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For the official Welcome Book for Lesotho see here
History of the Peace Corps in Lesotho
The Peace Corps was invited to work in Lesotho in 1967. Since that time, a relatively constant number of about 95 Volunteers have served at any given time in Lesotho, except for a brief time following a political uprising in 1998. Education, agriculture, and health have been the primary Peace Corps programs here. The focus of Volunteer placement has been rural development, which mirrors the country’s 85 percent rural population demography. Volunteers serve in all 10 districts of the country.
The current goals of Peace Corps/Lesotho programming are based on community development projects that place Volunteers in education, HIV/AIDS, the environment, and community economic development.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming
in Lesotho Peace Corps/Lesotho responds to Lesotho’s needs by strengthening the capacity of individual Basotho to take control of their own lives. Volunteers achieve this goal by providing quality, relevant educational concepts and techniques to teachers, students, individuals, and groups. Volunteers also promote vocational skills training and self-employment, and help Basotho citizens access resources to maintain and improve Lesotho’s unique environment.
Education Volunteers are assigned to the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) to strengthen the quality of education through deployment of English teachers in secondary schools and resource teachers in both early childhood care centers and primary schools. The resource teachers work with their counterparts to equip the teachers and caregivers in primary schools and early childhood education programs with skills to enable them to use innovative and appropriate teaching methodologies, enhancing their classroom management skills and applying principles of gender equity in their teaching practices.
Secondary education Volunteers use quality English language classroom instruction and assist in developing critical thinking skills through innovative teaching methods.
All education Volunteers work to enhance reading, establish functional libraries, and do HIV/AIDS education in the schools and local communities. Some are members of the district AIDS task forces. Volunteers also promote the concept of girls education through clubs, tutoring, and other mentoring activities.
Community health and development Volunteers are placed in all 10 districts of Lesotho. The purpose of the community health and development project (CHED) is to develop an HIV/AIDS-competent and economically productive society. Volunteers focus on preventing and mitigating the effects of HIV/AIDS, strengthening community-based organizations, youth development and skills promotion, and business and economic development. There are four areas of concentration in the CHED project: HIV/AIDS, agriculture/nutrition, youth, and community development. HIV/AIDS Volunteers are working at the village and district levels to provide HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs. Other Volunteers in this program provide sustainable, effective outreach to youth, entrepreneurs, and income-generation groups.
There are more than 50 Volunteers serving in this sector. They work to establish better services for orphan and vulnerable children in various villages; help organizations and groups mobilize resources and community support for needed food security and HIV/AIDS mitigation programs; assist district level government in training local chiefs and traditional healers on HIV/AIDS; help communities to develop cultural tourism markets; assist in establishing pony-trecking income-producing activities; and provide technical assistance to producer groups on product diversification, qualty control, and marketing.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. You will need to utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW: LESOTHO AT A GLANCE
Lesotho became a British protectorate in 1868 after a series of territorial wars in the mid-19th century that cost Lesotho much of its best agricultural land. It gained its independence in 1966, by which time Lesotho had already been forced into a state of economic dependence on South Africa. The civilian government elected at independence suspended the Constitution in 1970 and remained in office until a military coup in 1986. The first democratic elections were held in March 1993, and the Basotholand Congress Party won all constituencies.
King Letsie III remains the head of state. After the election in May 2002, Professor Pakalitha Mosisili was reelected as the head of government, otherwise known as the prime minister. He presides over a parliamentary system. The government of Lesotho is confident that political stability and improved relations with South Africa will increase investment and continue the remittances of income created by the skilled Basotho workforce employed in South Africa’s mines and other sectors.
Lesotho is a developing country with a free-market economy. With a current per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $580, Lesotho ranks among the world’s lowest-income countries and is classified as one of the least developed countries by the United Nations. More than 55 percent of the population (of a total population of approximately 2 million) derives income and employment from the agricultural sector, yet the sector only contributes approximately 14 percent of GDP. More than 40 percent of GDP is composed of remittances from Basotho migrant workers in South Africa.
People and Culture
Lesotho presents a dichotomy of past and present, traditional and modern beliefs. For example, weddings are conducted with the full blessing of the church, but bride prices are still extracted from the groom’s family. The bride, in turn, becomes his property. Cattle represent wealth among the Basotho. Lesotho’s viable pastures are diminishing by the year, but Basotho still value cows more than money. Many cultural rites demand the sacrifice of a cow. For most Basotho, purchasing cows as required for cultural rites is more expensive than raising them on open pasture.
The country and people of Lesotho are generally conservative in nature, due, in part, to inherited colonial traditions and the influence of well-established Catholic and Protestant missionaries. The Basotho therefore generally favor Volunteers who are self-motivated, maintain professional standards (including professional dress), present a neat appearance, and set a good example as dedicated development workers.
Lesotho is a land of mountains, with two major ranges dissecting the country from the northeast to the southwest. It lies entirely outside the tropics, at roughly 30 degrees south longitude, which is the southern hemisphere equivalent of Houston, Texas. Some of the most incredible scenery in all of Africa lies in Lesotho—one of the continent’s smallest countries.
Lesotho’s climatic conditions are subject to wide seasonal and geographic variations. Temperatures range from 36 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 32 degrees Celsius) in the lowlands and are generally lower and more volatile in the highlands. The mean annual rainfall ranges between 24 inches (600 millimeters) in the southern and western lowlands and 48 inches (1,200 millimeters) in the northeastern highlands. The country is vulnerable to frost, heavy snowfall, and hailstorms during the winter months. Recurrent periods of drought have contributed to the desertification in the south, and intense pressures on the land have further contributed to the serious environmental degradation. With only 9 percent of the 12,142 square miles (30,355 square kilometers) of land suitable for food production, farmland is scarce. Both arable and range lands are heavily eroded, so Lesotho imports most of its food and relies on food donations during drought periods.
