Difference between pages "Kate Schachter" and "Advice for applicants"

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{{Volunteerinfobox
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<big>Advice for Peace Corps Applicants</big>
|firstname=Kate
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|lastname=Schachter
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|country= Ghana
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|yearservicestarted=2004
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|yearserviceended=      2007
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|Group=
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|site=Brekumanso
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|site2=Tamale
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|program=Environment
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|assignment01=Forestry
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}}
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==Description of Service==
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by [[Chuck Ludlam]]
The Republic of Ghana
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<br />
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Update by the Wiki Community Dec. 2013
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<br />
  
Ms. Catherine L. Schachter
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As a double RPCV and a prominent member of the movement to reform the Peace Corps, applicants often ask me how to approach the application process and the decision to accept an invitation to serve
  
INTRODUCTION AND PRE-SERVICE TRAINING
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My advice is always the same: applicants to the Peace Corps should be selective and cautious in accepting an invitation to serve. '''“Buyer Beware”''' should be their watch word because the quality of the programs in the seventy-seven Peace Corps countries varies considerably. Because applicants will be committing two years of their lives to this service, they should be confident that the Peace Corps program (e.g. Senegal, agriculture) in which they serve will be professionally managed and respectful of the Volunteers. By being selective, applicants can be more certain that they will be empowered to serve productively and emerge from their service feeling proud of what they have accomplished.  
After a competitive application process, Catherine Schachter was invited to join the United States Peace Corps. She was assigned to the Environment Program in Ghana, West Africa. Catherine arrived in Ghana on September 17, 2004. She completed an extensive ten-week cross-cultural and technical Pre-Service Training program, which included Twi language training, technical skills training and field trips to tree nurseries, medical training in recognition and treatment of both common and tropical illnesses, and cross-cultural diversity training including a two-month home-stay with an Akan family in Nkwaeso, Brong-Ahafo Region.
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Upon successfully completing training, Catherine was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) on November 26, 2004 and posted to Brekumanso in the Eastern Region where she worked with the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), advising farmers on the development of their nurseries. She served in Brekumanso as a PCV for 22 months. On September 7, 2006, she began a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) position with Peace Corps, managing the Tamale Sub-Office (TSO), extxending her two-year service commitment by five months. She completed her service on February 7, 2007.
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==Introduction==
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To make an informed choice, '''applicants must request relevant information about the country and the program in which they are invited to serve'''. If substantial numbers of applicants request this information, the Peace Corps will establish routine procedures to make the information available to applicants in a timely manner, i.e. it will be sent to them with the invitation to serve.
  
PRIMARY PROJECT: NURSERY OPERATOR ADVISOR
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Applicants should understand that they have leverage in requesting this information. The idea that applicants are in surplus – a reported “three to one ratio” of applicants to training slots – may be a misconception. The Peace Corps appears, in fact, to be scrambling to fill training slots. The ratio may be three to one before the onerous medical screening process, but after that process is completed, the ratio of medically fit applicants to training slots appears to be more like one-to-one. In short, '''the main criterion for selection in the Peace Corps is medical fitness'''. So each individual applicant is needed by the Peace Corps to fill its programs.  
Ms. Schachter’s primary project was to work with four Ghanaian farmers who had been selected by ADRA to receive training in tree nursery care and management. Her duties were to visit the farmers monthly and find out what kinds of problems they were having, review their nursery management records, provide support and training in business management procedures, and provide them with marketing outreach skills. She also participated in other ADRA functions, including planning and presenting a Business Planning workshop, and giving mini-financial planning workshops at community citrus farmer workshops that ADRA organized.
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The key accomplishment with this group was the formation of an Association, the Nyame Adom Nursery operators Association (NANA). Three of Ms. Schachter’s Private Nursery Operators (PNO’s) joined forces with three PNO’s of another PCV. She worked with the men to write a Constitution and By-Laws, register the Association with the Ghana government, and create a marketing brochure.
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Applicants typically have seven days to accept or reject an invitation to serve in a specific country and program, giving little time to be selective and ask questions. Given this short turnaround time, the applicants should inform the Peace Corps recruiter well in advance that they will need certain information about the country and program when the invitation is finally issued.
  
