Difference between pages "Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Cambodia" and "FAQs about Peace Corps in Armenia"

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In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is 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. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Cambodia, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Cambodia.
 
  
Outside of Cambodia’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Cambodia 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 cultural differences that you present.
 
  
To ease the transition and adapt to life in Cambodia, 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.
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==Overview of Diversity in Cambodia==
 
  
The Peace Corps staff in Cambodia recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
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===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Armenia?===
  
==What Might a Volunteer Face?==
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Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those 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 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.  
Cambodians typically treat foreigners very well, often better than they treat other Cambodians. You are unlikely to experience direct confrontation if you practice the basic do’s and don’ts introduced during pre-service training and balance your needs with those of your Cambodian co-workers and community members. You should be able to handle most situations on your own. Some Volunteers may experience blatant bigotry, but subtle discrimination is more common. Part of your role as a Volunteer is to promote, through your actions and behavior, a more thorough understanding of the United States and Americans among the people in your community.  
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The following information is provided to help you prepare for challenges you may encounter in Cambodia based on your gender, ethnic or racial background, age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or disabilities.
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Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.  
You will constantly be asked a lot of personal questions about your family, your marital status, why you are in Cambodia, etc. Often people are just practicing the questions they learned in English class. While these questions can become frustrating, it is very important that you never become angry as you will lose respect by showing excessive emotion. In Cambodia, once you lose respect, you may find it difficult to regain the trust and loyalty of your host family, neighbors, students and counterparts. Being a foreigner and new to the culture, an outburst or two will most likely be forgiven, but be forewarned that continual or sporadic emotional outbursts may negatively affect your service in Cambodia.
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===Possible Issues for Female Volunteers===
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Because of heightened security since the events of September 11, 2001, do not pack items such as scissors or pocketknives in your carry-on luggage.
  
Most expatriate women feel very safe in their communities in Cambodia, in addition to traveling within the country. Physical harassment is not common, but precautions still need to be taken. Female Volunteers are likely to attract some unwanted attention, so it is important to develop strategies to deal with this harassment. The higher status given to men over women can be manifested in both subtle and not so subtle ways. Female Volunteers should be aware that smoking and drinking alcohol in public is not culturally appropriate behavior. Female Volunteers may also feel somewhat restricted by the expectations of their host families that they stay home in the evening, always communicate where they are going, etc. Women who are uncomfortable changing these behaviors should carefully consider their decision to serve in Cambodia.
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===What is the electric current in Armenia?===
  
===Possible Issues for Male Volunteers===
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It is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Because power surges and cuts can put a strain on voltage converters and appliances, make sure that what you bring is of good quality. The Peace Corps does not provide transformers. We recommend tape players that use “D” batteries because “C” batteries are a little harder to find. “AA” and watch and calculator batteries are easy to find.
  
Most Cambodian men are introduced to sex by being taken to a brothel by friends in their early 20s. Your Cambodian colleagues and friends may expect you to join them when they go to brothels, even if they know you are married or have a serious girlfriend. In addition to the health risks due to the high HIV rates in Cambodia, you might have ethical issues with this behavior. You will need to develop strategies to avoid risky behavior without damaging your social relationships. Additionally, male Volunteers may feel pressured into heavy drinking at social gatherings. All Volunteers, but especially non-drinkers, will have to find ways to abstain while maintaining healthy social relationships.
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===How much money should I bring?===
  
==Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color===
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Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often, Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are not widely accepted in Armenia, but you can obtain cash (in dollars or drams) from ATM machines in the capital if your ATM card has a Visa logo. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
  
In general, Cambodians view lighter skin as more beautiful, a perception based more on an aesthetic bias than any racial prejudice and one that existed long before encounters between Cambodia and the West. Cambodians are not well-informed about the ethnic and racial diversity of the United States, and they may expect Volunteers to be Caucasian. African American Volunteers, in particular, should not take Cambodians’ views of skin color personally and should try to view Cambodians within this context.
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===When can I take vacation and have people visit me? ===
  
