Health care and safety in Mauritania

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===Communications ===
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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.
 
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===Health Issues in Mauritania ===
 
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Major health problems among Peace Corps Volunteers in Mauritania are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most common health problems here are minor ones that are also found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, constipation, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, STDs, adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in Mauritania because certain environmental factors here raise the risk and/ or exacerbate the severity of illness and injuries.
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====Mail====
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The most common major health concerns here are malaria, amoebic dysentery, giardia, schistosomiasis, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. Because malaria is endemic in Mauritania, Volunteers must take anti-malarial medication. You will also be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, meningitis A and C, tetanus/diphtheria, Japanese B encephalitis, typhoid, and rabies. Amoebic dysentery and giardia can be avoided by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and either boiling your drinking water or using chlorine to treat your waterAdditionally, by not swimming or bathing in freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers, you can avoid contracting schistosomiasis.  
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Mail service between the United States and Guyana is fairly reliable. Airmail letters from home usually take two weeks to arrive in Guyana and four to five weeks to arrive in the United States from Guyana. Surface mail may take monthsThe further a Volunteer’s site is from a large city, the less dependable and frequent the mail service.  
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===Helping You Stay Healthy ===
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During training, your address in Guyana will be:
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The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy.  Upon your arrival in Mauritania, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a first-aid kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs you may encounter at your site. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
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“Your Name,” PCT
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During pre-service training, you will have access to basic first-aid supplies through the medical officer. However, during this time, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training.  Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for new shipments to arrive.
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Peace Corps
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You will have dental and physical exams twice: at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Mauritania will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Mauritania, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
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PO Box 101192
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===Maintaining Your Health ===
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Georgetown, Guyana
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As a Volunteer, you must accept a certain amount of responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention…” becomes extremely important in areas where medical diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States.  The most important of your responsibilities in Mauritania is to take preventive measures for the following:
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South America
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Malaria is endemic in most areas of the Peace Corps world, including Mauritania. For all Volunteers serving in malaria endemic areas, or for those traveling in malaria endemic areas, it is extremely important to fully comply with the recommended drug regimen to prevent malaria. Malaria can be rapidly fatal in people who have no natural immunity to the disease (like Volunteers). Thus, it is mandatory that you take your malaria prophylaxis regularly. Your medical officer will discuss specific recommendations for the prevention of malaria in Mauritania.
 
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Rabies is present in Mauritania. Any possible exposure to a rabid animal must be reported immediately to the medical office. Rabies exposure can occur through animal bites, scratches from animals’ teeth, and contact with animal saliva.  Your medical officer will take into consideration many factors to decide the appropriate course of therapy necessary to prevent rabies. Rabies, if contracted, is 100 percent fatal.  All necessary rabies immunizations will be given by the Peace Corps medical office.
 
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Volunteers are required to wear a protective helmet whenever riding on a two-wheeled vehicle (i.e., bicycle). Failure to comply with this regulation will result in immediate administrative separation from the Peace Corps. This means you will be sent home; there is no appeal. Volunteers are not permitted to operate or ride on motorcycles as a passenger.  
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Once you move to your site, you will be responsible for sending your new address to family and friends.  
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It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illness and injuries.  
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We recommend that you establish a regular writing pattern with friends and relatives in the United States, since they may become concerned if they do not hear from you over an extended period of time. Some Volunteers and their families sequentially number their letters to keep track of how many were sent and received. This is one way of knowing whether someone is just too busy to write or if letters are not arriving.  We have found that after trainees have been sworn in and move to their sites, writing habits change as they become more involved in projects and the newness of the lifestyle wears off. A delay in the mail may also be the result of being in a more isolated site.  
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Volunteers must also adhere to recommended standards for food and water preparation. Many diseases that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation for Mauritania during pre-service training.  
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As for packages, Volunteers are responsible for paying import duties on items mailed to them from outside the country. The customs process for obtaining sent items is often lengthy, although the duty on items is generally minimal. Customs will notify you directly if you have been sent a package. Peace Corps/Guyana cannot help get these packages released from customs. Small padded envelopes are recommended over boxes.  
