also be prepared to be criticized for not attending church.

Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities

Volunteers with disabilities may not find many facilities that allow easy access. They should be prepared for encountering unsolicited attention, fear or lack of knowledge regarding persons with disabilities, or lack of empathy or support.

Nevertheless, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services, as part of the medical clearance process, determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Jamaica without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. The Peace Corps/ Jamaica staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

Possible Issues for Married Volunteers

Being a married couple in the Peace Corps has its advantages and challenges. It helps to have someone by your side to share your experience with, but there are also cultural expectations that can cause stress in a marriage. The most important thing to remember is that you are in a foreign country with new rules. As long as you remain open-minded you will have a successful service. However, there are issues that you will face and challenges you will encounter in your community. Sometimes only one spouse is enthusiastic about joining Peace Corps, is more able to adapt to the new physical and/or cultural environment, or is less or more homesick than the other. A married woman may find herself in a less independent role than that to which she is accustomed, experience a more limited social life in the community than single Volunteers (since it may be assumed that she will be busy taking care of her husband), or is expected to perform “traditional” domestic chores such as cooking or cleaning. Competition may cause difficulties; one spouse may learn faster than the other. There may be differences in job satisfaction and/or different needs. Younger Volunteers may look to couples for advice and support. Married couples are likely to be treated with more respect because the community sees marriage as a responsibility; and you may be asked why you do not have children.


How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Jamaica?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits.

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 Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined linear dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carryon bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets,weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

What is the electric current in Jamaica?

It is 110 volts, 50 cycles, the same as in the United States.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. 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.

Though in cases of emergency, rules can be bent. I had a friend visiting when a Cat-5 hurricane came at us, and smuggled her in to our consolidation point. A good rule, at least while I was there (the CD is different now), was don't ask, just do. Asking will get a "No," while doing often got commended. Hopefully the new CD is a bit more predictable? 06:06, 13 July 2007 (PDT)

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 should not 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 Jamaica do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi.

Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a host agency’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the Country Director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

You can drive a rental vehicle with a US Driver's License. There's a law regarding how long you can live in Jamaica before you must use an IDL or Jamaican DL when driving, and this is when creative descriptions come in handy. Volunteers are of course forbidden from driving without the CD's permission, though when on vacation on-island this is a bit hazy. It's often safer for the volunteer, versed in the Jamaican road system, driving on the left, and honk-communication, than it is for a visitor.

What should I bring as gifts for Jamaican friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

You will be advised of your assignment during pre-service training and have the opportunity to visit your prospective site. However, final placements will not be made until the end of pre-service training so the Peace Corps staff can do a formal assessment of each trainee prior to finalizing site assignments. If feasible, you will have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that 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 within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a three-to-four-hour drive from Kingston. There is at least one Volunteer based in each of the regional capitals. For safety and security reasons, Peace Corps/Jamaica does not allow placement of Volunteers in the Kingston metropolitan area nor in Spanish Town.

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, 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, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2500.

Can I call home from Jamaica?

Overseas collect calls can be made through Sprint, MCI, and AT&T. In addition, the local telephone company, Cable and Wireless Jamaica, sells prepaid calling cards called “World Talk,” through distribution centers islandwide. Once you become a Volunteer and acquire a telephone at your site, there may be cable and wireless options.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Many cellphones from the United States do not function in Jamaica, and cellphones are widely available for purchase island-wide. Please take into account that your site may not have cellphone access.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

You can bring a laptop with you for personal use, but you should get it insured. For Internet access, there are several local providers from which to choose.


This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Jamaica 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 an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Jamaica.

General Clothing


The workplace:

Fieldwork and Recreation wear:


The workplace

at least 10 to 12 outfits


Bring three or four pairs of comfortable and sturdy walking or tennis shoes. It is advisable to have more than one pair to allow for a day of “drying time.” Due to the high humidity, clothing and shoes do have a tendency to mildew. Also bring one or two pair of closed toe dress shoes and dressy high heeled sandals. Although Birkenstock-type sandals are nice to have for their comfort, they are not suitable for most professional situations.

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items



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 is not all inclusive of everything you should make arrangements for.





Personal Papers


Personal Effects

Financial Management

Personal tools
Tell Your Friends
Peace Corps News
Country Information