Peace Corps Volunteers in Mauritania work in collaboration with the government of Mauritania to increase agricultural production, promote reforestation and dune stabilization, implement preventive healthcare, support access to education for girls, and develop formal and informal business sectors.
Intermittent droughts have forced a large percentage of Mauritania's rural population to abandon its traditional nomadic way of life and move to the larger towns and cities. The urban areas are unable to cope economically or structurally with this influx. The result is insufficient health and sanitation facilities, a reduction in agricultural productivity, and high unemployment. Peace Corps Volunteers are working at the grassroots level to address these issues and train local counterparts to find appropriate solutions.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Mauritania
The Peace Corps began working in Mauritania in 1967. Since then, more than 1,100 Peace Corps Volunteers have completed two years of service, working in the core sectors of education, health and water sanitation, agriculture, and small business development. Early interventions were aimed at building roads, bridges, and dams; improving health; and teaching English, math, and physics. The foundations for the current program were laid in the 1980s, when Volunteers began to work in agriculture and environmental conservation, cooperatives, and health and Guinea worm eradication. In the 1990s, the agriculture and environmental conservation projects merged to form what is now the agroforestry project, while the cooperatives and the health and Guinea worm projects were expanded to become small business development and community health and water sanitation, respectively. In 2000, Peace Corps/Mauritania reopened the English language instruction program and created environmental education as an additional project. There are currently 100 Volunteers working in the country.
Main article: Training in Mauritania
The overall goal of Mauritania’s pre-service training program (PST) is to provide you with the necessary language, technical, core (cross-cultural and community development), and personal health skills to work and live effectively as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania. Peace Corps/Mauritania’s training philosophy emphasizes active, participatory learning. The training program stresses practical, experiential methods, using the resources of the training community and utilizing the knowledge and experiences of trainees, trainers, and counterparts. Critical thinking, problem solving, focused observations, and hands-on practice are encouraged. You will be expected to become progressively more independent and to take charge of your own learning. Collaboration, open communication, and a two-way feedback system are essential components of a successful program. Training is also a time to review your decision to join the Peace Corps for two years.
In 1999, Peace Corps/Mauritania implemented a community-based training approach. This means that trainees are placed in communities that resemble their final Volunteer site assignments. You will live in these communities with up to three other trainees and a facilitator. The facilitator will be available for structured language classes, technical fieldwork, and cross-cultural learning. Other staff (technical, health, and cross-cultural coordinators) will visit your community from time to time, and you will meet with other trainees in your project and with the entire training group at regularly scheduled intervals. This training approach allows you to experience the realities of living and working in Mauritania while still in training.
All trainees and Mauritanian facilitators return to the training center for several days at a time to continue large group training. Successful completion of all training components is required for you to be sworn-in as a Volunteer.
Your Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health Care and Safety in Mauritania
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Mauritania maintains a clinic with two full-time Peace Corps medical officers (PCMOs), who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Mauritania at local, American-standard hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues in Mauritania
In Mauritania, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyles, background, and beliefs will be judged in a cultural context very different from our own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed.
Outside of Mauritania’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What is viewed as typical cultural behavior or norms may be a narrow and selective interpretation, such as the perception that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Mauritania are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Mauritania
- How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Mauritania?
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
- What should I bring as gifts for Mauritania friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Mauritania?
- May I bring my bicycle with me?
- May I bring my guitar/musical instrument with me?
Main article: Packing List for Mauritania
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Mauritania and is based on their experience (The asterisked items in particular were recommended by Volunteers as “sanity savers” during training). Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You can always have things sent to you later. You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight restriction on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Mauritania.
- General Clothing
- Electronic Gadgets
- Community health/water and sanitation Volunteers might consider bringing:
- Small enterprise development, ICT, and education Volunteers should note:
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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The country fund will support many different Volunteer projects in Mauritania. The challenges facing Mauritania are caused by both its geographic location and cultural make up. The ever expanding Sahara Desert is drastically reducing Mauritania’s arable land and forcing diverse ethnic groups to compete for land. Mauritania’s current arable land can only provide half the food needed to support the population and as a result, Mauritania imports much of its food. Having to focus most of its resources on providing the population with the basic necessities of food and water, the Mauritanian government has very little left over for anything else like education and health. As a result, the country’s education and health infrastructure is run down and mostly inoperable. Peace Corps Volunteers are attempting to address the issues facing Mauritania by implementing a range of projects including dune stabilization, improved pest and fertilizer management to improve crop yields, horticultural production, canning and drying foods, presenting workshops on small income generation and village savings and loans. Other projects focus on improving Mauritania’s access to education and the Internet by conducting English and vocational learning camps and establishing girls’ mentoring centers; while other projects focus on addressing Mauritania’s health needs by organizing vaccination tours, Malaria prevention and Guinea Worm eradication campaigns and nursing workshops. Many such projects fail to materialize or be better implemented due to a lack of resources or the time it takes to get them. You can make a big difference for both the work of the Volunteer and the people of Mauritania by contributing to the Mauritania Country Fund, which is designated for a faster response to the Volunteers and their communities.
- Volunteers who served in Mauritania
- Inspector General Reports
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- List of resources for Mauritania