It is common for Asian Americans to be mistaken for Cambodians, which can have both benefits and drawbacks. One advantage is that Asian Americans blend better into the community and thus may not receive as much unwanted attention in public. A disadvantage is that Cambodians may initially expect you to have the language skills of a native speaker. They may also view you as a citizen of an Asian country rather than as an American.
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Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.  
Initially, Volunteers of color may find that Cambodian co-workers do not respect your professional skills as much as they respect the skills of white Volunteers. Most Volunteers find acceptance and respect once personal relationships have been developed and professional competence has been demonstrated. Speaking Khmer and showing respect for Cambodian cultural norms will help, and providing information about your family and your life in the United States will assist in breaking down stereotypes.
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===Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers===
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===Will my belongings be covered by insurance?===
  
Cambodian government workers are subject to a mandatory retirement age of 55, so Volunteers over that age will find that most, if not all, of their Cambodian co-workers will be younger than they are. Cambodians give great respect and importance to senior family members, and senior Volunteers often receive similar deference and respect, though this does not necessarily translate to greater respect for their professional competence or technical knowledge. Your co-workers may smile, nod, and appear to agree with you when the opposite is true, perhaps because they do not want to offend you. Although more seniors are joining the Peace Corps, most of your fellow trainees are likely to be under age 30. Generally, seniors are warmly accepted by other trainees; still, there may be times when you miss interacting with people of your own age, especially in social situations. The Cambodian language trainers recognize the different learning styles and needs of seniors and will endeavor to provide the most suitable training for you.
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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.  
  
===Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers===
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===Do I need an international driver’s license?===
  
Cambodians do not usually view bisexuality and homosexuality as sinful or unnatural, nor are there criminal penalties against sexual acts between members of the same sex. However, some bisexual and homosexual Volunteers will find it necessary to adjust their behavior to be effective in their jobs and respected by members of their communities. Most will choose to remain “in the closet” to Cambodian friends and co-workers at their sites. Physical contact in public between members of the same sex (such as linking arms while walking down the street) is a common way for Cambodians to show affection, and it is important for Volunteers to realize that such displays of affection likely are nonsexual in nature. Volunteers who are accustomed to being part of a large gay community in the United States may not get the support to which they are accustomed, though you will probably find significant support within the Peace Corps community.
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Volunteers in Armenia do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles. Urban and rural travel is by bus, van, or taxi.  
  
All women will have to deal with questions or teasing about boyfriends, marriage and sex. All men will have to deal with questions about American women and girl watching and may be pressured by co-workers to visit brothels. During pre-service training, trainees are encouraged to think through these issues and plan possible responses.
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===What should I bring as gifts for Armenian friends and my host family? ===
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
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A high degree of religious tolerance exists in Cambodia. It is doubtful that any religious issues will arise, unless a Volunteer breaks the Peace Corps’ rule against proselytizing.
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This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient.  Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.  
  
===Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities===
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===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?===
  
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 Cambodia without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of service. The Peace Corps/ Cambodia 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.
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Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites during pre-service training. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages. Some live in a town with other Volunteers, and most are within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require an eight- to 10-hour drive from the capital.  
  
Cambodia has a significant population of people with disabilities, largely as a result of landmines and motorbike accidents. Cambodians have compassion for individuals with disabilities, and some NGOs have made efforts to help disabled individuals have productive jobs and lives. Volunteers with disabilities need to be aware of the rigors of the Peace Corps/Cambodia program during both training and service. Volunteers are expected to use a bicycle to travel to the various training venues and workplaces. Any special accommodations needed during training and when at one’s site, such as an alternative to travel by bicycle, should be made known during the placement process in the United States, prior to arriving in Cambodia.
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===How can my family contact me in an emergency?===
  
===Possible Issues for Married Volunteers===
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The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2423.
  
Since all Volunteers will be living with host families, married Volunteers are likely to find the lack of privacy to be frustrating. You may be asked constantly if you have children and be viewed with pity if you do not. In addition, you and your spouse may need to adjust to an increased amount of time spent together during your service. You will need to develop strategies for making friends and practicing Khmer with other community members.
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===Can I call home from Armenia?===
  
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International phone service to and from Armenia is good relative to that of other developing countries. However, at times (especially on weekends and holidays) the phone system is easily overwhelmed, and phone service may be disrupted. You may want to bring AT&T, MCI, or Sprint calling cards to minimize costs of international calls. You can purchase international calling cards in Yerevan and in towns/cities.
  
