History of the Peace Corps in Lesotho
The Peace Corps was invited to work in Lesotho in 1967. Since that time, a relatively constant number of about 95 Volunteers have served at any given time in Lesotho, except for a brief time following a political uprising in 1998. Education, agriculture, and health have been the primary Peace Corps programs here. The focus of Volunteer placement has been rural development, which mirrors the country’s 85 percent rural population demography. Volunteers serve in all 10 districts of the country.
The current goals of Peace Corps/Lesotho programming are based on community development projects that place Volunteers in education, HIV/AIDS, the environment, and community economic development.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming
in Lesotho Peace Corps/Lesotho responds to Lesotho’s needs by strengthening the capacity of individual Basotho to take control of their own lives. Volunteers achieve this goal by providing quality, relevant educational concepts and techniques to teachers, students, individuals, and groups. Volunteers also promote vocational skills training and self-employment, and help Basotho citizens access resources to maintain and improve Lesotho’s unique environment.
Education Volunteers are assigned to the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to strengthen the quality of education through deployment of English teachers in secondary schools and resource teachers in both early childhood care centers and primary schools. The resource teachers work with their counterparts to equip the teachers and caregivers in primary schools and early childhood education programs with skills to enable them to use innovative and appropriate teaching methodologies, enhancing their classroom management skills and applying principles of gender equity in their teaching practices.
Secondary education Volunteers use quality English language classroom instruction and assist in developing critical thinking skills through innovative teaching methods.
All education Volunteers work to enhance reading, establish functional libraries, and do HIV/AIDS education in the schools and local communities. Some are members of the district AIDS task forces. Volunteers also promote the concept of girls education through clubs, tutoring, and other mentoring activities.
Community health and development Volunteers are placed in all 10 districts of Lesotho. The purpose of the community health and development project (CHED) is to develop an HIV/AIDS-competent and economically productive society. Volunteers focus on preventing and mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS, strengthening community-based organizations, youth development and skills promotion, and business and economic development. There are four areas of concentration in the CHED project: HIV/AIDS, agriculture/nutrition, youth, and community development. HIV/AIDS Volunteers are working at the village and district levels to provide HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs. Other Volunteers in this program provide sustainable, effective outreach to youth, entrepreneurs, and income-generation groups.
There are more than 50 Volunteers serving in this sector. They work to establish better services for orphan and vulnerable children in various villages; help organizations and groups mobilize resources and community support for needed food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation programs; assist district level government in training local chiefs and traditional healers on HIV/AIDS; help communities to develop cultural tourism markets; assist in establishing pony-trecking income-producing activities; and provide technical assistance to producer groups on product diversification, qualty control, and marketing.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. You will need to utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.