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Abstinence is the only certain choice for prevention of HIV/ AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Condoms will be provided by the medical office. Whether your partner is a host-country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from your medical officer about this important issue.  
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One alternative to shipping packages through regular mail is to send items through a service such as DHL International or Federal Express. Both companies have offices in Georgetown, but their services are expensive. You can have items sent through these companies to the Peace Corps office in Georgetown, but you must provide the street address and phone number. (The street address for the Peace Corps is 33A Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana. The phone number is 592.225.5073.) Another alternative is a local company, Laparkan, that offers relatively inexpensive air freight service to Guyana from New York, Toronto, and Miami.  Surface mail for packages takes four to six weeks.  
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Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer.  
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We do not recommend that family or friends send you money, airline tickets, or other valuables through the mail. Airline tickets can be paid for in the United States and picked up in Guyana using a reference number. There are also several travel agents in Georgetown through which Volunteers can purchase airline tickets.  
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===Women’s Health Information ===
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====Telephones====
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Pregnancy is a health condition that is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions requiring medical attention, but may also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if a pregnant Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps medical and programmatic standards for continued service can be met. The majority of Volunteers who become pregnant are medically separated.  
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International phone service to and from Guyana is relatively good. Volunteers can call the United States collect by placing the call via a Guyanese operator (002) or directly by placing it with a U.S. operator (151 or 165). Do not bring prepaid phone cards, as they cannot be used without incurring a second charge for the same call. Likewise, calling cards and credit cards do not work from Guyana. Collect calls are expensive, costing about $7 for the first minute and $1.40 for each subsequent minute. The rate for direct calls to the United States from Guyana, about $1.20 per minute, is often cheaper than the rate from the United States to Guyana. Local phone booths and Internet cafés also offer calls to the U.S.  Volunteers are not allowed to place international direct calls or send international faxes from the Peace Corps office. For these services, you must use local facilities in Georgetown.  
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If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on the local market, the Peace Corps medical officer in Mauritania will provide them. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a three-month supply with you.  
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Some Volunteers will have their own landline telephones or easy access to a neighbor’s. Some Volunteers will be issued a Peace Corps cellphone based upon certain site conditions. It is possible to purchase your own cellphone in Guyana. However, be aware that many cellphones purchased in the United States will not work on Guyana’s cellular phone system. It is possible to buy and activate cellphones in Guyana ranging from a low of about $50 U.S. to $550.  
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===Your Peace Corps Medical Kit ===
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Encourage your family and friends to research local phone companies or look on the Internet to find special deals and offers on international calling.
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The Peace Corps Medical Officer provides Volunteers with a first-aid kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
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====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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====Medical Kit Contents ====
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There are computers with Internet access and printers for Volunteer use at the Peace Corps office in Georgetown.  Volunteers must provide their own paper (which can be purchased in-country). If the computers are being used, access to a staff computer may be arranged (for work-related purposes) through the administrative officer.
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Ace bandage  <br>
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There are Internet cafes in all the major towns and many villages that offer services at a reasonable cost. You can use these services to access the Internet or prepare documentsApproximately 80 percent of currently serving Volunteers have Internet access either through an Internet cafe, their work sites, or from home via a landline service.  
