Allison Matlack

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Description of Service

After a competitive application process stressing appropriate skills, adaptability, and cross-cultural sensitivity, Allison Matlack began Peace Corps Pre-Service Training on November 18, 2005, in Maseru, Lesotho. She completed an 8-week training program and was sworn-in as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer on January 12, 2006.

File:Matlack13.jpg
Education Volunteers 05-07 swearing-in

PRE-SERVICE TRAINING (PST):

  • Language Training: The training consisted of 88+ hours of structured Sesotho language lessons. The language training ended with Ms. Matlack being tested by a certified Foreign Language Institute examiner. She received a rating of Intermediate High in spoken Sesotho at the completion of training. At the time of her Close of Service (10 December 2007), Ms. Matlack retested and received a score of Advanced Mid.
  • Technical Training: The training consisted of 67.5 hours. Lesson planning, classroom management, and practice teaching were stressed. Micro teaching lessons were held and teaching methodologies were examined and demonstrated. The training also incorporated an orientation to the education system of Lesotho with discussions on scheme and record books, the English curriculum, what the COSC and JC exams cover, how to prepare students for those exams, and various elements of protocol in the schools and Ministry.
  • Cross-Cultural Training: The training consisted of 16 hours, including sharing information about values and myths of the American and Basotho cultures. The Basotho and volunteer trainers demonstrated examples of Basotho life through skits, songs, and other activities. Discussions of Lesotho history and traditional political customs were also included.
  • Community-Based Training: This training consisted of approximately 4 weeks. Ms. Matlack lived with a Basotho family in a rural village with learning geared towards actual day-to-day family life, including chores, roles and responsibilities of family members, family structure, mode of dress around the house/outside the home compound, religious beliefs, and traditional food.
File:Matlack14.jpg
Allison's community-based training host family
  • Medical: 16 hours of instruction was given on first-aid, nutrition, diseases prevalent in southern Africa, preventative health care and HIV/AIDS. Stress was placed on self-care.
  • Administrative/Safety and Security: This training consisted of 32.5 hours. Instruction was given on crime trends in southern Africa, in Lesotho amongst the general population, and among the volunteer community. The Emergency Action Plan (EAP) was introduced and discussed. Scenarios were acted out with staff and trainees in order for trainees to become aware of possible problems they would encounter at site and how to avoid or confront those situation. Peace Corps/Lesotho policies were discussed and made clear to the trainees.
  • HIV/AIDS: In addition to Medical Training, this training consisted of 10 hours. This included a medical introduction to HIV/AIDS (the immunology of the disease and disease progression); statistics world-wide, in southern Africa, and in Lesotho; ways to discuss HIV with Basotho; myths Basotho have about HIV/AIDS; life skills and its role in HIV education; examples of life skills activities; HIV nutrition; and key-hole gardening for AIDS sufferers.
  • GAD: This training consisted of 3.5 hours. Trainees were asked to examine their beliefs about gender roles and the distribution of work. Trainees were introduced to commonly held beliefs about gender in Lesotho and participated in role-plays of scenarios they would likely encounter during their service in Lesotho.
  • Diversity Training: This training consisted of 3.5 hours. Focus was placed on the assumptions, beliefs, and stereotypes the volunteers brought to Lesotho about their fellow Americans as well as towards Africans and the Basotho. The volunteers explored these beliefs and skills were given in order to overcome or mitigate these beliefs.
  • Other: Other training added up to 34.4 hours, including PACA (community planning training, where community seasonal habits and expected gender roles, among other things, were evaluated and discussed). In addition, a total of 7 days were spent on site visits, both a visit to a current volunteer and an evaluation visit to the site-to-be.
  • Phase 3 PST: Due to a shorter pre-service training, Ms. Matlack’s training group met for one week in April 2006 to discuss teaching methods and dealing with discipline in the classroom, problems and successes encountered in the first three months of service, further medical/safety matters, Sesotho, and ideas for the rest of their service.

IN-SERVICE TRAINING (IST):

During the Peace Corps service, training is offered to help improve skills, discuss problems with other volunteers, listen to advice and enable volunteers as a group to communicate with the administration as a whole.

  • June 2006 Education Sector IST: This training took place at the Anglican Center in Maseru. Volunteers discussed teaching techniques, student/teacher motivation, developing appropriate teaching materials for schools with limited financial resources, problems encountered in the first 6 months of service, and community development projects/proposal writing with each volunteer’s supervisor. Volunteers on the GAD committee, diversity committee, and HIV/AIDS committee respectively conducted sessions where issues relating to each committee were discussed and how the volunteers were introducing ideas of gender and HIV into their work.
  • January 2007 All-Volunteer Conference: This workshop was held at the Bambhata Tsita Conference Center. This conference revolved around the upcoming snap elections in Lesotho and related safety/security/medical procedures and precautions. Lectures were given by officers from the U.S. Embassy and the Peace Corps office.
  • March 2007 HIV/AIDS Workshop: This workshop took place at the Bambhata Tsita Conference Center. Many PC/Lesotho volunteers attended this workshop. It was conducted by PC staff who brought in numerous guest presenters. Among others, issues discussed were general HIV information specific to Lesotho, how HIV/AIDS affects the workplace, how to assist small businesses (BizAIDS), and how to assist Lesotho’s Student Union clubs. Volunteers across the two PC/Lesotho sectors discussed how to incorporate HIV into their work and demonstration lessons/ideas were given.
  • September 2007 Peace Corps Volunteer Close of Service Conference: This conference was held at the Maseru Sun Hotel in Maseru. Issues discussed were administrative and medical procedures required for COS, self-assessment of the Peace Corps experience, self-assessment of future goals, assessment of Peace Corps Lesotho, job hunting, re-entry to the USA, ways to implement Peace Corps’ third goal of educating people in America so they better understand other people and cultures, grief and loss, and a diversity session focusing on the relationships built among Education 2006-08 volunteers.
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Ed Volunteers 05-07 at the COS conference