At these meetings, she also connected the men with key decision-makers in forestry and environmental management, including the Greening Ghana Initiative (GGI), Okyeaman Environmental Foundation, the Forestry Commission, the EPA, and NADMO (the national disaster management organization). When the brochure was ready, the men began contacting additional organizations in their districts as marketing outreach, to build their business credibility and sustainability.
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'''To date the Peace Corps has not been transparent with applicants, the Congress, Peace Corps alumni, or the press'''. So initially, Peace Corps personnel may not be enthusiastic about supplying relevant information to applicants. In fact, applicants might be told – directly or indirectly – that if they do not accept the first invitation, they might not get another. In the same way, they might be told that they are not being cooperative and flexible, which are important characteristics for a successful Volunteer. Applicants must stand firm and insist that they receive the information they need to make an informed choice in their own best interests.  
  
SECONDARY PROJECTS
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If the Peace Corps does not provide relevant information that enables the applicant to assess the quality of the program, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Applicants are being asked to spend two years of their lives as Volunteers, so the least the agency can do is provide full transparency about the Peace Corps and the management and effectiveness of its programs.  
Muka Construction: While in training, Ms. Schachter learned how to make fuelwood efficient woodstoves, locally known as “mukas.” She taught people at her site how to make them, and over 20 were built in two communities. The technology was transferred to the women, and as of the time she left, three women had borrowed the wooden box used to make the muka and built or rebuilt their own, without further supervision or assistance. In addition, Ms. Schachter assisted PCV’s in four other communities in Ghana to make mukas. She documented the procedure to share with other PCV’s, and created a teaching guide, based on the Ghana Education System (GES) syllabus, that could be used at a Junior Secondary School (JSS) level to demonstrate heat energy principles behind the effectiveness of the muka.
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Village Bicycle Workshops: Four bicycle workshops were organized through the Village Bicycle Project. Members of four area communities paid a fair price and attended a maintenance workshop in order to receive the bicycles. Sixty-three bicycles were distributed within the community, and the fourth workshop was an advanced maintenance workshop for 21 individuals.  
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Following is a description of information that will help enable the applicant to determine whether or not to accept an invitation to serve. These recommendations are taken from our Peace Corps reform report.
  
Nutrition and Child Health: Two days a week for most weeks, Ms. Schachter assisted at the village clinic baby weighing day. As a result of observation of malnutrition problems, she enlisted ADRA’s support to conduct a Moringa and Child Nutrition workshop. Key events included: a Ghanaian expert gave a talk on how to plant, grow and use moringa; the ADRA Nutrition Officer gave a talk and demonstration on how to cook with moringa  oleifera and soya. Over 200 people attended, mostly mothers and babies, but also some chiefs and elders. Weighing and immunization was provided for 89 female babies and 73 male babies. Fifty moringa seedlings were distributed that day, and an additional 30 over the next three baby weighing days. Ms. Schachter visited 58% of the receiving households over the next three months, and found that survival rate of the seedlings was 68%. The visits indicated that there was still a high level of interest in moringa as a nutritional additive for the families’ diets, and many questions about care and final use were answered.
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==Early Quit Rates==
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1. [[ET|Early Quit Rates]]: Applicant should request data on the “early termination” (ET) rates – that is, the percentage of applicants who fail to complete their 26-27 months of service. The ET rate data is a relevant measure of the quality of the overall management of Peace Corps in a country. Worldwide ET rates [[ETrates|average more than 30%]] and vary from about 15% up to nearly 70%. For years the ET rate data has been obscured as a measure of the performance of Peace Corps. However, the Peace Corps has recently conceded that the “cohort” rate – the measure of how many applicants fail to complete their service – is the appropriate ET rate measure. Applicants should insist on knowing the “cohort” ET rate and not accept an “annual” ET rate measure – a misleading figure that does not measure the percentage of Volunteers who complete their service. The applicant should also request the ET rate for the specific program (i.e. health, education, agriculture) in which he or she has been invited to serve and the break out of the reasons given by the Volunteers and the Country Director for the early quitting in that country and program. If the Peace Corps refuses to divulge accurate ET rate data for the country in which the applicant is invited to serve or if the ET rate for that country is greater than about 20%, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve.
  