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Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol) 325&nbsp;mg. tablets  <br>
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Adhesive tape  <br>
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Aloe vera lip balm  <br>
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American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook  <br>
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Antacid tablets (Digel)  <br>
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Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)  <br>
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Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)  <br>
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Ascorbic acid, 500&nbsp;mg<br>
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Aspirin, 325&nbsp;mg. tablets  <br>
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Band-Aids  <br>
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Betadine wound/skin disinfectant  <br>
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Butterfly closures  <br>
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Calamine lotion  <br>
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Calcium carbonate  <br>
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Cepacol lozenges  <br>
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Condoms  <br>
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Dacriose eye wash  <br>
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Dental floss  <br>
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Dextromethorphan (Robitussin-DM lozenges, for cough)  <br>
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Diphenhydramine HCL 25&nbsp;mg (Benadryl)  <br>
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Gauze pads (sterile)  <br>
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Gloves  <br>
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Hydrocortisone cream 1%  <br>
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Hydrogen peroxide (regional)  <br>
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Ibuprofen, 400&nbsp;mg. tablets  <br>
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Insect repellent (Ultrathon)  <br>
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Iodine tablets (for water purification)  <br>
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Lindane shampoo/lotion (regional)  <br>
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Loperamide (regional)  <br>
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Malaria smear kit  <br>
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Mefloquine  <br>
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MIF kit  <br>
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Multivitamin  <br>
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Mycelex 1% antifungal cream  <br>
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Needles/syringes  <br>
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Oral rehydration salts  <br>
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Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)  <br>
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Poudre salvatis (regional)  <br>
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Pseudoephedrine HCL 30&nbsp;mg (Sudafed)  <br>
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Scissors  <br>
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Silver sulfadiazine cream (regional)  <br>
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Sterile gauze pads  <br>
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Sucrets  <br>
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Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Optopics)  <br>
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Tinactin (antifungal cream)  <br>
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Tweezers  <br>
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Conjunctivitis swabs <br>
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===Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist ===
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Upon arriving at site, Volunteers will identify neighbors, coworkers, and leaders in the community who have transportion and communication capabilities since most likely they will not have their own direct access. This process of identification is an integral part of the community entry process. When Volunteers possess personal communications (e.g., cellphones) they are slower to integrate into their community. Other local means of communication include police radios, hospital/health post radios, and privately owned radios. All are considered an important linkage in Volunteer communication support.
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If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since the time you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and will jeopardize your eligibility to serve.  
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If telephone/radio communication of host families and/ or neighbors is not available, and if telephone/radio communication (including public phone) is not within 50 meters from the Volunteer’s residence, then Peace Corps will work with the Volunteer to resolve the communication situation.  
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If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records.
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====Housing and Site Location====
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If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.  
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During pre-service training and the first three months of Volunteer service you will live with a Guyanese family. Most homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, and many have televisions and telephones.  
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If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your predeparture orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment—at your pre-departure orientation and shortly after you arrive in Mauritania. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.  
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Living with a host family allows for your integration into the community and helps ensure that you live safely and securely in the community. Following pre-service training and your first three months of service, Volunteers have three housing options: continue living with a Guyanese family; living in an independent house/flat connected to a family’s house; and living in a separate house that is part of a family’s compound. The Peace Corps strongly prefers that Volunteers live with a Guyanese family in their house or compound as a first option.  
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Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service.
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In order to encourage integration into the Guyanese culture
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While awaiting shipment, which can take several months, you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.  
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and to minimize American presence in an area, no more than two Volunteers may live in the same house except in unusual circumstances. Exceptions to this arrangement must be approved by the country director. All Volunteer housing must be scrutinized by the Peace Corps’ medical officer and safety and security officer and be approved by the program director.  
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You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.  
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Houses in Guyana typically are constructed from wood or cement block and have two to three rooms. Most towns have running water and intermittent electricity. Rivers serve as a main water supply source in many villages.
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If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. To reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease, we discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless their use has been recommended by an ophthalmologist for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
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===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age and/or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.  
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During pre-service training, each trainee is given $500 Guyanese dollars (about $2.46) per day, payable for seven days at once. This sum is intended to be used mainly for transportation purposes. Trainees’ daily meals are provided by host families. Nonetheless, you may wish to bring some walk-around cash for training. Former trainees say that $100 is adequate.  
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===Safety and Security—Our Partnership ===
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As a Volunteer, you will be expected to live at the same economic level as the Guyanese people in your community.  You will receive a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance to cover your daily expenses. The monthly stipend will allow you to live modestly by the standards of the people in your community, yet not in a manner that would endanger your health or safety. The total amount of your settling-in allowance will depend on the condition of your house and its furnishings.