VOLUNTEER SERVICE PROJECTS

Ms. Allison Matlack swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer on January 12, 2006, and was responsible to the Ministry of Education during her service in Lesotho. She served as an English Language and English Literature teacher at Senkoase High School in the district of Mokhotlong.


PRIMARY ACTIVITIES

Ms. Matlack worked with about a dozen other teachers at her high school and taught English to over 300 students ranging from ages 12 to 27. She planned lessons with her colleagues, incorporating everything from grammar and literature to HIV/AIDS awareness and life skills. She was able to incorporate technology in the classroom, utilizing music and films to demonstrate lessons; she also donated books and magazines to the students. She provided her staff with resource information and also occasionally worked as an administrative assistant, copying or typing papers. She helped organize and chaperone sporting events and assisted in creating class/teacher schedules and exam timetables. In all of her classrooms, career advice, study tips, examination preparation skills and current affairs were constantly discussed.

Ms. Matlack taught English Language/Literature to Forms A and B (roughly equivalent to U.S. grades 6-8) in both 2006 and 2007. She taught English Language to Form D (roughly 11th grade) in 2006 and continued with those students into Form E (roughly 12th grade) in 2007.

In English Language classes, the following topics were discussed:

  • Forms of writing: descriptive composition of a person, descriptive composition of a place, narrative composition, argumentative composition, informative composition, speculative composition, magazine articles, newspaper articles, formal letters, informal letters, reports, accounts, and speeches
  • Vocabulary development
  • Grammar: verb tenses, transitions, punctuation, sentence types (simple, compound, complex), parts of speech
  • Paragraphing
  • Direct and reported speech
  • Idioms, proverbs, metaphors, similes and other figures of speech
  • How to write a summary of a text
  • Reading Comprehension skills
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Allison's Form Ds, 2006

In Literature classes, the following topics were discussed:

  • Theme, plot, setting, character, narrator, characterization
  • The importance of reading
  • Differences between novels and plays
  • Poetic devices and figures of speech
  • Comprehension skills including how to compose essays based from questions
File:Matlack12.jpg
Allison's 2006 Form As with one of their lit books