HIV/AIDS Week: Ms. Schachter participated in an HIV/AIDS bike ride covering eighty miles of rural terrain in five days. One of 75 participants who actively participated in ten different HIV presentations in communities in the Upper West Region; resulting in approximately 8300 Ghanaians in 50 difficult-to-access communities having information on the transmission, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
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==Volunteer Survey Results==
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2. [[2008 Biennial Volunteer Survey|Volunteer Survey Results]]: Applicants should request the results of the most recent agency survey of the Volunteers for the country in which they are invited to serve. They should request the complete country-by-country results of the survey so that they may rank the countries. To be sure, the Peace Corps has thus far refused to release the results of these surveys in response to Freedom of Information requests. We obtained a copy of the [[2008 Biennial Volunteer Survey]] and the country-by-country results and published them in Peace Corps Wiki. PCW has published spreadsheets that enable applicants to rank the countries with regard to various key questions. One of the most important questions in the survey is the one that focuses on the quality of the Country Director, the individual who sets the tone and standards for Peace Corps operations in each country. If the ratings for the Country Director are low, it is likely that the country program has problems. Applicants should also request to see the survey responses, including the responses to open-ended questions, for the Volunteers who serve in the specific program in which the applicant is invited to serve (i.e. health, education, agriculture). If the Peace Corps refuses to release the most recent survey results and the country-by-country and program-by-program results, or if the country or program are ranked in the bottom half or bottom quarter of the countries where Volunteers serve, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve.
  
Asamankese Community Library: After meeting with the Asamankese District Chief Executive (DCE), Ms. Schachter contacted Books for Africa in the United States to help with the library. The community application was accepted, and received not only books for the shelves, but also training for a librarian and the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. In addition, Ms. Schachter contacted family and friends in the US who were able to donate three large boxes of books to the library, most of them children’s books. These were shipped in a container with bicycles for the Village Bicycle Project described above.
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==Contacting Current and Returned Volunteers==
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3. [[Contacting Current Volunteers]]: The Peace Corps should make available to the applicant/invitee the contact information for Volunteers who are currently serving in the country and program. Applicants can then ask them relevant questions about the program and determine how to prepare for service. Some current Volunteers have blogs and applicants can find them through http://www.PeaceCorpsJournals.com. Additionally, there is an independent forum called Peace Corps Forum that is available for new applicants, trainees, current volunteers, returned volunteers, and people who are generally interested in the Peace Corps at http://peacecorpsforum.com/.
  
Reading Glasses from Lions Club International: Ms. Schachter facilitated the delivery of a suitcase full of reading glasses to the Brekumanso community, then organized an eye screening clinic. Of these 414 glasses, 220 were distributed at no charge, other than a small fee for the screening, which went to the technicians. The remainder were delivered to the Asamankese Government Hospital eye clinic for further free distribution.
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==Confidential Reviews==
   