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Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.  
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The living allowance is not a salary. It is meant to cover food, utilities, household supplies, local transportation, recreation and entertainment, incidental expenses, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. The current monthly living allowance is 41,811 Guyanese dollars, about $200 (U.S.), which will be deposited monthly in a local bank account that you will open at your site. Guyana’s largest bank has recently opened branches throughout the country; thus, you will likely have a bank at your site. For Volunteers placed at sites without a local bank, Peace Corps/Guyana will work with them to arrange an alternative means of accessing the living allowance.  
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The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.  
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The living allowance is based on an annual Volunteer survey and an independent price survey conducted by Peace Corps staff. The allowance will not change by fluctuations in the exchange rate.  
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The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.  
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If you plan to travel to the interior of Guyana during your service, you will need some extra cash. For safety factors, though, do not bring large amounts of cash with you to Guyana. Former Volunteers advise using PayPal to receive money. With PayPal the sender and receiver will both need U.S. bank accounts and e-mail addresses. You will also need a check card with a VISA or Mastercard logo. Money can be sent directly to your U.S. bank account and you can then go to Scotia Bank in Guyana and get a cash advance using the check card. (Of course you will be charged a fee but former Volunteers say this is far cheaper than Western Union and much cheaper than wiring money.)
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===Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk ===
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You may wish to bring additional money for travel to other countries. Credit cards or traveler’s checks are recommended for this. If you do bring credit cards, make sure you have a reliable system for making payments on charges incurred while you are away from the United States.
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There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.  
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The Guyanese dollar floats against the U.S. dollar, and the exchange rate varies. It has been holding relatively steady since December 2003, at about $200 Guyanese per $1 U.S.
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Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).
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===Food and Diet===
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* Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings).  Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
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Pre-service training will provide you with an introduction to the Guyanese diet. During training, meals with your host family will mainly be Guyanese dishes and will represent an important aspect of your cross-cultural experience. Guyanese food varies greatly depending upon locale, religious leaning, and ethnic background.  
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* Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
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* Absence of others: Assaults ususally occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompannied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.  
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* Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
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* Consumption of alcohol and/or human waste: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/ or assailants.
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===Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk ===
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Guyana has been accurately described as the food basket of the Caribbean. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables similar to those in the United States are available, as are inexpensive exotic fruits and vegetables. In addition, American standards like peanut butter, pasta, and tuna are readily available.
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Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.  
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While many Guyanese consume a variety of meat ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary (e.g., labba and other “wild meat”), there are also many vegetarians in Guyana because of its diverse cultures and religions. Vegetarian Volunteers fare well in Guyana.  
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For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
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Overall, past Volunteers have not experienced major dietary problems. Still, their remarks reflect that there is a much greater variety and availability of foods on the coast than in inland areas. Many fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and you have to adapt to their availability and your access to markets.  A recipe book created by previous Volunteers will be made available to you and will help guide your food choices.
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Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
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===Transportation===
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* Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
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The main means of transportation for most Guyanese is the minibus. Trainees and Volunteers also use this mode of transportation. The price for traveling around central Georgetown by minibus is $50 Guyanese (about 24 cents), and special taxi service for the same area costs $300 Guyanese (about $1.47). The cost for traveling longer distances and along the coastland varies according to the distance and the location.
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* Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
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* Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
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* Carry valuables in different pockets/places
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* Carry a "dummy" wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
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* Live with a local family or on a family compound
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* Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
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* Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.  
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* Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
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* Make local friends
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* Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
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* Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
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* Travel with someone whenever possible
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* Avoid known high crime areas
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* Limit alcohol consumption
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===Support from Staff ===
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Many communities are accessible only by river. Corials (paddleboats), speedboats, and jet boats are widely used for this purpose. It is mandatory for trainees and Volunteers who live and work in the riverine areas to use life jackets, which Peace Corps/Guyana provides. Travel among counties is also highly dependent upon the rivers. While the Demerara Harbour Bridge links West Demerara to Demerara and Georgetown, ferry service exists for crossing the Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice rivers and for transport to Bartica and other river communities.