Because Lesotho has a temperate climate, it is a relatively healthy climate in which to live. Tropical diseases such as malaria are not a problem, but waterborne diseases; ear, nose, and throat ailments; and skin problems are prevalent. Because the weather is extremely dry, and the winter season is very cold, some people with preexisting respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis will have problems.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Lesotho and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.
A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experiences, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
Finding books about Lesotho can be difficult. Those that can be found are typically travel guides, or deal with an overly specific topic, and may not offer much depth to someone planning to live and work there for two years. A number of books about Basotho culture and history are available in Lesotho, particularly through the Morija Museum.
General Information About Lesotho
On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Maseru to how to convert from the dollar to the loti. Just click on Lesotho and go from there.
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Lesotho and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.
This weather site provides weather reports from remote places around the world.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
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 go straight to the Friends of Lesotho site: http://www.friendsoflesotho.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 of their Peace Corps service.
Online Articles/Current News Sites About Lesotho
Website aggregates and indexes content from more than 125 African news organizations and more than 200 other sources.
News Wire Stories About Lesotho
The Lesotho News Agency
The site of South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper
Site of the U.S. Embassy in Lesotho
Site of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Lesotho to the United Nations
International Development Sites
The United Nations Development Programme in Lesotho
- Pinchuck, Tony. The Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. London: Rough Guides, 2005.
- Knight, Ian J. Warrior Chiefs of Southern Africa. London: Sterling Publications, 1995.
- Nthunya, Mpho ‘M’atsepo, et al. Singing Away the Hunger: The Autobiography of an African Woman. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.
- Eldridge, Elizabeth A. A South African Kingdom: the Pursuit of Security in Nineteenth-Century Lesotho. Cambridge; UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
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, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, N.Y.: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Mail in Lesotho is fairly reliable. Volunteers find they generally receive mail and packages from the United States in two to three weeks. The same is true in sending mail from Lesotho. Of course, there are exceptional cases in which a letter or a package might arrive within a shorter period or be substantially delayed. These cases are more apt to occur during the holiday season rush—yes, the holiday rush applies to life in Lesotho, too! Rarely, but occasionally, Volunteers lose letters or packages altogether. It is a good idea to number all letters and packages you send to the United States and to encourage people sending you things to do the same. If you do this consistently, you will always know when something has gone missing.
While in pre-service training, you will receive all mail through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box address:
“Your Name,” PCT
c/o Peace Corps/Lesotho
PO Box 554
Maseru, 100 LESOTHO
During your Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site. However, Volunteers may always elect to receive mail through the Peace Corps post office box number.
If a package or parcel is sent to you through the Peace Corps/Lesotho post office box while you are in pre-service training, the training director will request identification from you so that we can retrieve the package on your behalf. Usually we only need your passport for this purpose. After pre-service training, you will need to retrieve your own packages.
A large part of the country does not have land-line telephones. Opportunities to call the United States during pre-service training will be limited. Upon your arrival in-country, the Peace Corps will issue you a phone card or access to a cellular phone with which you can make a brief (less than five minutes) call to the United States. Any other calls will be at your expense.
During the community-based training portion of pre-service training, telephones are likely to be unavailable because community sites are in rural settings.
As Volunteers, you may or may not have a land-line phone in your home. Most often, Volunteers in Lesotho find that a neighbor or the organization they work with has a land line they are able to use. Some Volunteers may be able to be reached only by radio.
Peace Corps/Lesotho does not encourage Volunteers to bring personal cellphones to Lesotho. The cell network is different than in the United States, and it can be quite expensive to use international roaming. If you are interested in having a cellphone as a Volunteer, you may purchase one after you have been sworn in. You should discuss this option with your associate Peace Corps director before purchasing the phone. In some rare instances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may provide you with a cellphone for official Peace Corps-related calls only.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
Some Volunteers elect to bring laptop computers to Lesotho. Please keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you will be working or living in a village with regular access to electricity. If you choose to bring a laptop computer, make certain that you purchase personal insurance to cover the computer in case of theft or damage. Also, bring all the equipment necessary for the computer’s operation (i.e., adapters, surge protectors, modem (if applicable), etc.). While there are two reputable computer dealers in Maseru, they mainly deal with Windows systems, and the services and equipment are very expensive for Volunteers.
Notify family and friends that you will have very limited access to the Internet while you are in training, and may have limited access during your time as a Volunteer in Lesotho. Many Volunteer sites will not have land-line telephone or cellphone coverage either.
If you are lucky, you may be placed in one of the three districts where Peace Corps/Lesotho has district resource centers. These resource centers have basic computer equipment that Volunteers can use (i.e., computer, printer, and photocopy machine). However, the centers are subject to temporary suspension or even closure because of rising costs to maintain these outlets. Volunteers also have access to computers and the Internet at the Peace Corps office in Maseru. In addition, Internet cafes are becoming more popular in Lesotho, and there are several cafes in Maseru and in neighboring towns in South Africa. Internet access is only as reliable as the telephone lines provided in the area.
Housing and Site Location
You must be prepared for a number of hardships and for a lack of amenities that you are probably accustomed to in the United States. Each house will be simply furnished with a bed, a two-burner gas stove, and a heater for winter. You will probably have to walk a short distance to fetch water from a community water tap. Depending on where you are stationed, you may be required to use an outdoor pit latrine. The Peace Corps works with communities prior to the arrival of Volunteers at their sites to ensure safe and adequate housing. For a house to be considered suitable, it must have strong doors and windows, a good roof, and burglar bars. Many Volunteers live in a one-room rondavel (round house) with an outdoor pit latrine. Others may be provided housing on a school compound and may have electricity, indoor plumbing, and running water.