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4. Confidential Reviews: Applicants should request information on whether the country program solicits the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis regarding the Peace Corps staff and programs. Programs that respect the Volunteers solicit their views annually on a confidential basis. Providing a hotline number to call in case of an emergency is not sufficient to prevent problems before they cause a crisis.''' Confidentiality is the key because most applicants are unwilling to speak up unless their identity is kept confidential.''' Country programs that report the views of the Volunteers to all of the Volunteers and/or publish them on its website are especially impressive. If the country does not solicit the views of the Volunteers on a confidential basis, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Note: The Peace Corps has opposed legislation pending in the Congress ([[S. 732|S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act of 2007]]) to require that it solicit the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis regarding staff and programs.   
Micro-Finance Groups: Ms. Schachter was approached by a group of Muslim women to help them setup a group to raise funds for automating their oil palm processing business. A micro-finance group was formed and the women created a Constitution and ByLaws, began collecting dues, and attended meetings. Other people in the community were interested in the same idea, and Ms. Schachter helped them to create two additional micro-finance groups. She worked with the National Business of Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) to provide a business planning workshop for the three groups, plus the ADRA PNO’s. She also contacted the local community bank to provide training in record-keeping and meeting formation in order to qualify the groups for loans. As of the time of her departure from the community, one of the groups had qualified for their first loan and were in the process of paying it back.
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==Whistle Blower Rights==
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5.[[Reform_Plan_Ludlam_Hirschoff_Part_II_Twenty_Point_Plan#Point_Seventeen:_Ensure_Peace_Corps_Office_of_Inspector_General_Again_Leads_Investigations_of_Violent_Crimes_Against_Volunteers.2FStaff|Whistle Blower Rights]]: Applicants should request information on whether the country program protects Volunteer whistle blowers from retaliation. Volunteers should not be vulnerable to retaliation if they blow the whistle on poor management or corruption in the program. If the country does not provide protections against retaliation for Volunteer whistle blowers, the applicant consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Note: The Peace Corps has opposed legislation pending in the Congress ([[S. 732|S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act of 2007]]) to give Volunteers whistle blower protections.
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==Rapid Expansion==
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6. [[Congressional_Appropriations#Doubling_Campaign|Rapid Expansion]]: Applicants should request information about any recent increase in the number of Volunteers in the country to which they are invited to serve. The Peace Corps has recently increased the overall number of Volunteers by 1,000 despite the fact that Volunteers favored reform over expansion by 2.5 to 1 in the [[H6|2008 Biennial Volunteer Survey]]. There exist obvious tradeoffs between quantity (number of Volunteers) and quality (good programs and training). '''This rapid increase places extraordinary stress on the Peace Corps staff''', which may not have been increased in advance of the flood of new Volunteers. The expansion makes it more difficult for the staff to adequately manage training, prepare sites, recruit local counterparts, and support the Volunteers in their work. If the country in which the applicant is invited to serve has seen a rapid increase in the number of Volunteers, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation.
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==Seed Funding for Demonstrations==
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7. [[Reform_Plan_Ludlam_Hirschoff_Part_II_Twenty_Point_Plan#Point_Three:_Achieve_Greater_Sustainable_First_Goal_Results|Seed Funding for Demonstrations]]: Applicants should request information about the availability of funding for Volunteers to cover their work-related expenses, including expenses to launch demonstrations. Without seed funding, Volunteers often find that it is difficult to succeed. If sufficient funds are not available to Volunteers in the country, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Note: The Peace Corps has opposed legislation pending in the Congress ([[S. 732|S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act of 2007]]) to require that it reimburse Volunteers for their work-related expenses.
  
Solar Lighting and Business:  Through contacts with Deng, a solar lighting company in Accra, and with Professor Akuffo, a member of the Ghana Board of Energy and expert on solar in Ghana, Ms. Schachter was able to obtain the donation of a simple six-light system for the community Junior Secondary School (JSS). Brekumanso does not have electricity. This enabled the school to hold evening study groups for primary and JSS students three nights a week. The system included a power outlet, and a small solar service center was established to charge mobile phones or batteries in the community, at a fair price. Half the proceeds went to a savings fund for upgrades, maintenance or repairs of the system in the future, and half went to a young man, a newly-qualified electrician, who provided the maintenance on the system. She also put this young man in contact with an established solar service center operator from another region, and they spent a day together, touring installations and discussing business opportunities. This was a significant motivation for the young electrician from Brekumanso.
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==Conclusion==
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This advice to applicants is given so that they can make a better informed choice about whether or not to serve. '''My goal is to avoid a situation where the applicant accepts an invitation and then, due to poor management of the agency, they need to quit early or become demoralized.''' We want them to enter service with high expectations and have these met by the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is nothing except for its Volunteers and it owes them an extraordinary opportunity to serve and a reasonable opportunity to achieve sustainable development results. When the applicants ask for relevant information, and serve effectively, they become part of the Peace Corps reform movement that will ensure that the Peace Corps thrives and prospers.
  
