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Peace Corps entered Niger in 1962 with seven Volunteers teaching English as a foreign language. Volunteers now work in agriculture, environment, community development, youth education, and health projects to help Nigerien communities attain household food security and to promote sustainable development. Volunteers in the agriculture, environment, and community health sectors typically work in small (200–1,000 population) rural villages, while community & youth education (CYE) Volunteers are based in regional capitals, small towns, and large rural villages. A few Volunteers are assigned to work with special projects and local or international non-governmental organizations.
All Volunteers, regardless of sector, are trained in how to promote HIV/AIDS awareness.
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Niger
The Peace Corps entered Niger in 1962 with seven Volunteers teaching English. Programming continued to be centered on education through the 1960s. In later years, in response to the expressed needs of the government of Niger, the program expanded to include health, agriculture, and environmental conservation.
Currently, Volunteers in Niger are in four programs: agriculture, natural resources management, community health, community and youth education, and municipal and community development. Those in the first three programs are stationed in small (200–1,000 population) rural villages, while education Volunteers are in regional capitals, small towns, and large rural villages. Municipal Volunteers are posted to commune council offices with varied living conditions. A few Volunteers are assigned to work with special projects and local or international NGOs.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Niger
Most agriculture, environment, and community health Volunteers live in villages of 200 to 3,000 people within a few miles of other Volunteers and roads served by public transportation. You may be anywhere from 60 to 750 miles (100 to 1,200 kilometers) from Niamey. You are likely to be one of only a handful of people—perhaps the only person—in the village with anything beyond the equivalent of a sixth-grade education. Many sites have a rural health clinic or a primary school, but some do not. Housing is provided by each village and consists of a traditional one- or two-room house of adobe brick with an adobe or thatch roof. Most Volunteer houses have a small yard surrounded by an adobe or thatch enclosure. The Peace Corps pays for the cementing of the floor of your house and bath/toilet area and provides screens for doors and windows.
There will be no running water or electricity. You will obtain your water from a well and rely on a kerosene lamp or candles for light in the evening. Most of the year, you will sleep outside, with only a mosquito net, which the Peace Corps provides, between you and the stars. You will become adept at using a squat latrine and taking a bucket bath—pouring water over yourself from a bucket. Although it may sound like a two-year camping trip (and in some ways it is), your site will become your home. With time, you will find ways to make yourself comfortable, and soon enough, you will forget how strange some of these conditions once seemed.
Community Development Volunteers are posted in small towns of 2,000 to 20,000 people located in commune capitals. The majority live in simhousecamparable to agriculture, enviroment and health volunteers. Some of these towns are on the main east-west highway with about 25% of community development volunteers will have electricity either at their office or home.
Education Volunteers are posted in small towns of 10,000 to 100,000 people, located near clusters of rural-based Volunteers. Housing consists of a small mud brick or cement house or an apartment provided by the government of Niger. The towns have the education infrastructure and partners you will need in your assignment. Some of the towns have Peace Corps regional offices, headed by a Volunteer regional representative. There may also be Volunteers working with international and nongovernmental organizations such as UNICEF and CARE. Most of these sites are on the main road that crosses the country from east to west.
Although running water and electricity are available in most towns, there may be limited hours of electricity use and frequent power failures.
Main article: Training in Niger
An intensive eight- to nine-week pre-service training program at the Peace Corps training center in Hamdallaye (about 18.5 miles, or 30 kilometers, northeast of Niamey) will prepare you and approximately 30 other Volunteers for your service in Niger. Although the amount you need to learn is vast, you should think of pre-service training as the initial step in a continuing process of learning that will last for your entire stay in Niger.
Pre-service training will include French, one of the national languages (depending on where you are assigned), cross-cultural adaptation, guidelines for personal health and hygiene, development issues, safety and security issues, community entry skills, nonformal education techniques, and a few technical skills related to your particular project. In addition to language classes, there will be hands-on activities, field trips, readings, seminars, and self-directed learning. You will live with a Nigerien family (who speak the local language you are learning) in the village of Hamdallaye for most of the training. You will spend some time in the field with experienced Volunteers to observe and learn development skills and coping strategies.
During training, you will need to reevaluate your commitment to Peace Corps service in Niger. Participating in training is not a guarantee of becoming a Volunteer. While we fully expect you to be successful, there are definite goals and competencies you must attain before you can be sworn in as a Volunteer.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Niger
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. Peace Corps in Niger maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Additional medical services, such as radiology and dentistry, are also available in Niger at local clinics. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to a city in the region where more services are available or to the United States.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Niger
In Niger, 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 Niger.
Outside of Niger’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 perception that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Niger 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 Niger, 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.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Niger
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Niger?
- What is the electric current in Niger?
- 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 Niger 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 Niger?
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Main article: Packing list for Niger
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Niger and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Niger.
Many Volunteers end up wishing they had not brought so many clothes and toiletries and had concentrated instead on more personal items like music and , photos. However, we recommend that you avoid bringing anything you would be heartbroken to lose. Since there is a variety of jobs, each with different clothing requirements, you should consider your particular job in deciding what to bring. Health and education Volunteers have a greater need for professional-looking clothing than Volunteers who spend most of the time in the field, but all Volunteers should be neat and presentable. Despite your worst fears, there is a cool season in Niger, when night temperatures become quite tolerable. Make sure your clothes are comfortable and durable, because they will take a beating during hand laundering. Keep in mind that it is relatively cheap and easy to have local tailors make great-looking traditional clothes (or copies of what you bring with you).
- General Clothing
- Shoes: you can easily buy daily, casual shoes (flip flops). Bring good walking shoes (Birkenstocks, Keen, Teva, etc.), and sturdy work shoes (especially if you're doing agricultural or environmental work). Even though its hot, you'll really appreciate strong shoes when working outside.
- Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items: Special/pampering creams, lotions, etc. are always appreciated. One of the best skin care oils - shea butter - is readily available in Niger.
- Kitchen. You can get lots of spices, etc. there, but consider bringing any special items (some of my favorite items were parmesan cheese, mac and cheese packets (NOT the pasta - just the sauce. You can buy pasta there), drink mixes (without sugar - you can add sugar there), tobasco sauce, A1, good coffee, etc.)
- Miscellaneous: I liked having some photos of my hometown and my family to share with others
- Don’t Bring
Peace Corps News
PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
( As of Friday April 18, 2014 )
Contributions to the Niger Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Niger. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Niger
- Friends of Niger
- List of resources for Niger
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- Inspector General Reports