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===Should I bring a cellular phone with me?===
  
See also: [[Cambodia]]
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You may, if your mobile device is not locked to any specific network and it supports Armenia's GSM band frequencies (900 and 1800). If it is locked to a network prior to arrival in Armenia, it will not be able to connect to Armenian networks. This may be circumvented by visiting Armenian shops that offer unlocking services that cost money. However, if the cellphone is incompatible with 900/1800 GSM band frequencies, it will not function.
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===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer? ===
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A growing number of businesses offer Internet access in the capital and some of the larger cities. Because of the weaker infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers posted to rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before leaving the United States, many people sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, which they can access worldwide. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests that you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am, as it is easier to access in Armenia than other services.
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Some people bring laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the computers themselves. Note that you probably will not find the same level of technical assistance here as you would at home and that replacement parts can take months to arrive. Also note that having Internet access via your laptop is only a remote possibility because very few Volunteers have adequate telephone lines in their homes or in their place of work. The Peace Corps office in Yerevan has three computers available for Volunteers to conduct project research. If you bring a laptop, be sure to buy a high-quality surge protector; power lapses and surges are common. Volunteers who have computers also significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.
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[[Category:Armenia]]
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[[Category:FAQs about Peace Corps]]

Latest revision as of 08:18, 21 May 2014

FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • 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 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?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks



Armenia Articles | History of Peace Corps in Armenia | Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Armenia | Training in Armenia | Health care and safety in Armenia | Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Armenia | Packing List for Armenia | Pre Departure Checklist for Armenia | Books | FAQs about Peace Corps in Armenia | Web Resources | Armenia volunteers | Armenia Volunteer Site Postings


How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Armenia?[edit]

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those 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 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.

Because of heightened security since the events of September 11, 2001, do not pack items such as scissors or pocketknives in your carry-on luggage.

What is the electric current in Armenia?[edit]

It is 220 volts, 50 cycles. Because power surges and cuts can put a strain on voltage converters and appliances, make sure that what you bring is of good quality. The Peace Corps does not provide transformers. We recommend tape players that use “D” batteries because “C” batteries are a little harder to find. “AA” and watch and calculator batteries are easy to find.

How much money should I bring?[edit]

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often, Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are not widely accepted in Armenia, but you can obtain cash (in dollars or drams) from ATM machines in the capital if your ATM card has a Visa logo. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?[edit]

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?[edit]

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?[edit]

Volunteers in Armenia do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating motorized vehicles. Urban and rural travel is by bus, van, or taxi.

What should I bring as gifts for Armenian friends and my host family?[edit]

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?[edit]

Peace Corps trainees are assigned to individual sites during pre-service training. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages. Some live in a town with other Volunteers, and most are within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require an eight- to 10-hour drive from the capital.

How can my family contact me in an emergency?[edit]

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580, extension 2423.

Can I call home from Armenia?[edit]

International phone service to and from Armenia is good relative to that of other developing countries. However, at times (especially on weekends and holidays) the phone system is easily overwhelmed, and phone service may be disrupted. You may want to bring AT&T, MCI, or Sprint calling cards to minimize costs of international calls. You can purchase international calling cards in Yerevan and in towns/cities.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?[edit]

You may, if your mobile device is not locked to any specific network and it supports Armenia's GSM band frequencies (900 and 1800). If it is locked to a network prior to arrival in Armenia, it will not be able to connect to Armenian networks. This may be circumvented by visiting Armenian shops that offer unlocking services that cost money. However, if the cellphone is incompatible with 900/1800 GSM band frequencies, it will not function.

Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?[edit]

A growing number of businesses offer Internet access in the capital and some of the larger cities. Because of the weaker infrastructure in outlying areas, Volunteers posted to rural sites may be limited to sending and receiving e-mail on their occasional visits to the capital or regional hubs. Before leaving the United States, many people sign up for free e-mail accounts, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, which they can access worldwide. Peace Corps/Armenia suggests that you obtain a free e-mail account with www.freenet.am, as it is easier to access in Armenia than other services.

Some people bring laptop computers, but they are responsible for insuring and maintaining the computers themselves. Note that you probably will not find the same level of technical assistance here as you would at home and that replacement parts can take months to arrive. Also note that having Internet access via your laptop is only a remote possibility because very few Volunteers have adequate telephone lines in their homes or in their place of work. The Peace Corps office in Yerevan has three computers available for Volunteers to conduct project research. If you bring a laptop, be sure to buy a high-quality surge protector; power lapses and surges are common. Volunteers who have computers also significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance.