From Peace Corps Wiki
For the official Welcome Book for Kenya see here
PEACE CORPS / KENYA HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Kenya
The Peace Corps program in Kenya began soon after the country gained its independence in 1963, and it is one of the largest programs in Africa. The first group of 37 Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Kenya on December 31, 1964. Since early 1965, the Peace Corps has been assisting the government of Kenya in meeting its development needs by providing skilled Volunteers in the areas of economic development, education, and public health.
To contribute to Kenya’s economic development, the Peace Corps focuses on activities that support creation of employment and income-generating opportunities. The country’s focus on gender equality creates a need to expand girls’ access to and retention in secondary schools. Also, the government of Kenya stresses the importance of providing education to children with special needs so that they can be fully contributing members of society. Public health continues to face challenges in both water-borne and infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, and environmental health hazards. The Peace Corps/Kenya program enjoys strong support from government officials at national and district levels.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Kenya
The Peace Corps’ support for Kenya’s development focuses on capacity building in the three priority areas mentioned above and supports Kenya’s goal of industrialization by 2020.
The country program addresses the reduction of poverty, educational needs of diverse populations, the impact of environmental degradation on health, and improvement of the life expectancy of Kenyans. Across all sectors, Peace Corps/Kenya targets women and youth as the most vulnerable in Kenyan society, and integrates HIV/AIDS education in all projects. Peace Corps/Kenya has redesigned the education project to focus on HIV/AIDS.
Peace Corps/Kenya’s education project places Volunteer teachers in both government and public secondary schools. Volunteers teach biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics and they work with their Kenyan colleagues to develop innovative teaching techniques in resource-poor environments. In addition, the Peace Corps participates in Kenya’s deaf education program. It provides Volunteer teachers in primary deaf education schools to work with children to develop basic life skills and proficiency in Kenyan Sign Language.
Kenyan and Volunteer educators work together to help create a future where students, both hearing and deaf, have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to serve as productive members and future leaders of their communities, families, and workforce, and where communities are committed to accepting and taking care of all their members. Peace Corps/ Kenya’s education project’s goals reflect the multifaceted roles of Volunteers as teachers, colleagues, community members, and development workers.
Peace Corps/Kenya’s public health project partners with the Ministry of Health, local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations. Volunteers work at the grassroots level with front-line extensionists as counterparts.
The three-pronged public health project addresses water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and environmental education. Working with their Ministry of Health counterparts, Volunteers focus on facilitating communities’ efforts in these areas. These activities include hygiene education and home and community sanitation improvements to prevent waterborne diseases; HIV/AIDS education to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS among youth and women; and environmental education awareness for natural resource conservation, prevention of environmental degradation, and improvement of health. Volunteer activities include strengthening preventive health through changing attitudes and behaviors in the communities where they live and work and by building the capacity of local agencies to continue this work.
Today, Kenya is on the brink of losing entire generations of trained workers and years of painstaking investment in human resource development to HIV/AIDS. As many as 700 Kenyans die every day from the pandemic. In response to the impact of HIV/AIDS, Peace Corps/Kenya launched a Crisis Corps program to provide shorter-term, targeted interventions that strengthen the government and NGOs’ capacity in prevention and care. The project also focuses on cross-sectoral interventions to assist communities affected by HIV/AIDS.
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. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and 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.
Small-Enterprise Development/Information Communication Technology (SED/ICT)
Since launching the SED/ICT project in 1992, Volunteers in this sector have worked with their Kenyan counterparts to address opportunities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the small business sector. These problems include low levels of business skills (e.g., record-keeping, costing, pricing, etc.) and limited access to credit and markets. With increased challenges posed by slowed economic growth, Peace Corps Volunteers work closely with stakeholders to address broader national concerns like poverty alleviation, employment creation, and capacity-building. The technical skills provided by Volunteers include promoting income-generating activities, strengthening business management and marketing linkages, operating credit plans, enhancing basic computer literacy, and using information technology in various aspects of health and education.
Targeted groups served by small-enterprise development Volunteers include women’s groups, self-help and jua kali (artisan) groups, community-based organizations, selected NGOs, and technical institutes. As a result of Peace Corps intervention, many Kenyan, especially women and youth (who are the most vulnerable economically), have improved their skills, increased their income, and obtained employment. The demand for the services of small-enterprise development Volunteers continues to grow.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW: KENYA AT A GLANCE
Kenya’s modern history dates from the Berlin conference of 1885 when the European powers first partitioned Africa. In 1895, the British government appointed a commissioner to the area thereafter designated the East African Protectorate. The name was changed to Kenya Colony in 1920. Events that followed led to friction between Kenyans and the British administrators as some leading members of the colonial administration wanted to turn Kenya into a “white man’s country.”
The country was administered through a legislative council whose membership was made up of British settlers. Through political pressure, the first African was nominated to the legislative council as an unofficial member in 1951. The acceptance of African representation in the legislative council inspired Kenyans to work even harder for their freedom. The first political party, the Kenya African Union (KAU), was formed in 1946, and was presided over by the late Jomo Kenyatta. The formation of the freedom fighters’ organization Mau Mau led to the death and arrest of thousands of people of all races, and finally resulted in the attainment of independence on December 12, 1963.
Kenya is a civilian republic with a president as head of state. The president appoints the cabinet from among the elected members of the multiparty National Assembly. Kenya had two successful multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, although in some parts of the country, the elections were marred by violence. In 2002, as a result of fair and peaceful elections, Mwai Kabaki was elected president as the National Rainbow Coalition (NaRC) candidate. Kenya’s next presidential election is scheduled for 2007.
Kenya has a unicameral legislature composed of 210 elected representatives and 12 nominated members. The attorney general and National Assembly speaker are ex-officio, nonvoting members. Parliamentary procedures usually follow the British pattern. The term of the legislature is five years. The Constitution describes all the sections of the government; determines their composition, powers, and duties; and sets out fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual. The Kenyan Constitution is being reviewed with a focus on creating a level playing field for all political parties and strengthening checks and balances among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government.
The seat of the national government is in Nairobi, the capital. The eight provinces are governed through provincial, district, and local government structures.
Although only 20 percent of the land is suitable for cultivation, agriculture is the most important economic activity. Approximately 70 percent of Kenya’s population is involved in rurally based agricultural activities. Kenya’s major exports and foreign exchange earners are coffee, tea, pyrethrum, horticultural products, and tourism. Kenya has no major deposits of valuable minerals, although oil exploration continues in the northern part of the country.
Although Kenya’s rates of HIV infection have fallen recently (from 14 percent to 7 percent of the adult population) the pandemic continues to pose a very serious threat to Kenya’s development, and the strain on the government’s resources from combating the disease is being felt in all sectors. The impact of HIV/AIDS is rolling back development gains made after independence. With the far-reaching impact of HIV/AIDS on businesses, education, and health, Kenya is projecting shrinking economic growth, reduced life expectancy, increased child mortality, and an increase in the number of orphans to nearly 2 million, if the current rates of infection and deaths continue. Since youth and young adults are the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, Kenya is being robbed of its future generation and their most productive years.
A prolonged drought has also had a devastating impact on Kenya’s economy. The impact is being felt in many different ways by businesses, communities, and individuals. Approximately half of the population live below the poverty line. Foreign investment, which might turn the economy around, is hampered by political and economic conditions, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and the state of the banking system. This trend is exacerbated by deteriorating relationships with aid donors.
The government of Kenya is taking measures to reverse the economic downturn. For instance, the government launched a poverty eradication plan that calls to alleviate poverty by 2016. Civil society and multilateral organizations are also involved in executing the plan. Kenya is an active member in subregional economic activities (e.g., the Common Market for East and Southern Africa and the East African Cooperation), which seek to increase trade in the subregion to enhance economic development. Privatization and labor downsizing of parastatal companies continue, which is increasing efficiency in the delivery of public services, especially in the energy and telecommunications sectors. The informal sector is considered key to Kenya’s industrialization goal because of employment growth, and it continues to receive strong technical and financial support from the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme.
People and Culture
Kenya’s current population is estimated to be nearly 35 million, and about 60 percent of its citizens live in rural areas. Approximately 500,000 are non-Africans, principally people from South Asia. The urban populations are centered mainly in the greater Nairobi area, with about 2 million people; and Mombasa, with more than 500,000 people. Urban areas are cosmopolitan, but the rural areas tend to be very conservative in cultural norms and behaviors, which Volunteers are expected to respect. Kenya has 41 ethnic groups, the largest being Kikuyu (22 percent), Luo (13 percent), and Luhya (13 percent). The major religions include Christianity, Islam, and indigenous beliefs.
Kenya is a multiracial society with people of African, Indian, and European origin. The dominant unifying philosophy comes from the late head of state, President Jomo Kenyatta:
“All of us are one tribe, and that tribe is Kenya.” Kenyatta’s ideal is expressed by the word harambee (pull together), which is Kenya’s national motto.
From the Swahili of the coast to the Masai of the Rift Valley, Kenya has rich and varied cultures and customs within a busy, modern society. While Kiswahili and English are the official languages, Volunteers also learn the predominantly spoken vernacular language of their communities.
More than two-thirds of Kenya is classified as arid or semiarid. The country is experiencing serious environmental degradation leading to soil erosion, which results in declining food production. Drought and desertification continue to threaten the livelihoods of millions of Kenyans who depend on the land for food. These conditions are related to global climate change, human activities and population pressures, depletion of forests, and inadequate conservation efforts.
To address these environmental challenges, the government passed an environmental bill in 2001 that aims to alleviate environmental degradation by curbing the exploitation of forest resources and strengthening the management of forests. These efforts were further enhanced when Wangari Mathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, who, in 2004, became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Kenya, or to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Pease keep in mind that although we have tried to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.
A Note of Caution: As you surf these sites, beware that you will find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to give opinions and advice based on their own experiences. The opinions expressed are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government. You may find opinions of people who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. As you read these comments, we hope you will keep in mind that the Peace Corps is not for everyone, and no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Kenya
Visit this site to learn all you need to know about any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Kenya and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments of countries around the world.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information about countries around the world. 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 throughout the world.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This Yahoo site hosts a bulletin board where prospective Volunteers and returned Volunteers can come together.
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities. Or skip straight to the Friends of Kenya site: www.friendsofkenya.org.
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 from countries around the world.
Online Articles/Current News Sites About Kenya
Site of the Daily Nation
Site of the East African Standard
News wire stories about Kenya
A site with news and travel and general information about Kenya
Site of NairobiNet online, a Kenyan Internet service provider
Another Kenyan Internet service provider
International Development Sites About Kenya
The U.S. Agency for International Development
The United Nations
Recommended Books about Kenya and Africa
- Elkins, Caroline. Imperial Reckoning : The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya. Owl Books (reprint edition). 2005.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2003.
- Halperin, Helena. I Laugh So I Won't Cry: Kenya's Women Tell the Story of Their Lives. Africa World Press. 2005.
- Herrera, Susana. Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.
- Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). From the Center of the Earth: Stories Out of Africa. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). Hartmattan: A Journey Across the Sahara. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1994.
- Parkinson, Tom and Matt Phillips. Lonely Planet Kenya, 6th edition. Lonely Planet Publications Pty. Ltd. Victoria: Australia. 2006.
- Tidwell, Mike. The Ponds of Kalambayi: An African Sojourn. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 1990, 1996 (paperback).
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.) From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Few countries in the world offer the level of mail service we take for granted in the United States. Mail takes a minimum of two weeks to arrive in Kenya. Some mail may simply not arrive (fortunately this is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen). Some letters may arrive with clipped edges because a postal worker tried to see if any money was inside (again, this is rare, but it does happen). We do not want to sound discouraging, but when thousands of miles from families and friends, communication becomes a very sensitive issue. We would prefer you be forewarned of the reality of mail service in the developing world. Advise your family and friends to number their letters and to include “Airmail” and “Par Avion” on their envelopes.
The length of time it takes for mail to reach Volunteers is as varied as their sites. Airmail from the United States to major cities in Kenya will take about two weeks. More remote post offices receive mail less frequently, and sometimes a local courier is employed to ferry mail from isolated villages to trading centers. The Peace Corps uses the Telkom Kenya network to send mail to Volunteers throughout Kenya. Although mail is sent regularly from the Peace Corps office, the timing of its receipt depends on the location of the Volunteer’s site.
We strongly encourage you to write to your family regularly (perhaps weekly or biweekly) and to number your letters.
Family members will typically become worried when they do not hear from you, so please advise your parents, friends, and relatives that mail is sporadic and that they should not worry if they do not receive your letters regularly.
Peace Corps Volunteers are allowed duty-free entry of packages for their first 90 days in Kenya. After the 90-day grace period, the customs office may begin assessing duty charges, which must be paid before a package is released. Customs duties are based on the types of items as well as their value. Electronics may be assessed a particularly high duty rate. Packages normally take about three months to reach Kenya from the United States if sent via surface mail. Volunteers are requested to follow the mailing procedures described in the Peace Corps/Kenya Volunteer Handbook.
Your address during training will be:
PO Box 30518
It is your responsibility to forward the postal address at your site to the Peace Corps office in Nairobi so mail can be routed directly to you. Mail sent via international channels will take 10 to 21 days to arrive at your site. Remember that it is important to keep regular contact with relatives and friends, not just for them but also for you. Write often so that no one has cause to worry, which a lapse in letters for any period of time has been known to create.
Once at your site, you will receive a notification slip in your post box when you receive a package. Respond promptly with your ID in hand. The sooner you pick up the package, the less storage fees will be. You will be responsible for paying any customs, storage, and handling charges before your package is released to you.
Trainees and Volunteers are responsible for mailing personal letters and packages. Airmail letters and stamps are available at local post offices.
Most large cities and provincial capitals have domestic long-distance service; regional centers and some large cities also provide overseas telephone service. In some locations, the service is fast and efficient; in others, it may take several hours to get calls through.
Cellular telephones and service are widely avaialbe in Kenya. Peace Corps does not require Volunteers to purchase a phone, but most Volunteers choose to buy a phone and service once they reach their sites and have a clear idea of the network coverage in the area.
Domestic long-distance calls: Volunteers are responsible for all toll charges on calls. But you may call the Peace Corps/ Nairobi office collect or reverse charges. The Peace Corps provides 500 Kenyan shillings per month (telecommunications allowance) to cover official and emergency phone calls.
Overseas calls: The Peace Corps occasionally authorizes a Volunteer to call home because of a family emergency. When you receive such notification from the Peace Corps, you may pay for toll charges and bring the receipt to the Peace Corps office for reimbursement. Personal overseas calls will not be authorized by the Peace Corps office, and Volunteers must use locally available public phones for all personal calls.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
Because Internet use appears to be primarily for personal reasons, you are expected to use your living and telecommunications allowances to cover your Internet costs.
Designated computers in the resource center at the Nairobi office do have Internet access. You are welcome to use these, though priority is given to Volunteers who are getting ready to finish their service, to assist them with graduate school and job applications. Volunteers are prohibited from using staff computers in all offices. Internet access is available at post offices and cybercafes in towns and cities.
Housing and Site Location
As a Volunteer, you will most likely live in a rural community and not have access to indoor plumbing or electricity. Expect to use hurricane lamps and candles for lighting and to cook using charcoal, wood, or a single-burner kerosene stove. Peace Corps/Kenya, for both philosophical and budget considerations, requires host ministries to provide all Volunteers with housing. The standard and condition of Volunteer housing vary widely, from mud houses with thatched roofs to very modern cement houses with running water and electricity. The type of house you have will depend on your project, the area of the country in which you are posted, and the types of houses available in the community. You may also be required to share housing with other staff or to live in a room behind a shop at a market center. In short, you can expect to have, at the very least, a room to call your own. The decision as to whether housing standards are “acceptable” lies with the associate Peace Corps director and medical staff. When it comes to your housing, you should not lose sight of the guiding goal of the Peace Corps. Maintain your focus on service to the people of Kenya and not on the level of your accommodations.
Because Peace Corps Volunteers are often posted in poor rural areas to work with ministries with little or no money for housing, the Peace Corps sets minimum housing standards:
- There must be at least a private, lockable room if housing is shared with other people.
- The room should have windows.
- The roof should not leak.
- There should be a cement floor and a place for a Volunteer to take a bucket bath or shower.
- There should be a latrine that is private or semiprivate (not used by all schoolchildren at a school but perhaps shared by other staff members).
- The Volunteer will be expected to use the same water source as the community.
Your site assignment is made during pre-service training, in collaboration with the training staff. The assignment is based on their assessment and recommendation regarding community needs and your skill levels in the technical, cross-cultural, and language areas. You will be interviewed prior to an actual placement decision so that additional personal preferences can be considered in making the site assignment. Site placements are made using the following criteria (in priority order):
- Medical considerations
- Government of Kenya needs
- Site requirements (community needs) matched with demonstrated technical, cross-cultural, and language skills
- Peace Corps/Kenya needs
- Personal preference of the trainee
The final decisions on site placement are made by your associate Peace Corps director. If you choose not to go to the site assigned to you, you will be given the opportunity to terminate your service with the Peace Corps. Refusal to go to your assigned site will result in administrative separation from Peace Corps/Kenya.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Each Volunteer receives a monthly allowance sufficient to cover basic costs. The allowance enables you to live adequately according to the Peace Corps’ philosophy of a modest lifestyle. It is based on the local cost of living and is paid in local currency. Your living allowance is intended to cover food, housing, clothing, transportation from home to work site, utilities, household supplies, recreation and entertainment, incidental personal expenses, communications, and reading material.
Food and Diet
In most parts of Kenya, there is a wide choice of foods, ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables to meats. With a little creativity, you can enjoy a varied diet. Fruits and vegetables are seasonal, which means that some items may not be available at all times. Vegetarian Volunteers will have little difficulty in continuing their diets after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation.
All Volunteers will be expected to travel in Kenya using local transportation (i.e., foot, public buses, or matatu van). This includes getting from your training center to your site both during and at the end of pre-service training.
Volunteers may not own or operate motorized vehicles, but they are allowed to rent vehicles during approved vacation periods. Trainees and Volunteers are not allowed to drive any vehicle during training or at their sites.
Volunteers are provided 18-speed, all-terrain bicycles by the
Peace Corps. This bicycle is to be used with your extension
work, in conjunction with the use of public transport. They are also provided with a helmet, which they must use whenever they ride a bike.
Geography and Climate
Kenya is located in East Africa and covers 582,650 square kilometers. It is approximately the size of Nevada and shares borders with Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The climate varies from tropical along the coast to arid in the interior, and the topography varies from low plains to central highlands (with an altitude of 3,000 to 10,000 feet) to mountain ridges (e.g., 17,040 feet on Mount Kenya). From the mountains flow Kenya’s four major rivers—Tana, Athi, Tarkwel, and Uaso-Nyiro. The spectacular Rift Valley, a result of geological faulting, stretches all the way to Zimbabwe. Lake Victoria, in the Nyanza province, is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world.
Kenya has four seasons: January–March (warm, sunny, and dry), March–June (long rains), June–September (cool, cloudy, and dry), and October–December (short rains). Despite being on the equator, Kenya enjoys a temperate climate, with temperatures ranging from 55 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit depending on location. Kenya’s diversity of flora and fauna attracts visitors from all over the world, supporting the tourism industry.
The most common form of entertainment in rural communities is socializing with friends and family. Volunteers will take part in the various festivities, parties, and storytelling sessions within their communities. Many Volunteers bring or buy a shortwave radio to listen to international broadcasts (e.g., BBC and Voice of America). Satellite radio recievers and service can be bought in Nairobi.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Kenyans regard dress and appearance as an outward sign of the respect one holds for another individual. Neatness in appearance is much more important than being “stylish.” You are expected to dress appropriately (long skirts for women and slacks for men) in training, while traveling, and on the job. It takes only one inappropriately dressed Volunteer for a Kenyan host agency to arrive at a generally negative conclusion about the Peace Corps. This jeopardizes the credibility of the Volunteer and the entire program. Kenyan neighbors, counterparts, and supervisors may draw unfavorable impressions of a Volunteer’s appearance, and the Volunteer may never be aware that such impressions have been made. In such cases, Volunteers will never know how their work and credibility have been compromised. In addition, Volunteer dress should respect the cultural and religious norms of his or her community.
Volunteers should always wear clean and neat clothes. Buttoned shirts for men and blouses and skirts or dresses for women are appropriate wear during business hours. T-shirts are appropriate only for casual, nonbusiness activities. Tank tops, see-through blouses, or extremely low-cut blouses are not appropriate attire.
Men should not wear dirty or worn-out jeans. Jeans should not be worn during business hours unless the conditions of the job assignment or training activity allow it, and never when visiting government offices or the training center. In most cases, jeans are not acceptable attire for the Peace Corps office. However, should they be unavoidable (for instance, following travel), neat jeans are acceptable in the Peace Corps office and on “dress down” days at the training center. The Kenyan Ministry of Education has determined that jeans are not appropriate attire for classroom teachers.
Women may not wear casual slacks or jeans during business hours unless the conditions of the training activity or job assignment require it, and never when visiting government offices or the training center. Dresses and skirts to or below the knees are appropriate attire for women. Shorts may be worn only at home, when exercising (if appropriate), or when doing work where Kenyan counterparts are also wearing shorts. As mentioned above, only in specific circumstances are jeans, casual slacks, or shorts considered acceptable attire for women in the Peace Corps office or the training center.
Aside from the condition and type of clothing you wear, there are other standards of dress and appearance that need to be remembered. Female Volunteers should wear appropriate undergarments, including bras and slips. Your hair should be clean and combed. For men, beards should be neatly trimmed. Men should never wear a hat indoors, unless custom in the area allows it. Wearing a hat in government, Peace Corps, or similar offices is not allowed, and sunglasses should be removed when indoors. Finally, smoking is prohibited in all Peace Corps and training center offices and in Peace Corps vehicles.
These restrictions have been formalized only in response to specific instances of inappropriate dress and behavior by Volunteers. Because it is difficult to know automatically what is appropriate when entering a new culture, we present this list not to offend, but to inform. In general, the above guidance is meant to convey to Volunteers the point that adherence to professional standards is appropriate at all times and in all places.
Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to maintain high standards of behavior. Any behavior that could jeopardize the reputation of the Volunteer or the Peace Corps could be grounds for administrative separation. All Volunteers are reminded that they are subject to the laws of Kenya and have no immunity from them. The Peace Corps will assist Volunteers in criminal proceedings, but if the proceedings necessitate professional legal counsel, Peace Corps/Kenya must obtain prior approval from the general counsel’s office in Washington. Any costs arising from such counsel are usually the responsibility of the Volunteer. Peace Corps/Kenya cannot pay fines but can arrange for fines to be paid from the Volunteer’s readjustment allowance.
The matter of trainee or Volunteer sexual behavior is, of course, a highly personal one. However, because of other social implications of inappropriate behavior, it is important that Peace Corps standards be clear. Sexual mores in Kenya are very conservative and strict, and you are expected to respect them. Public displays of affection such as kissing, hand holding, or hugging, are not generally socially acceptable. Further information will be provided during your pre-service training on appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior.
If the country director determines that willful disregard of cultural standards is jeopardizing your credibility as a trainee or Volunteer or that of the entire program, you may be administratively separated from Peace Corps service.
Rewards and Frustrations
Before accepting this assignment, you should give ample thought to some of the potential obstacles that you will face. Until your adjustment to Kenya is complete, you will undoubtedly feel out of place speaking a new language and observing and trying to practice customs that seem strange to you. In addition, no matter what your ethnic, religious, or racial background is, you may stick out as someone from outside the Kenyan culture. However, many situations can indeed be overcome with a sense of humor and an ability to be open to new experiences. Your work situation may also present many difficulties and frustrations.
Most of your work will be to educate, motivate, and organize community groups. These are slow and challenging tasks. Co-workers, severely underpaid and burdened with extended family commitments, will have a much different outlook on life from your own, and rainy and agricultural seasons will delay many project activities. You must be able to work in an unstructured assignment and approach all of the above situations with flexibility, supreme patience, resourcefulness, and a sense of humor. Your commitment to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer will be tested throughout your service by any number of everyday events.
Peace Corps service is not for everyone. More than a mere job, it requires greater dedication and commitment to serve than do most other work environments. It is for confident, self-starting, and concerned individuals who are interested in assisting in other countries and increasing human understanding across cultural barriers. The key to satisfying work as a Peace Corps Volunteer is the ability to establish successful human relations at all levels. This requires patience, sensitivity, and a positive professional attitude. If you have the personal qualities needed to accept the challenge described above and can demonstrate them for a two-year service in Kenya, you will have a rewarding, enriching, and lasting experience, while at the same time making a much-needed contribution to Kenya’s development.
Often you will find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your colleagues, and take action with little guidance from supervisors. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact and without receiving feedback on your work. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the benefits are well worth the difficult times, and most Volunteers leave feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.
Even with the many economic, social, political, and environmental challenges facing Kenya today, there is an atmosphere of excitement and hope. The changes occurring are some of the most important in the country’s modern history. To join the people of Kenya in this effort, and to be part of this historically pivotal and defining moment, will be both fascinating and satisfying to any Volunteer willing to work hard, be tolerant of ambiguity, and give generously of his or her time.
Information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is outlined 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 many 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 Kenya. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Overview of Pre-Service Training
The most important function of Peace Corps staff is to provide support for Volunteers. Support does not imply daily supervision of Volunteers’ work, nor does it imply assuming parental roles. Volunteer support implies an ongoing interaction between Volunteers and all Peace Corps staff regarding how you handle such matters as your overall adjustment to the Peace Corps, your job assignment, and your community. Your associate Peace Corps director is responsible for making regular visits to your site to assist you in any way possible in your orientation in-country. Additionally, the country director and the Peace Corps medical officer make periodic visits to Volunteer sites.
Training will be busy for everyone. Often you will work over eight hours a day, five days a week. Be prepared for a rigorous, full schedule. The principal objectives of training are to provide a learning environment that enables you to develop the language (Kiswahili for all, Kenyan Sign Language for deaf educators), technical, and cultural skills; knowledge; and attitude necessary to work and live in Kenya.
The community/school-based approach used as the main training method means that you will spend most of your time learning by doing in your communities or schools and then reflecting on your experiences during formal sessions. You will spend most days in the field, completing hands-on, practical tasks and participating in group discussions, lectures, and field trips. Each week you will spend one or two days at the training center, or in one of the schools for deaf educators, discussing the prior week’s learning, preparing for the next work week, and attending essential cross-cultural, health, safety, administrative, and integration sessions.
All of the training staff are Kenyan nationals with solid experience in training Volunteers. They are helped by Volunteers, who provide a bi-national perspective as a bridge to support your transition from life in the United States to a job and life in Kenya, as well as share their personal experiences. Though we value other Volunteers’ experiences in training, each Peace Corps Volunteer’s experiences are as unique and individual as the person who enters Peace Corps service. The fact is that the only real answers to your many questions will be your own. Bring an open mind.
Technical training prepares you to work in Kenya by building on the skills you already have and by helping you to develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Kenya experts, and current Volunteers conduct 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 general environmental, economic, and political situations in Kenya and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s goals and will meet with the Kenya agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them.
You will be supported and evaluated by the training staff throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you will need to undertake your project activities and to be a productive member of your community.
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 host community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Kenyan language instructors give formal language classes five days a week in small classes of four to five people. The Kenyan language is also introduced in the health, culture, and technical components of training.
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. You will have classroom time and 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 develop language skills more thoroughly once you are at your site. Prior to swearing in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Kenyan host family. This is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families have gone through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of the pre-service training program and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Kenya. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural and community development will be covered to help improve your skills of perception, communication, and facilitation. Topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, and traditional and political structures are also addressed.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You are expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. As a trainee, you are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that Volunteers may encounter while in Kenya. 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.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during your travels. 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 trainees and Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are usually three training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three to six months.
- Midterm conference (done in conjunction with technical sector in-service): Assists Volunteers in reviewing their first year, reassessing their personal and project objectives, and planning for their second year of service.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences. 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.
YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN KENYA
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Kenya maintains qualified staff to take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Kenya at local, and equivalent American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an equivalent of American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Health Issues in Kenya
Kenya is geographically diverse. The terrain includes tropical forests, desert savannas, mountains, and coastal areas. Health risks in Kenya include insect-borne diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, typanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), relapsing fever, tick-borne typhus, plague, and dengue fever; food- and water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), intestinal worms, giardiasis, amebiasis, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and E, and cholera; hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS; polio; and rabies and snake bites. There are also periodic outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis in some areas, and fatal hemorrhagic fevers are present but rare.
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 Kenya, you will receive a health handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a health 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 training, you will have access to medical attention through the medical office. However, during this time, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we 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 new shipments to arrive.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical office in Kenya will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Kenya, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
The foundation for staying healthy in Kenya will be your mental outlook: knowing that you can adjust to a varied climate, a different diet, a new language, culture, and job.
As a Volunteer, you must accept a certain amount of 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 are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Kenya is to take preventive measures for the following:
Food and water preparation. Many diseases that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, amebiasis, giardiasis, hepatitis A, dysentery, all types of worms, and typhoid fever. Your medical office will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation for Kenya during pre-service training.
Prevention of malaria. Malaria is endemic in Kenya. Malaria can rapidly become fatal in people who have no natural immunity to the disease. It is extremely important to fully comply with the recommended drug regimen to prevent malaria.
Immunizations. The majority of your immunizations will be given to you during your pre-service training. Most immunizations are good for the duration of your time in Kenya. The exception is typhoid, which will require a booster if you extend for a third year of service.
Rabies. Rabies is present in nearly all Peace Corps countries. Any possible exposure to a rabid animal must be reported immediately to the medical office. Rabies exposure can occur through animal bites, scratches from animals’ teeth, and contact with animal saliva. Your medical officer will take into consideration many factors to decide the appropriate course of therapy necessary to prevent rabies.
Pregnancy. Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the Peace Corps medical office. A reliable method of birth control should be chosen before you leave the United States. Condoms, diaphragms, contraceptive jellies and foams, and some commonly prescribed birth control pills are available on request.
The spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/ AIDS. Volunteers must use available means in every sexual encounter where bodily fluids may be transferred or they risk contracting a deadly disease. HIV/AIDS is a major health concern in Kenya. In the United States high-risk groups include sexually active homosexuals and bisexual men with multiple partners, intravenous drug users, and heterosexuals with multiple partners. It is important to emphasize that while HIV/AIDS in the United States has occurred primarily (though not exclusively) in these high-risk groups, in Kenya, the disease affects men and women equally, regardless of sexual preference, and is primarily transmitted by heterosexual contact. It is the responsibility of Volunteers to protect not only themselves but also a sexual partner. The medical office will provide you with information and tools to help you remain safe during your pre-service training and service in Kenya.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is a health condition that is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions requiring medical attention, but may 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 can be met. The majority of Volunteers who become pregnant and wish to carry to term are medically separated.
A variety of feminine hygiene products are available locally, though a preferred brand may not be available. If you require a certain product, bring a sufficient supply with you.
Your Peace Corps First-Aid Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a first-aid kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that might occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
First-Aid Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Sterile gauze pads
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since the time 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 whether you need to update your records.
If your dentist or 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, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. 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, either at your predeparture orientation or shortly after you arrive in Kenya. You will need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure while at the staging event.
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, we 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, or antioxidant supplements.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, although it 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. To reduce the risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease, we discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service. 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 their use has been recommended by an ophthalmologist 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 and/or preexisting conditions might prevent you from re-enrolling 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).
- Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
- Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
- Absence of others: Assaults ususally occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompannied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
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:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
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 Kenya as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 2000–2004. 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-aday, 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 Kenya
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 Kenya. You can reduce your risk of becoming a target for crime by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking advance precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions, especially in large towns, are the favorite work sites for pickpockets. Following are some safety concerns in Kenya of which you should be aware.
Major Kenyan cities are growing at a rapid rate, and with increasing economic difficulties, they are becoming more dangerous. There are increases in the number of beggars, street children, and violent crimes in all the large cities of Kenya.
Travel is by far one of the biggest concerns for Volunteers in Kenya. The safest response is to avoid travel whenever possible; yet, the reality is that for work, medical, or other reasons Volunteers do travel from time to time. As part of Peace Corps/Kenya’s overall preventive strategy to reduce road travel, we have developed a safety and security plan that includes bringing service closer to Volunteers (e.g., conducting medical clinics at regional offices and conducting regional meetings), and we have developed detailed safety policies regarding Volunteer travel. Regional meetings provide opportunities to review safety and security information at Volunteer sites, discuss preventive strategies, and review or revise locator maps and the emergency action plan.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large 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 Kenya, do what you would do if you moved to a large 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 Kenya may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle. Remember that no matter how well you get to know your community, you still need to be careful with your possessions. Having goods stolen is a major source of stress, and this can make Volunteers even more vulnerable. You need to consider strategies to protect yourself and your possessions during the day and night.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and at their sites, but receive far more negative attention in highly populated centers where they are anonymous. In smaller towns, “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. 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. Keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, such as the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. Avoid walking or cycling at night. Peace Corps/Kenya has developed a very comprehensive Volunteer safety and security handbook that will be issued to you when you arrive in the country.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Kenya
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. Kenya’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Kenya office will keep Volunteers informed on any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Kenya. 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 your two-year 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. Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for the 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 criteria are based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; safety and security and other support needs.
You will also learn about the country’s detailed emergency action plan 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, Volunteers in Kenya will gather at predetermined locations until the situation resolves itself 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 Peace Corps medical officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to responding to the needs of the Volunteer, the Peace Corps collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
DIVERSITY AND CROSSCULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. 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 welcome 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 as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Kenya, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of Kenya’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as “typical” cultural behavior or norms may be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception in some countries that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Kenya 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 differences that you present. We will ask you to be supportive of one another.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Kenya, 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/Kenya staff and the Peace Corps/Kenya Diversity and Peer Support group will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in Kenya
The Peace Corps staff in Kenya recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to 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 cultures, backgrounds, religions, ethnic groups, ages, and sexual orientations and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who will take pride in supporting one other and demonstrating the richness of American culture. Our approach to diversity is to:
- Prepare our staff for working with a diverse population of trainees and Volunteers;
- Prepare trainees and Volunteers for adjusting to issues related to diversity; and
- Prepare communities for working and living with Americans from diverse populations.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Peace Corps Volunteers in Kenya work mostly in rural areas. Traditional gender roles are very distinct in Kenya, especially among the Muslim community. Generally, women are expected to show deference to men and do most of the housework. Sexual harassment (e.g., men making unwanted comments) is common. As a Volunteer, it is important to stand up for your rights and beliefs as a person while still being culturally sensitive. Female Volunteers should expect curiosity from host country friends regarding their marital status and whether they have children, and if not, why.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
The average rural Kenyan assumes that all Americans are Caucasian. With this assumption, Volunteers of color might expect people to react to them differently. White Volunteers may receive special attention, both positive and negative, including being harassed for money, especially in public areas. Volunteers of color, on the other hand, may not receive the special attention.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
The Kenyan culture has great respect for age. The Kiswahili language even has special expressions for addressing seniors. As a senior Volunteer, people may offer to do things for you as a sign of respect. Since the mandatory retirement age is 55, Kenyans may not fully comprehend why a “retiree” would still be working.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and is punishable by imprisonment or deportation. Many Kenyans have beliefs
about homosexuality similar to those of many Americans in the 1940s and 1950s. It is important for gay, lesbian,
or bisexual Volunteers to know about these conservative attitudes to be able to live and work productively in Kenyan
communities. Past Volunteers in Kenya have reported that they could not publicly acknowledge their sexuality for fear
of negative repercussions. We suggest that anyone wishing to discuss this subject do so in confidence with a Peace Corps staff member. The medical office can provide confidential counseling and help connect you with the gay and lesbian support group for returned Volunteers.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
Kenya is a highly religious society, mostly Christian. Prayers at public gatherings are common. Generally, you will not observe the separation of church and state in your community activities. People will ask you what denomination you are and might try to convert you to theirs.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Kenyans who are physically challenged are generally not accorded the same human dignity as other Kenyans.