School Project: Ms. Schachter connected the Muslim Primary school in the community with the US Embassy Office of Defense Cooperation, who will build a new school, KVIP, borehole and library during 2007.
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==Resources for Applicants==
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*[[Calculator|Placement Calculator]]
  
Gender and Youth Development: Ms. Schachter located funding for two students, a boy and a girl, to attend the Peace Corps-sponsored Students Taking Action Reaching for Success (STARS) conference in Kumasi. She also assisted with student supervision at the conference.
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[[Category:resources]]
 
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[[Category:Application process]]
She worked with a youth group called Youth in Environment and Agriculture (YEA), and helped them focus their group goals. She also connected them with Earth Charter Youth International (ECYI), based in Germany, for ongoing motivation; with GGI for a tree-planting group endeavour; and with the National Youth Employment Programme (NYEP) for funding of group project(s).
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Arib Soya Milk: In Tamale, Ms. Schachter met with the owners of this business who were trying to identify ways to grow their soy milk distribution business. She worked with them to create a profit/loss statement as a first step toward identifying where to save money, both in the business and in their home expenses.
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CULTURAL EXCHANGE
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In addition to her project work, Ms. Schachter actively sought to learn Ghanaian culture. She shared American culture with the community, and organized a Ghanaian-style funeral for her father, attended by most of the community, who had died and was simultaneously being interned in the US.
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Ms. Schachter had a World Wise Schools (WWS) relationship with a 3rd grade class in her hometown and wrote regular letters. Prior to leaving for Peace Corps, and again during her vacation leave, she went to the school and spoke with the children about Peace Corps and Ghanaian life. She arranged pen-pal exchanges for three boys and one girl from Ghana with US children. She sent out email reports to family and friends in the US, focusing on descriptions of life and culture in Ghana.
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PEACE CORPS ROLES
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Ms. Schachter was elected as Secretary for the Peer Support and Diversity (PSD) committee. In this role she maintained the PCGhana Yahoo! website that the group setup for sharing information; organized six meetings with members and with Peace Corps staff; provided training on peer support and diversity issues at one IST; offered critical peer support to about 10 PCV’s; arranged for a US consultant on multicultural diversity to provide training to the Peace Corps staff in Accra, then again to the PSD members in Kumasi; and wrote many articles for the monthly  Peace Corps newsletter, sharing information about Peace Corps life and ways to adapt with other volunteers.
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Ms. Schachter helped create a hands-on, experiential training activity, called Vision Quest, for four Pre-Service Trainings (PST). Vision Quest was designed to provide trainees with an experience in the field at the start of training so that they would acquire a clear sense of what they were aiming for during the balance of PST.  The objective was for the experiences trainees had during their quests to inspire specific and constructive questions that would lead them toward greater control over their learning throughout PST.  Trainees who engaged first-hand in some of the practical realities of service would possess a framework with which to begin articulating their purposes and needs, and would be challenged immediately to begin examining their motivations and expectations. She provided orientation and debriefing of the experience to these trainees within one week of their arrival in-country. She also was part of the training team for one group of new Environment volunteers during their PST.
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In September 2006, Ms. Schachter moved to Tamale, Northern Region, and took responsibilities as a PCVL to manage the day-to-day operations of the Tamale Sub-Office, as well as provide general Volunteer support. She added a great deal of organization to the office, including organization of the library and medical resources; creation of a more cleaner, more supportive environment for PCV’s who came through, while maintaining the office and visitor space that was required; improvement of office organization and repair of photocopier; establishment of good relations with the housecleaning and security staff while challenging them to improve their performance; and evaluation of household expenses, resulting in a recommendation to improve the septic system. She did research on the issue of septic systems, consulted with the District Water and Sanitation Team and with experts, and prepared a thorough evaluation and recommendation report to Peace Corps Headquarters in order to obtain permission to proceed with the project from the landlord.
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STATEMENT OF ELIGIBILITY FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT TENURE BENEFITS
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Pursuant to Section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act, 22 USC 2504(f), as amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following his/her Peace Corps Volunteer Service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps service credited for purposes of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave, and other privileges based on length of Government service. That service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary or trial period of any service requirement for career appointment.
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This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order 11103 of April 10, 1963, that Catherine Schachter served successfully as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her service ended on February 11, 2007. She is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis. This benefit under the Executive Order extends for a period of one year after termination of Volunteer service, except that the employing agency may extend the period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities that, in the view of the appointing agency, warrant extension of the period.
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[[Category:Description of Service]]
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[[category:Tamale]]
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Latest revision as of 11:50, 6 February 2015

Advice for Peace Corps Applicants

by Chuck Ludlam
Update by the Wiki Community Dec. 2013

As a double RPCV and a prominent member of the movement to reform the Peace Corps, applicants often ask me how to approach the application process and the decision to accept an invitation to serve

My advice is always the same: applicants to the Peace Corps should be selective and cautious in accepting an invitation to serve. “Buyer Beware” should be their watch word because the quality of the programs in the seventy-seven Peace Corps countries varies considerably. Because applicants will be committing two years of their lives to this service, they should be confident that the Peace Corps program (e.g. Senegal, agriculture) in which they serve will be professionally managed and respectful of the Volunteers. By being selective, applicants can be more certain that they will be empowered to serve productively and emerge from their service feeling proud of what they have accomplished.

Introduction[edit]

To make an informed choice, applicants must request relevant information about the country and the program in which they are invited to serve. If substantial numbers of applicants request this information, the Peace Corps will establish routine procedures to make the information available to applicants in a timely manner, i.e. it will be sent to them with the invitation to serve.

Applicants should understand that they have leverage in requesting this information. The idea that applicants are in surplus – a reported “three to one ratio” of applicants to training slots – may be a misconception. The Peace Corps appears, in fact, to be scrambling to fill training slots. The ratio may be three to one before the onerous medical screening process, but after that process is completed, the ratio of medically fit applicants to training slots appears to be more like one-to-one. In short, the main criterion for selection in the Peace Corps is medical fitness. So each individual applicant is needed by the Peace Corps to fill its programs.

Applicants typically have seven days to accept or reject an invitation to serve in a specific country and program, giving little time to be selective and ask questions. Given this short turnaround time, the applicants should inform the Peace Corps recruiter well in advance that they will need certain information about the country and program when the invitation is finally issued.

To date the Peace Corps has not been transparent with applicants, the Congress, Peace Corps alumni, or the press. So initially, Peace Corps personnel may not be enthusiastic about supplying relevant information to applicants. In fact, applicants might be told – directly or indirectly – that if they do not accept the first invitation, they might not get another. In the same way, they might be told that they are not being cooperative and flexible, which are important characteristics for a successful Volunteer. Applicants must stand firm and insist that they receive the information they need to make an informed choice in their own best interests.

If the Peace Corps does not provide relevant information that enables the applicant to assess the quality of the program, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Applicants are being asked to spend two years of their lives as Volunteers, so the least the agency can do is provide full transparency about the Peace Corps and the management and effectiveness of its programs.

Following is a description of information that will help enable the applicant to determine whether or not to accept an invitation to serve. These recommendations are taken from our Peace Corps reform report.

Early Quit Rates[edit]

1. Early Quit Rates: Applicant should request data on the “early termination” (ET) rates – that is, the percentage of applicants who fail to complete their 26-27 months of service. The ET rate data is a relevant measure of the quality of the overall management of Peace Corps in a country. Worldwide ET rates average more than 30% and vary from about 15% up to nearly 70%. For years the ET rate data has been obscured as a measure of the performance of Peace Corps. However, the Peace Corps has recently conceded that the “cohort” rate – the measure of how many applicants fail to complete their service – is the appropriate ET rate measure. Applicants should insist on knowing the “cohort” ET rate and not accept an “annual” ET rate measure – a misleading figure that does not measure the percentage of Volunteers who complete their service. The applicant should also request the ET rate for the specific program (i.e. health, education, agriculture) in which he or she has been invited to serve and the break out of the reasons given by the Volunteers and the Country Director for the early quitting in that country and program. If the Peace Corps refuses to divulge accurate ET rate data for the country in which the applicant is invited to serve or if the ET rate for that country is greater than about 20%, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve.

Volunteer Survey Results[edit]

2. Volunteer Survey Results: Applicants should request the results of the most recent agency survey of the Volunteers for the country in which they are invited to serve. They should request the complete country-by-country results of the survey so that they may rank the countries. To be sure, the Peace Corps has thus far refused to release the results of these surveys in response to Freedom of Information requests. We obtained a copy of the 2008 Biennial Volunteer Survey and the country-by-country results and published them in Peace Corps Wiki. PCW has published spreadsheets that enable applicants to rank the countries with regard to various key questions. One of the most important questions in the survey is the one that focuses on the quality of the Country Director, the individual who sets the tone and standards for Peace Corps operations in each country. If the ratings for the Country Director are low, it is likely that the country program has problems. Applicants should also request to see the survey responses, including the responses to open-ended questions, for the Volunteers who serve in the specific program in which the applicant is invited to serve (i.e. health, education, agriculture). If the Peace Corps refuses to release the most recent survey results and the country-by-country and program-by-program results, or if the country or program are ranked in the bottom half or bottom quarter of the countries where Volunteers serve, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve.

Contacting Current and Returned Volunteers[edit]

3. Contacting Current Volunteers: The Peace Corps should make available to the applicant/invitee the contact information for Volunteers who are currently serving in the country and program. Applicants can then ask them relevant questions about the program and determine how to prepare for service. Some current Volunteers have blogs and applicants can find them through http://www.PeaceCorpsJournals.com. Additionally, there is an independent forum called Peace Corps Forum that is available for new applicants, trainees, current volunteers, returned volunteers, and people who are generally interested in the Peace Corps at http://peacecorpsforum.com/.

Confidential Reviews[edit]

4. Confidential Reviews: Applicants should request information on whether the country program solicits the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis regarding the Peace Corps staff and programs. Programs that respect the Volunteers solicit their views annually on a confidential basis. Providing a hotline number to call in case of an emergency is not sufficient to prevent problems before they cause a crisis. Confidentiality is the key because most applicants are unwilling to speak up unless their identity is kept confidential. Country programs that report the views of the Volunteers to all of the Volunteers and/or publish them on its website are especially impressive. If the country does not solicit the views of the Volunteers on a confidential basis, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Note: The Peace Corps has opposed legislation pending in the Congress (S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act of 2007) to require that it solicit the views of Volunteers on a confidential basis regarding staff and programs.

Whistle Blower Rights[edit]

5.Whistle Blower Rights: Applicants should request information on whether the country program protects Volunteer whistle blowers from retaliation. Volunteers should not be vulnerable to retaliation if they blow the whistle on poor management or corruption in the program. If the country does not provide protections against retaliation for Volunteer whistle blowers, the applicant consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Note: The Peace Corps has opposed legislation pending in the Congress (S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act of 2007) to give Volunteers whistle blower protections.

Rapid Expansion[edit]

6. Rapid Expansion: Applicants should request information about any recent increase in the number of Volunteers in the country to which they are invited to serve. The Peace Corps has recently increased the overall number of Volunteers by 1,000 despite the fact that Volunteers favored reform over expansion by 2.5 to 1 in the 2008 Biennial Volunteer Survey. There exist obvious tradeoffs between quantity (number of Volunteers) and quality (good programs and training). This rapid increase places extraordinary stress on the Peace Corps staff, which may not have been increased in advance of the flood of new Volunteers. The expansion makes it more difficult for the staff to adequately manage training, prepare sites, recruit local counterparts, and support the Volunteers in their work. If the country in which the applicant is invited to serve has seen a rapid increase in the number of Volunteers, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation.

Seed Funding for Demonstrations[edit]

7. Seed Funding for Demonstrations: Applicants should request information about the availability of funding for Volunteers to cover their work-related expenses, including expenses to launch demonstrations. Without seed funding, Volunteers often find that it is difficult to succeed. If sufficient funds are not available to Volunteers in the country, the applicant should consider carefully whether or not to accept the invitation to serve. Note: The Peace Corps has opposed legislation pending in the Congress (S. 732, the PCV Empowerment Act of 2007) to require that it reimburse Volunteers for their work-related expenses.

Conclusion[edit]

This advice to applicants is given so that they can make a better informed choice about whether or not to serve. My goal is to avoid a situation where the applicant accepts an invitation and then, due to poor management of the agency, they need to quit early or become demoralized. We want them to enter service with high expectations and have these met by the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is nothing except for its Volunteers and it owes them an extraordinary opportunity to serve and a reasonable opportunity to achieve sustainable development results. When the applicants ask for relevant information, and serve effectively, they become part of the Peace Corps reform movement that will ensure that the Peace Corps thrives and prospers.

Resources for Applicants[edit]