Living Allowance and Money Management
When training ends and you move to your work site, you will receive a modest, one-time settling-in allowance. This is meant to cover basic household supplies, including any additional furniture you might need. During your Volunteer service, you will be given just over 1,400 rand (approximately $220) per month as a living allowance. This money should cover items such as utilities, food, household supplies, domestic help, clothing, recreation, transportation, reading materials, incidentals, and communication expenses while you are a Volunteer. Additionally, in the winter months you will receive a heating allowance. You will also receive a leave allowance of $24 each month once you are sworn in (given in rand at the same time as your living allowance) and you will accrue $225 a month, which you receive at the end of your service as a readjustment allowance.
The living and leave allowances are deposited in a Lesotho bank account for you on a monthly basis. The bank account will be opened for you by the Peace Corps/Lesotho cashier.
Peace Corps/Lesotho discourages Volunteers from using other sources of money to supplement their daily needs during service, as the living allowance should sufficiently cover those expenses and it is important that Volunteers live at the same economic level as their hosts. However, people may want to bring additional funds for travel during vacations. For this reason, many Peace Corps/Lesotho Volunteers opt to bring credit cards and/or debit cards, traveler’s checks, dollars, or checkbooks with them to Lesotho.
Credit cards (and usually debit cards) are widely accepted at places of business in South Africa and parts of Lesotho. Major hotels, restaurants, and shops in Maseru or tourist areas will be able to process electronic payments, but your village shop or cafe will probably not. There are ATMs in Lesotho and even more in South Africa that can access accounts in the United States. Be sure to bring your PIN for any credit or debit cards you bring. After two years of service, lots of things will get rusty, including your memory for the PIN!
Places that accept credit cards generally also accept traveler’s checks, but it is difficult to purchase traveler’s checks in Lesotho unless you have an airline ticket for leaving the country.
A personal checkbook from the United States is not so helpful as very few places are able to accept the risk of cashing a check from a foreign account. However, it is a good idea to bring all account numbers, your bank’s name and address, and the bank’s nine-digit routing number with you. When you finish your service, you will have options about the way in which you receive some post-Volunteer service allowances.
Many Volunteers want to have it by direct deposit. This can be convenient for folks who wish to travel and want to withdraw necessary amounts from their accounts back home (as opposed to carrying large amounts of cash with you as you travel home).
Food and Diet
Most food, such as fruits and vegetables, is imported from South Africa. There is a wide range to choose from if you have access to shops in the bigger towns in Lesotho or in the towns across the border in South Africa. The main meal of the Basotho includes papa, made of cornmeal; moroho, or vegetables (mainly cabbage); and nama, or meat, which could be beef, pork, mutton, or chicken.
Dairy products are also available. Because of the prevalence of tuberculosis and brucellosis in Lesotho, do not consume raw milk. For storage purposes, we recommend the use of powdered milk or ultrapasteurized milk, which comes in cartons and is available all over Lesotho.
Maintaining a vegetarian diet in Lesotho can be quite challenging in terms of being able to find all that you need to get recommended daily allowances of vital food groups. Whether you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian (eats dairy products and eggs) or a vegan (consumes no animal products at all), your daily meals will need to be balanced to provide sufficient energy. The medical office provides multivitamin supplements, calcium tablets, iron, and, in some instances, vitamin B-12. Tofu and other soybean products are available in neighboring towns in South Africa, although they can be expensive. There is a wide variety of pulses (legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils) in Lesotho.
Many Volunteers in Lesotho have their own vegetable gardens.
This enables you to have fresh food when you need it, and gardening can be good for your mental and emotional wellbeing. There are four distinct seasons in Lesotho; during training you will receive a chart indicating the crops that grow in Lesotho and when they should be planted.
We will discuss achievement of a healthy and balanced diet extensively during pre-service training, and there is more detailed information in the health handbook you will receive on arrival in Lesotho.
Local transportation varies from your own two feet to “luxury” coach buses. For the most part, as a Volunteer you will travel around the country in either kombis (which are basically minivans that seat 10-12 people comfortably), slightly larger taxi/bus crossbreeds, or regular buses.
The terrain in Lesotho is mountainous and rocky and Volunteers are expected to walk long distances on rocky, uneven terrain. It is more likely that Volunteers will walk from two to eight kilometers before reaching their work site of where they can access public transportation. Volunteers will be based in camp towns and rural villages and will use public transportation when shopping in camp towns to purchase food supplies and to go out to participate in community activities in different parts of the district. The fares for buses and taxis are reasonable.
At your site you will most likely walk to work or to shop. A few Volunteers may be issued bicycles or horses depending on resource availability and safety and security concerns. If deemed necessary, Peace Corps/Lesotho will provide you with a bicycle and mandatory helmet for riding to work. If you need to ride a horse to work, Peace Corps/Lesotho will provide the necessary gear for riding, including the mandatory helmet. Horseback riding for official purposes must be approved in advance by the Peace Corps medical office in Lesotho.
Under exceptional circumstances, Peace Corps/Lesotho may authorize Volunteers to operate a motor vehicle for project-related purposes. This is very rare and must be justified by the supervisor before it can be approved. The country director must approve all requests to drive a vehicle for work. Operating or riding on a motorcycle is strictly prohibited by Peace Corps/Lesotho.
Geography and Climate
January is the hottest month, though the evenings can be refreshingly cool. Spending Christmas under a hot sun takes a bit of mental adjustment, but not too much.
The climate can be extreme. Daytime temperatures in the summer may reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and in the winter there can be severe frost and even snow, especially in the mountains. Summer falls between November and February, and winter falls between May and July. Rain is fairly regular in the summer and is often mixed with hail. The days range from very hot to cool and damp. In the winter, the sunshine warms the days, but the breezes are still cool, and the nights are very cold. Lesotho’s climate is the result of its high altitude. As the “Roof of Africa,” it does not have what one normally would think of as an African climate. Lesotho includes the highest parts of the Drakensberg Mountains in the east. It also has the distinction of having the “highest low point” of any country in the world. Stated simply, this means that Lesotho’s lowlands are a high plateau, and from there the only way to go is up!