Regardless of the nature of the physical challenge, social services are generally lacking for these Kenyans. Volunteers teaching in deaf education schools are often disturbed by attitudes of their colleagues and community toward deaf children. Peace Corps/Kenya complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act to ensure productive Peace Corps service by physically challenged Volunteers.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Kenya?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. 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 authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 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 Kenya?
The local current is 220-240 volts/50 cycles. Small electrical appliances can generally be used with transformers. Some Volunteers’ houses have electricity. We suggest that you bring a converter. Electric clocks will not keep time because of different cycles. There are power surges and fluctuations as well as outages, which take a toll on equipment. In general, do not bring electrical appliances. If you are one of the few Peace Corps Volunteers to have electricity, appliances for 220 voltage are available in-country, but are very expensive. If not, a solar battery recharger may be useful.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. Bank cards from many U.S. banks are accepted at ATMs in the major cities. They will dispense cash from a U.S. account in Kenya shillings, but addtional fees will be assessed. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that suits 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.
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 by contacting your own insurance company. 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 Kenya do not need to get an international driver’s license, and are prohibited from driving for safety and security reasons at their sites, and discouraged from driving while on authorized leave. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. For transportation needs with your overseas visitors, rental companies provide drivers at reasonable rates.
What should I bring as gifts for Kenya friends and my host family?
While 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?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed their pre-service training. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but will usually be within one hour from the nearest Volunteer. A very small proportion of Volunteers live in urban areas, but not in the capital, Nairobi.
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, you should 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.
Can I call home from Kenya?
Yes. Most large cities and provincial capitals have a domestic long-distance telephone system; regional centers and some large cities provide overseas telephone services or international calling via the Internet. In some locations, the service is fast and efficient; in other areas, it may take several hours to get calls through. Personal overseas calls cannot be made from any Peace Corps office. Volunteers must use locally available public phones for all personal calls.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. The cellphone technology in Kenya is different. Kenya has low frequency while the United States has high frequency. It is easy and relatively cheap to buy a cellular phone in Kenya. The cost ranges from $50 to $150. Kenya has two service providers, Safaricom and Celtel.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There are now cybercafes in major towns that provide Internet access. In most towns, Internet is also available at the post office. However, Volunteers can access e-mail in the Nairobi office resource center on a time-available basis.
Some Volunteers choose to bring a laptop computer, and many have found it useful in their work. However, access to reliable electricity cannot be guaranteed and, as with any valuable, there is the threat of theft, loss or damage.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Kenya 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 Kenya.
You may also find that the clothing you bring from home will suffer more wear and tear than ususal. Fortunately, used clothing markets abound in Kenya, even in smaller towns, so it is not necessary to bring two years’ worth of clothes.
- Several pairs of khaki trousers
- Sweatshirts/ fleece
- Athletic shorts, for sports or home
- One or two dressy outfits
- Long skirts
- Cotton socks (grey or atheletic)
- Undergarments, including slips for women
Durable shoes are an essential investment. Shoes will wear out more quickly in Kenya than you are used to because of all the walking you will do.
- One or two pairs of hiking/walking shoes or boots
- One or two pairs of sneakers or running shoes
- Two pairs of comfortable dress shoes
- Comfortable sandals
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
A range of basic hygiene items is available in most towns and cities, however, if you have strong personal preferences, plan to bring those brands.
- Deodorant (if you prefer the stick kind, which is not available locally)
- Contact lens solutions (available locally but very expensive); the Peace Corps does not provide these
- A three-month supply of any prescription drugs you take, including birth control pills
- Good-quality sunscreen (with a high SPF)
- Tampons (o.b. brand is available locally but expensive)
- Aloe or after-sun lotion
- Camera and accessories (film is available locally)
- Music player/recorder—iPod, MP3, CD, cassette (voltage coverters are available locally)
- Your favorite music (blank tapes are available locally)
- Shortwave radio (three- to seven-band is recommended)
- Portable musical instruments
- Biking shorts and gloves (the Peace Corps provides a helmet and repair tools)
- Sports equipment (e.g., Frisbee, kites, football, soccer ball, snorkeling gear)
- Art supplies
- Games and puzzle books (e.g., playing cards, cribbage, Scrabble, chess)
- Favorite novels (but there will also be plenty circulating among Volunteers)
- Almanac and dictionary
- Camping or hiking gear
- Tent (useful for travel as well as backpacking)
- Pens and pencils, stationery, and notebooks
- Alarm clock
- Solar calculator (essential for small enterprise development Volunteers)
- Sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
- Solar batteries and recharger
- Sewing kit
- Knives (available locally but of poor quality)
- Plastic storage bags and containers
- Duct tape
- Peeler, grater, etc. (available locally but expensive)
- All-purpose knife (e.g., Leatherman)
- Packaged sauces, seasoning and soft-drink mixes
- Solar shower
- Work gloves
- Cash (most Volunteers bring $200 to $500 in traveler’s checks for travel and vacation)
- Credit card and/or ATM card
- At least 12 passport-size photos of yourself for visas, work permits, etc. (NOTE: These photos are a must)
- Pictures from home
- U.S. and world maps
- U.S. stamps (you can often have letters mailed in the United States by travelers)
- Checks from a U.S. bank account (handy for ordering things from home)
- Day planner
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 does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.
- Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer after your service, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a six-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. Many times if there is a lapse in supplemental health coverage it is difficult and expensive to be reinstated for insurance. This is especially true when insurance companies know you have predictable expenses and are in an upper age bracket.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance for the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.