SECONDARY PROJECTS

  • Ms. Matlack organized a Form D debate team in 2006 to compete with PCV Amy Bowes’s Form D students. Her students from Senkoase defeated Amy’s from St. James in the first round but lost by a hair in the second. This was a good experience for the students as they had exposure to a private school and its students; it motivated students from both schools.
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One of Allison's Form Ds debating at St. James High, 2006
  • Through Ms. Matlack, Senkoase High School was one of five recipients of the inaugural U.S. Embassy Loan Library Program in 2006, where five schools yearly rotate a total of about 400 books, exposing students to a wider range of reading material. This was the beginning of Senkoase’s library; she, her students, and her co-workers built a bookshelf and maintained the books for the school. (She also donated many of her own books.)
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Allison's host father, Ntate Kao, accepting the Embassy's books on behalf of the school
  • She assisted PCV Sara Anderson in compiling and designing a booklet for young girls entitled, What is Happening to Your Body? A Guide for Young Girls in Lesotho. This booklet provides sorely needed information about puberty and sexuality, including HIV/AIDS prevention, for adolescent females. Ms. Matlack and Ms. Anderson received a PEPFAR grant to have the booklet translated into Sesotho and published. The booklet has been eagerly approved by the government and 500 copies are being printed in English to distribute to Adolescent Health Corners in hospitals throughout the country; as soon as translation is complete, 500 copies will also be printed in Sesotho.
  • Ms. Matlack helped coach the boys’ and girls’ volleyball teams at Senkoase for two years. In August 2006, she helped find sponsorship to assist the boys’ team, which was number one in the district, to reach the national tournament in Maseru, where they were not able to place. (However, many of the boys had never seen the capital city before and the venture was well worth the trouble.) Also, in January 2007, she met with members of the boys’ volleyball team during summer break to help prepare for the upcoming season, but illnesses and injuries prevented the team from becoming number one for a second year. The girls’ team, despite enthusiastic practices, never managed to perform well at competitions.
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The Senkoase Boys at the Maseru tournament, 2006
  • Ms. Matlack took 14 Form E students to town in March of 2007 for a Career Day to talk with local men and women about different careers and how to accomplish life goals, assisted by PCV Libby Bachhuber. The students came away with an adjusted perspective, saying they realized “hard work comes before paid work,” and they were more highly motivated to study. Those 14 students presented findings to the rest of the class.
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Some of the Form Es enjoying a snack on Career Day, 2007
  • She facilitated the district’s first Speak A.L.O.U.D. (A Look at Our Understanding of Development), a nation-wide project initiated by the GAD committee. Students from PCV schools (4 schools in Mokhotlong) participated in March of 2007, learning more about emerging gender and youth issues in Lesotho. Guest speakers were two members of the Mokhotlong CGPU (Child/Gender Protection Unit) and one active youth member of the community.
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Two policemen giving a session about abuse at the workshop
  • As a result of the Speak A.L.O.U.D. workshop, the six students from Senkoase formed an English club (The Snowball Club) and, requiring only guidance and technical assistance from Ms. Matlack, published Senkoase’s first-ever school magazine in September 2007. The proceeds of the magazine will go to fund group trips to other schools in the district for debating competitions. The self-stated goals of the group are to improve students’ English ability and to raise awareness of the gender/youth issues discussed in the workshop.
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The Snowballers
  • In early 2007, Ms. Matlack, using her knowledge of grant writing, applied for a U.S. Ambassador’s Self-HelpFund to help finish a poultry house at her school. The grant was approved and was signed in early October.
  • In September 2007, she applied for a Peace Corps Partnership grant through the U.S. Peace Corps to provide funding for an irrigation system for the garden of the local HIV/AIDS support group (Ha Re Bolaeeng Sekhobo Moremoholo Support Group). Food from the garden goes to feed well over 300 orphans and vulnerable children in the community. The grant has been submitted but is still pending and has been transferred to a current volunteer (Jane Hollinshead) for completion due to Ms. Matlack’s approaching Close of Service date.
  • In late 2007, Ms. Matlack applied for library books through the African Library Project, along with other volunteers from Lesotho (25 volunteers needed to apply to receive books). The application was approved, but the books will arrive after Ms. Matlack’s Close of Service date. She worked with the deputy principal and the head of the English language department to prepare to receive and house the books and instructed them on how to run the library.
  • Ms. Matlack spent a week and a half covering HIV/AIDS with her Form A class in 2007 and was able to impart knowledge previously unknown, hopefully influencing behavior change in younger children before they get into trouble. (50 out of 51 students passed the end-of-lesson quiz.) She also presented the information in more depth to Form E at the bequest of the biology teacher who needed help covering the topic for the biology syllabus, dispelling many deeply held myths about the disease for the students.
  • Ms. Matlack sponsored four students to attend school in 2007 through Peace Corps Lesotho’s Tuition Assistance Program, funded by Friends of Lesotho. Each grant provided 700 Rands (approximately $100) for one student for the second half of the school year.


CONCLUSION

Pursuant to section 5 (f) of the Peace Corps act, 22 U.S.C. 2504 (f) amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following his/her Peace Corps Volunteer service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps Volunteer service credited for purpose of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave and other privileges based on length of Government service. Peace Corps service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary or trial periods or completion of any service requirement for career appointment.

This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order No. 11103 of April 10, 1963, that Ms. Allison Matlack served satisfactorily as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her service ended on the below mentioned date. She is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis.

This benefit under the Executive Order entitlement extends for a period of one year. The employing agency may extend the period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning or engages in other activities which in the view of the appointing authority warrants extension of the period.


PCV: Allison Matlack Reviewed by: Ted Mooney, Country Director, Peace Corps Lesotho

Lessons Learned

  • Don't plan anything. If you do make a plan, expect it to change.
  • Don't freak out: everything always works out, one way or the other.
  • Teaching is a HARD job.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously.
  • Remember to take time for yourself...you can't serve others if you're burnt out.

I LOVED Lesotho...I was told I would be receiving an invitation to Eastern Europe, but Lesotho showed up in my mailbox. I really didn't want to go to Africa...I don't do hot. But Lesotho didn't seem like "AFRICA Africa" in my mind...meaning that it wasn't the desert I imagined all of Africa to be in my ignorance. It's a beautiful mountain kingdom full of generally well-meaning people. It was my home for two years, and I miss it in a lot of ways.

And I'm proud of the work that I did. It felt like I didn't do much, but once I looked at my final DOS, I was like, "Wow. I DID something."

About Allison Matlack Today

I am definitely more patient.

I learned that underneath our multicultural clothes, we're all really the same...we all want the same things, we all are striving to reach the same goals. We just get there in different ways.

I also have to say that I was pretty down on America and Americans before I left, but now I appreciate all we have and all we are given...I'm just dismayed at how we waste it all.

External Links

Publications based on Peace Corps Experience

I am having a short story of mine entitled "Mokhotlong: These Mountains are my Home" in Peace Corps at 50 Anniversary Story project, due out sometime....

References

(for all information above)