For the most part, social activities in Lesotho are fairly informal. Those who are interested in getting to know you can be quite persistent. It is normal for people to stop by completely unannounced. Do not be put off by this; the Basotho will expect the same from you. It is rare to receive a formal invitation to visit. If you want to see someone, just stop by. Unfortunately, many social situations are connected to funeral activities. While it may seem inappropriate to utilize such activities to socialize, they are a useful way to get to know your community. Your presence will be welcomed and appreciated. It is important to establish relationships within your community. Most Volunteers feel that having relationships with host country nationals makes life in Lesotho more enjoyable and easier to handle. The Basotho are a welcoming, hospitable people. You will meet many who will look out for you and make sure you are taken care of. Within a few months, many Volunteers refer to their Lesotho hosts as “families” and feel that Lesotho is home.
Rural areas offer few recreational opportunities. Alcohol use in Lesotho is widespread and alcohol abuse is common.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
As representatives of the United States and Peace Corps/Lesotho, your appearance must be acceptable and appropriate both on the job and while in Maseru on official business. If in doubt about what constitutes acceptable and appropriate appearance, take note of what your Basotho coworkers and counterparts wear and you will never go wrong.
Volunteers who do not adhere to these guidelines will be asked to discuss the matter with a member of the staff. Those who continue to ignore the appearance policy will be invited to discuss the situation with the country director. If a mutually agreeable resolution cannot be reached, administrative separation from the Peace Corps may be considered.
In Lesotho there are different standards of dress for men and women. Although this may not seem fair, you are entering a culture other than your own in which some values are different. It is important that you let the Basotho standards be your guide and focus on what you are doing to assist the people of Lesotho and not on how you look. Good judgment, good taste, and cleanliness are all important.
The Peace Corps office represents the public face of the Peace Corps, therefore all Volunteers, staff, trainees, and contractors should dress in appropriate business attire when in the office. When conducting official Peace Corps business in meetings with government representatives, other donor agencies, and citizen groups, or at a job site, Volunteers are required to wear appropriate dress.
For some work situations (including those of community health and development Volunteers), pants for women are appropriate and acceptable. However, it is recommended that they be loose fitting. Spandex tights, for example, are not acceptable. Clothing should be durable and comfortable.
Hair must be clean and neat. Clothing must be clean, mended, and ironed. Shoes must be polished and clean. Backpacks and day packs must be clean. Shorts are not considered professional attire; consequently, they are not acceptable at the Peace Corps office during business hours. Slacks (dress pants, denim jeans and/or culottes) may be worn by women when in Maseru on official business.
Small studs in one’s nose are acceptable during working hours. You should be mindful, however, that multiple nose rings appear strange in this culture and at times may be cause for harassment. Obvious tattoos are not appropriate for either men or women; in Lesotho, tattoos are associated with prisoners.
At work and in office situations, women are required to wear skirts, dresses, or slacks. Slacks are not appropriate in the classroom in some schools, though culottes and split skirts are acceptable. It is important that you take your lead from how your Basotho colleages dress before wearing pants or jeans to the classroom. If the material from which the garment is made is sheer or see-through, a camisole or slip should be worn underneath to avoid exposing your thighs. Sleeveless garments may be acceptable if they are not so open as to expose undergarments. Sleeves are preferable to sleeveless for classroom wear, particularly in the rural districts. Bras should be worn with professional clothing. Spaghetti straps, bare-backed tops, and tops that exposue the midriff must be avoided to minimize unwanted attention. Sandals are acceptable if they are not too casual. (Birkenstocks or Tevas are not appropriate for classroom or office wear.) Casual flats are also acceptable.
Women outside of Maseru seldom wear pants and almost never wear shorts. If you are in Maseru after your official business has been taken care of, it is acceptable to wear clean, neat, mended jeans or slacks.
During the summer pre-service training (November-January), women are expected to wear skirts or dresses to all training sessions; pants or jeans may be worn only during free time. During the winter pre-service training (June-August), women are encouraged to wear skirts or dresses, but because of the cold weather, dressy pants, jeans, or culottes are also acceptable. Comfortable, professional shoes should be worn at all times.
For men, wearing hair below the nape of the neck, ponytails, and adornments are unacceptable. Hair should be no longer than to the nape of the neck, clean, and neatly trimmed. Beards and mustaches are acceptable if they are clean and neatly trimmed. Though neatly groomed braids are becoming more fashionable in Lesotho, you should avoid thick matted braids because these tend to be associated with the drug culture. Note that dreadlocks are often associated with drug use or unprofessional behavior in Basotho culture and can be unacceptable in some positions.
Volunteers should dress sharply at work. Casual pants and well-kept jeans are acceptable in the classroom or in meetings with business clients. Short-sleeved shirts and polo shirts are also acceptable. As a general rule, men wear shoes for business; however, sandals are acceptable in the classroom or in business meetings if they are not too casual. Earrings for men are not acceptable in the workplace. Assess the situation in your community to determine if they are acceptable after working hours.
When in town, jeans, chinos, or other casual pants worn with T-shirts (if in good repair) are acceptable. During pre-service training, men are required to wear long pants and comfortable shoes during all official training sessions. Shorts may be worn only during free time.
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Lesotho Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help Volunteers reduce their risks and enhance their safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Lesotho. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Rewards and Frustrations
Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a rewarding experience. Living in Lesotho, you will meet an enriching variety of Basotho and learn many new things about our world and Lesotho culture. If you have never lived overseas before, your Volunteer experience will provide an excellent opportunity for you to see yourself and American culture from another vantage point. If you have lived or traveled extensively overseas, living in Lesotho may provide you with additional depth in your understanding of the world. Regardless of your background, being a Lesotho Volunteer will offer many opportunities to grow and learn.
With more than 35 years of operation in Lesotho, the Peace Corps is a respected organization that is recognized for performing an essential role in Lesotho’s development. The people of Lesotho are very welcoming to Volunteers and do their best to ensure Volunteers have everything they need to work successfully. Basotho are very business-oriented and professional and expect the same from Peace Corps Volunteers. At the same time, most Basotho love a good party with plenty of delicious food and good music.
However wonderful your Volunteer experience is, there will also be times when you will feel frustrations and perhaps even aggravations. As with any new and foreign experience, there will be ups and downs. Life in Lesotho, as in most places, is not perfect. Sometimes you might feel that everyone’s curiosity about you and America is overwhelming; you might feel like your home is a fishbowl with Basotho constantly watching all that you do; you might become frustrated by buses that do not arrive on time or meetings that do not take place when scheduled. Accomplishing a project or goal that would take a couple of days or a week in the United States might take a month or several months here because of a lack of resources, information, and infrastructure. If you live in a lowland area, you might be able to access the things you need to complete a project in a few weeks, but Volunteers living in mountainous areas might find that the time to complete the same project takes much longer.
Many Volunteers also find that there are a number of social dynamics that add to the difficulties of working in Lesotho. An increasing level of poverty associated with the rising rate of unemployment has exacerbated social issues such as crime, HIV/AIDS, and incidences of domestic violence, to name but a few. As a Lesotho Volunteer you may not have a visible impact on any of these issues. However, you do have the opportunity to make a real difference here with your work. No matter how small the accomplishment is for you, your impact on the community in which you live and the people with whom you interact is almost guaranteed to be great.
All new Volunteers arriving in Lesotho are provided with a nine- to 10-week pre-service training program prior to their posting. The training provides skills development in Sesotho, cross-cultural communication, and Volunteers’ particular job assignments. Sessions also cover specific medical and security conditions in Lesotho, first-aid instruction, and the historical, economic, political, and development issues facing Lesotho and southern Africa. Sesotho language classes and cultural training make up more than 65 percent of pre-service training.
Training is a special time that may, at times, seem very intense. During training, the Peace Corps gives you the knowledge and training necessary to become a productive Peace Corps Volunteer. Sometimes the knowledge given to you may not seem relevant to what you think you will be doing as a Volunteer. However, it is usually months after becoming a Volunteer that you realize why the Peace Corps trained you in these areas. Coming to training with an open mind and the ability to be flexible will help you adjust to a new environment and the journey you are about to undertake.
New Volunteers recruited to work in Lesotho are brought into the country in two training groups annually. One group, consisting of education Volunteers, arrives in mid October to early November, and a second group of community health and development Volunteers arrives in June.
Overview of Pre-Service Training
The first two weeks of pre-service training are conducted at a central training center. The next five weeks consist of community-based training, in which trainees live with Basotho host families in rural communities. The remaining weeks take place at the training center.
Technical training refers to the specific job that you have been invited to assist with, such as education, youth development, community development, or health advising. While you should already have some background and interest in the area of your assignment, the training will prepare you to work in Lesotho by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs and issues of the country.
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. You will take part in structured Sesotho lessons given by Basotho instructors. At the completion of pre-service training, you will be tested by a certified language examiner, who will rate your ability in spoken Sesotho. In order for you to be sworn in as a Volunteer, you will need to attain a certain level of language proficiency. This is critical for you to function at the community level.
Volunteers who wish to continue their Sesotho training after pre-service training may hire a tutor. Peace Corps/Lesotho provides financial reimbursement for continuing language lessons.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Basotho host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life in Lesotho. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Lesotho. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural sessions will include an explanation of Basotho culture, values, norms, and religious practices, including gender roles, workplace behaviors, and daily life in a village setting. Cross-cultural training also compares American norms and values with those of Basotho and discusses circumstances unique to living as a foreigner in Lesotho. A comprehensive study of the sociopolitical and economic evolution of southern Africa in general and Lesotho in particular is also part of training.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic health training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all health sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major health issues that you might encounter while in Lesotho. 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 your risks at 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
Peace Corps/Lesotho also conducts several in-service training workshops for Volunteers each year. Each Volunteer is entitled to 15 in-service training days for the entire term of service. Workshops focus on upgrading Volunteer skills in Sesotho language and culture; technical training and resource identification relevant to Volunteers’ job assignment; procedures for identifying and implementing community development “secondary” projects; and a review of Peace Corps policies, procedures, and initiatives concerning safety, security, health, and programming.
There is also a close-of-service workshop for Volunteers nearing the end of their service to help prepare them for their return to the United States and life after the Peace Corps.
Training is conducted by Basotho trainers who are hired on short-term contracts. Peace Corps/Lesotho also utilizes sector specialist trainers from the United States on an as-needed basis. Lesotho government officials, current Peace Corps Volunteers, and other local resource persons also deliver sessions on particular topics and assist with the overall training program.
YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN LESOTHO
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps/Lesotho maintains a health unit with two full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Lesotho and South Africa. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported to a medical facility in South Africa or to the United States.
Health Issues in Lesotho
Most of us take our health for granted. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, however, you will be expected to play a vital and proactive role in your healthcare. The medical office and the medical support system will respond to your needs. When you get here, you will realize that your emotional and physical health will depend on how you deal with social, work, and environmental factors.
Lesotho is a relatively healthy country, with none of the exotic or tropical illnesses or diseases common to most other parts of Africa. The exception to this is HIV/AIDS, which is prevalent in Lesotho at a rate of 30 percent. The Peace Corps has adopted medical policies and practices worldwide to help protect Volunteers and staff from transmission of this disease, but it is each Volunteer’s responsibility to take steps to avoid infection.
Because of the altitude and temperate nature of the climate, there is no malaria or bilharzia in Lesotho. However, since Volunteers do travel outside of Lesotho, the personal health and safety component of pre-service training covers a wide variety of illnesses, including problems you may encounter in the region. Illnesses that Volunteers in Lesotho commonly experience are diarrhea from amoebas and giardia; high fevers from varied causes; skin infections from fungus, bacteria, or insect bites; upper respiratory symptoms; and allergies from dust and dryness. Diarrhea is the number-one complaint by Volunteers worldwide, and Lesotho is no exception. Peace Corps/Lesotho recommends that Volunteers boil all their drinking water for three minutes. This method is adequate at all altitudes and helps prevent many illnesses that are water borne. Other diseases are related to poor hygienic conditions. Women might experience more frequent bladder or yeast infections as well as changes in their menstrual pattern.
Helping You Stay Healthy
Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive approach to disease rather than the curative mode. As a rule of thumb, good healthcare comes from good health maintenance. Although health conditions in Lesotho are good because of the high elevation and dryness, immunizations are still required to travel to Lesotho and must be kept current during your tour. The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medication, and information to stay healthy; however, you must accept responsibility for using the information and medication provided.
Upon your arrival in-country, you will receive a medical handbook that will provide you with all the information you need to maintain good health. We will also provide you with a medical kit of supplies to take care of most mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed below. If you are on any prescription medication, make sure to bring at least a three-month supply with you, as it may not be readily available in the medical office here. Consult with your medical officer soon after arriving in Lesotho and the Peace Corps will begin the process of obtaining a supply of your medication.
The emphasis on prevention does not occur only during pre-service training; we hope to make prevention a lifestyle change that you will use during your two years of service and carry with you beyond your Peace Corps days. There will be opportunities for you to meet with the medical officer at the health sessions during training, at midservice, and at close-ofservice medical checkups. Other opportunities are available during site visits or consultations for medical problems.
The medical supplies that the Peace Corps provides you are fairly extensive. In addition to a standard medical kit, you will be given supplies that are specifically for Lesotho, your site, or you. A full range of over-the-counter medications is available, as is a large selection of antibiotics and other prescription medications. Condoms and other birth control products are also available. Female Volunteers should bring a three-month supply of feminine hygiene products (tampons and/or pads) and any birth control medication they may be taking. Note that the Peace Corps does not provide homeopathic medications or any other medications of uncertain medical benefit. 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. Sunglasses are not provided, so you might want to bring a pair of prescription sunglasses or clip-on glasses for the bright sunlight in Lesotho. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless their use has been recommended by an ophthalmologist for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
Maintaining Your Health
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 and 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 Lesotho is to take the following preventive measures:
Adherence to recommended standards for 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, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. The medical officer will discuss specific recommendations for your area.
Strict adherence to recommended drug regimen for the prevention of malaria. Malaria is endemic in most areas of the Peace Corps world. Fortunately, Lesotho is a malaria-free country. This does not mean, however, that when traveling outside of Lesotho you do not need to take a malaria prophylaxis. Consult your medical officer during pre-service training or two weeks prior to travel to malaria-infected areas.
Prompt reporting to the medical office. You must visit the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and you must immediately report any significant illnesses or injuries to the medical office, including any possible exposure to rabies. Rabies is present in nearly all Peace Corps countries. 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. All necessary rabies immunizations (pre- and post-exposure) will be given by the Peace Corps medical office.
Use of an effective means of birth control. Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. 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.
Use of condoms to protect against the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. Volunteers are expected to use condoms in every sexual encounter in which bodily fluids might be transferred. Condoms will be provided by the medical officer.
Women’s Health Information
Female Volunteers will have an annual Pap smear as part of their midservice medical evaluation and their close-of-service medical checkup. If you need to have more frequent Pap smears, let the medical officer know during your meetings at pre-service training. The Peace Corps provides annual mammograms for all Volunteers over age 50 or whenever there is a specific indication. If you have had any previous mammograms, you need to bring all films with you. Do not send them to Washington, D.C. The medical office will keep them and return them to you when you complete your service.
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The medical kit provides Volunteers with items necessary to prevent illness and treat minor illnesses that may occur during your service. The items in the kit have been chosen with the help of Peace Corps medical officers around the world. In addition to the basic kit described in these pages, your medical officer will add items that he or she feels are appropriate for your individual situation.
The items in this kit are intended for your own use and can be periodically restocked at the Peace Corps medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
Ace bandages Adhesive tape American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook Antacid tablets (Tums) Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B) Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens) Band-Aids Butterfly closures Calamine lotion Cepacol lozenges Condoms Dental floss Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl) Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s) Iodine tablets (for water purification) Lip balm (Chapstick) Mycelex cream (for vaginal yeast infections) Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit) Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed) Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough) Scissors Sterile gauze pads Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine) Tinactin (antifungal cream) Tweezers
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
Taking care of your health while you are in Lesotho is an extremely high priority of the Peace Corps. Because conditions in Lesotho cannot approximate U.S. standards of care, we are obliged to send to the country only those Volunteers whose healthcare needs can be met in Lesotho’s medical care system. Your entrance into the Peace Corps training program is therefore dependent upon your obtaining medical and dental clearances from the Office of Medical Services in Washington.
Because each medical qualification is linked to conditions at a particular post, the medical clearance is not transferable. That means that if for some reason you are ultimately unable to fulfill your assignment in Lesotho, there is no guarantee that you can be medically qualified for the next post that needs your skills. We sincerely regret that we must adhere to such stringent standards, but it truly is for your own welfare that we do so.
Following is a list of things to take care of before you leave:
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- Obtain medical clearance from the Office of Medical Services.
- Obtain two pairs of prescription glasses if applicable.
- Obtain a three-month supply of any prescription medication you take and an adequate supply to last your entire service of any homeopathic medication(s) you take. (The Peace Corps does not provide homeopathic medications or any medications of uncertain medical benefit.)
- Obtain a three-month supply of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy if applicable.
- Arrange to bring any special creams or lotions needed for immediate use.
- For female Volunteers over 50, bring any previous mammogram films. 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 Lesotho 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.
Security Issues in Lesotho
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 Lesotho. Recent increases in unemployment have led to increases in crime in Maseru. It is mostly street theft and of a nonviolent nature, and those who are obviously not Basotho are often targets. Volunteers are advised to come to Maseru only when necessary and, when there, to be wary of their location and activities. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime in villages and rural communities is less frequent than in cities. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. But the Peace Corps cannot foresee every safety problem that might occur during your service. Your safety is ultimately your responsibility, but we hope the skills we provide you in language and cross-cultural training will help you modify your behavior in a way that will enhance your safety in a different cultural setting.
Young men and women are likely to be asked about their marriage plans. It is common for female Volunteers to be proposed to by young Basotho men. Volunteers must use good judgment when forming relationships with married men and women. Intimate relationships, or those perceived as intimate, may put Volunteers at risk and cause them to lose credibility in the eyes of their peers, counterparts, and community members.
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 Lesotho, do what you would do if you moved to a new city in the United States: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Lesotho may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, 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. It is advisable not to use backpacks or fanny packs in Maseru, as local thieves look for them. And always walk with a companion at night.
If you were in the United States, would you leave your house unlocked while you were at work? Would you walk alone at night in a new area? Would you get into a car with a drunken driver? Would you invite strangers into your house? Use common sense while at your site, in Lesotho, or traveling in Africa. After learning some more about the Basotho culture during training, it will be your responsibility to draw your personal boundaries with regard to your safety.
You will be provided with a safety handbook during the course of training to help you avoid dangerous situations but, above all, to keep yourself safe.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Lesotho
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. Lesotho’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Lesotho office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be offered in 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 Lesotho. 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. You will find language to be an important factor with respect to your safety.
So will your knowledge of the culture and ability to pick up Basotho cultural cues. The Gift of Fear by Gavin Becker (Dell Publishing, 1999) is recommended reading that Peace Corps/Lesotho uses extensively in pre-service training.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.
You will also learn about Peace Corps/Lesotho’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Lesotho will gather with other Volunteers at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps medical officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
DIVERSITY AND CROSS-CULTURAL 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 welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences. Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal.
Overview of Diversity in Lesotho
Perhaps because Lesotho is rooted in the fusion of a variety of tribes and traditions, Basotho culture tends to emphasize conformity over diversity. The size, complexity, and diversity of American culture continue to surprise many Basotho.
Although apartheid is officially a policy of the past, and there have been great changes in neighboring South Africa, its history continues to influence the region. Many Basotho have experienced the now defunct apartheid system. Hence, relations between certain Basotho and any white person can be, at first, somewhat strained. For the most part, however, Basotho differentiate quite readily between white Volunteers and other whites in the region. Foreigners are generally perceived as guests and treated with respect and care. Basotho also enjoy good relations with large numbers of their white South African neighbors.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Lesotho, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Lesotho is mostly an agrarian and traditional place, and specific gender roles are still significant in Basotho culture. Women may be expected to fulfill certain domestic duties that are not expected of men. Women may be expected to defer to men in a workplace setting. Additionally, women may receive marriage proposals, professions of love, and other unwanted attention from men.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
It continues to surprise some rural Basotho that Peace Corps Volunteers are people of many different complexions and appearances. Although Basotho are generally quick to accept and support Volunteers of color, historical social divisions based on color and features may still influence a Volunteer’s experience.
African-American Volunteers report that they may be expected to learn the language faster, may be expected to understand or agree with all aspects of the culture, and may be seen as less knowledgeable than white Volunteers. Volunteers of color also say it may be easier to form close and lasting friendships and to gain community support. African-American Volunteers may find that their features, color, cultural attitudes, or language make it obvious to Basotho they are not southern Africans. Until they make close acquaintances and friendships, some African-American Volunteers may feel like outsiders.
Over the past few years, a sizable number of Asians have opened manufacturing establishments and retail businesses in Lesotho. There have been Asian business people in Lesotho for many years, and most get along well with Basotho. However, the business practices of some recently arrived Asians have resulted in negative feelings among some Basotho. There were incidents of looting and personal violence against Asians in May 1991. Asian-American Volunteers are sometimes confused with other Asians and may feel less than fully accepted when traveling among strangers in Lesotho. At their sites, however, Volunteers have found acceptance and good relations develop quickly.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
Senior Volunteers can expect to be treated with high regard. Senior women are likely to encounter less harassment than younger female Volunteers. Seniors often take precedence for seating on public transportation. Younger Volunteers often look to senior Volunteers for guidance and support.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
Being gay or lesbian is not culturally acceptable in Lesotho, so people do not usually express this sexual orientation openly.
Volunteers have had to be very discreet about their sexual orientation because if they openly express themselves it can become a security issue. Some Volunteers serving in Lesotho choose to be “out” in the Peace Corps community but not in the Basotho community. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers may feel alone and lacking in support from other gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals. The Peace Corps medical officer is available to provide any needed support.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
The general perception in Lesotho is that American Volunteers belong to a Christian denomination. There may be an initial expectation that a Volunteer will attend a local church; however, most Volunteers find their communities to be accepting of personal choices in religious matters.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Lesotho without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of service. The Peace Corps/Lesotho staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Married couples serving together in the Peace Corps are in a unique situation. While they benefit from having a constant companion to provide support, they may have differing expectations of service. One spouse may be more enthusiastic, homesick, or adaptable than the other. In a new culture, married women may be expected to perform certain domestic chores, and find themselves in a less independent role than they are accustomed to. Married men may feel pressure to act as the dominant member in the relationship and make decisions apart from his wife’s views. Some spouses experience differing levels of language ability, acceptance by their community, or job satisfaction.
Each of you will have specific job assignments that may require you to travel without your spouse during training and throughout your service.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You will receive reporting instructions from the Office of Staging approximately two weeks before your staging. In the meantime, here are some answers to questions frequently asked by new trainees.
I have just been accepted for an assignment in Lesotho; is there anything I should be doing to get ready?
Submit an updated copy of your résumé to the country desk (send e-mail to [email protected]) along with your personal statement as requested in the invitation kit. Complete and submit your passport application to SATO Travel. Be sure you have completed all of your medical and dental requirements. You must be medically cleared before you arrive at the staging! If you are not sure of your clearance status, contact the Office of Medical Services.
We strongly encourage you to take advantage of the resources suggested in this Welcome Book. You will receive several weeks of intensive instruction in-country, but the more familiar you are with Lesotho before arriving there, the less difficulty you will have adjusting to the new culture.
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Lesotho?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits.
The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined 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 50 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave receivers are permitted, and are a good source of news), 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 Lesotho?
Electrical appliances run on 240 volts. With the distinct possibility that you will not have electricity at your site, we recommend that you wait to purchase any electrical appliances you may need until you have seen your particular living situation.
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 bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation?
Each Volunteer begins accruing two vacation days per month of service after being sworn in. During your nine-week training period, the first three months of service, and the last three months of service, you are not eligible to take vacation.
These first months in your site are important for establishing good relations with the community and host agency. For this reason, you are encouraged to remain at your site. Volunteers often state an interest in traveling and learning about other cultures as one of the reasons for joining the Peace Corps. Therefore, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to use their vacation time to travel around Lesotho and other countries in the region, rather than vacationing in the United States.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Lesotho do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and crowded minibuses to trucks and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a vehicle. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.
Should I bring gifts for friends and my host family?
While this is not required, some Volunteers have brought gifts to share. A token of friendship is sufficient; do not get carried away. Some gift suggestions include household items (sheets or tablecloths in American styles); knickknacks for the house; photos, 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?
This is the most common question asked of the Lesotho desk by trainees. Peace Corps/Lesotho staff will make site assignments after they get to know each trainee, usually during the last few weeks of training. This reflects our desire to make the best match possible between an individual’s skills, experience, and interests and the specific needs at each site.
Can I call home from Lesotho?
International phone service to and from Lesotho is reasonably good in the cities. Calling cards may be used from some telephones—check with your international long-distance company to see if it provides services in Lesotho. Collect calls may also be made but are very expensive. Be aware, however, that you will not have quick or easy access to a telephone, and as a result, you may not be able to receive calls from home while at your site.
People preparing to come to Lesotho are, of course, interested in finding out what items and clothing they should bring. The problem in preparing such a list is that even the best suggestions are subject to variations and changes, depending on your personal interests and style. There is no perfect list! In the past, many Volunteers have regretted bringing half of what they packed. Almost everything you could want or need is available in-country, so do not load up on a lot of basic items.
Volunteers must prepare themselves for extremes in climate (up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and below freezing in winter). You may have to discard a lot of preconceived ideas of Africa, including visions of hot, steamy jungles. Sweaters and coats are a must because there is no central heating, and buildings get very cold when nighttime temperatures drop below freezing. Some buildings have fireplaces or heaters, but they typically heat only a small area. All clothes should be washable and comfortable. You will most likely do your laundry by hand in cold water, so bring clothes that can take that kind of treatment. There is a lot of wind, dust, and dirt, and clothes need to be washed frequently.
- Comfortable shoes (sandals, tennis shoes), durable walking shoes (with good tread), and good-quality waterproof/Gore-Tex hiking boots
- Sweatshirts and sweaters
- One pair of shorts for vacations and lounging in the house
- Warm jacket or coat and light jacket
- Items for cold weather, including long underwear, tights (for women), hat, gloves, scarf, fleece tops
- Lots of underwear (harsh detergent and scrubbing are rough on underwear)
- Rain gear, including boots
- Swimwear and light gym wear
- At least one dressy outfit (dress shirt, tie, and slacks)
- Dress shoes
- Button-down shirts and T-shirts
- Several pairs of khaki trousers and one or two pairs of jeans
- Dark-colored socks (white ones are difficult to keep clean) For Women
- At least one dressy outfit (a nice dress)
- Dress shoes
- Dresses and skirts for work (knee length and longer)
- Blouses (wash-and-wear) and casual tops such as tank tops
- Two slips
- Two or three pairs of pants (to wear on holidays and in some work situations) Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- A three-month supply of birth control pills, if applicable
- A three-month supply of any prescription medicine you take
- Any favorite brands of toiletry or cosmetic items (but most items are available locally)
- Hair clippers for men
- Two towels and washcloths (essential during training)
- Herbal teas and spices
- Ground coffee (French presses are available locally)
- A good hand-operated can opener
- Vegetable peeler and garlic press
- Two sturdy water bottles (e.g., Nalgene)
- Sleeping bag for a cold climate, preferably one that packs into a small stuff sack (some Volunteers prefer down bags because of their warmth; others advise against down, as it can be hard to keep clean and dry)
- Lightweight foam sleeping pad
- Two backpacks—a day pack and a large, internal-frame camping pack
- Two sets of nonwhite sheets and pillowcases, possibly flannel (the Peace Corps does not provide sheets and towels, and local sheets are expensive)
- Battery-operated radio (FM/AM and shortwave) and/or a tape player
- Music tapes, books, children’s songs, and lots of blank cassettes
- Batteries (available in-country, but expensive and not as long lasting as those in the United States) and/or power-pack units
- Solar battery recharger (for those without electricity)
- Solar or battery-operated calculator
- Two additional passport pictures
- Sewing kit
- Sunglasses and a hat for the sun
- Swiss Army knife (very expensive in Lesotho)
- Pictures of your home, family, and friends
- Credit card (American Express, Visa, or MasterCard)
- Duct tape
- Camera and supply of film—it is expensive here, but prints (color only) can be processed locally
- Personal passport
- A travel book called Lonely Planet: Africa on a Shoestring (by Kevin Anglin, Becca Blond and Jean-Bernard Carillet, Lonely Planet Publications, 2004)
- Flashlight (small Maglite is a good choice)
- Markers, crayons, colored pencils, ink pens, mechanical pencils
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, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a three-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 you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your healthcare during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- 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 to extend from 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.