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In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; and Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise. The safety and security team also tracks crime statistics, identifies trends in criminal activity, and highlights potential safety risks to Volunteers.  
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Traveling by air is the major form of transportation to areas in the interior of Guyana and to the rest of the world.  Approximately six international passenger flights arrive and leave daily. The three major airlines that frequent Guyana are BWIA, North American Airlines, and Liat 1974 Ltd. Airlines.  There are also about four daily cargo flights.  
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The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
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===Geography and Climate===
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If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed.  
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Guyana is located approximately five degrees north of the equator and is on the northern coast of the South American continent.  While Guyana is not an island, it is part of the Caribbean Community and is often described as a West Indian nation.  
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After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provides support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.  
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Guyana’s 214,970 square kilometers (approximately 83,000 square miles) are divided into four ecological zones: the coastal plain (25 kilometers wide); the sand belt (about 150 to 250 kilometers wide); the highland, which consists of the four major mountain ranges of Acarai, Imataka, Kanuku, and Pakaraima; and the interior savanna, making up about 11,655 square kilometers.  
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The following country-specific data chart shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees in Mauritania as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 1999–2003. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.  
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Guyana is known for its high temperatures, heavy rainfall, small climatic differences, and high humidity. The daily temperature in Georgetown fluctuates between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but it varies elsewhere depending on the part of the country. For example, the constant heat and high humidity are mitigated near the coast by the northeast tradewinds. Rainfall is heaviest on the plateau and the coast, where the long wet season is from April to August and the short wet season is from December to early February. Dry seasons fall in between the rainy seasons. In the savanna, however, there is one long dry season from the end of April to the end of September, and the rainy season runs for the remainder of the year.  
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To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
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===Social Activities===
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The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.  
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Social activities in Guyana vary from place to place. A variety of activities, including dramatic productions, concerts, and beauty pageants, are held at the National Cultural Centre, city and town halls, and community centers in villages. Popular social activities include going to the cinema, discos, weddings, religious festivals and celebrations, folk festivals, and heritage-week activities representing the ethnic groups in Guyana.  Fairs and barbecues are also popular events.  
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The chart is separated into the eight most commonly occurring assault types. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
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===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.  
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Guyanese are fairly traditional and conservative, especially in smaller villages. Appropriate personal appearance and behavior will help establish your credibility and reflect your respect for the customs and expectations of the people with whom you live and work. From the biggest city to the most remote village site, you will be judged, especially initially, on your appearance.  
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===What if you become a victim of a violent crime? ===
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Guyanese dress well and are always neat and clean. While businessmen do not always wear suits and ties, they do typically wear dress shirts and slacks. Women in business or government only occasionally wear slacks; more often, they wear lightweight suits or skirts with blouses.
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Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes.  The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.  
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Casual clothing can be worn in off hours and in nonformal situations. Remember that the Peace Corps office is a place of official business, so you need to dress and behave accordingly when you are there. Dress sandals may be worn at work by women, but shorts are not appropriate work attire for men or women. Public displays of affection are also not appropriate— even between married couples.  
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Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.  
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During training, you are expected to dress and behave as you would on the job. Shirts and shoes must be worn at all times. Spaghetti-strap or halter tops convey an unprofessional attitude that is inconsistent with a positive Peace Corps image. Although women should not wear shorts, capris are acceptable. For women, loose-fitting skirts are the most practical for getting around and walking.  
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If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.  
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Use your own discretion within the parameters noted above in choosing what to wear, and remember neatness, cleanliness, and maintaining a professional appearance in work settings are foremost. In coming to Guyana, it is not necessary to change your entire wardrobe. Many trainees and Volunteers wear the same clothing they wore at home. It is inappropriate for trainees or Volunteers to wear military surplus clothing such as pants, boots, jackets, and backpacks. The Peace Corps wants to be distinguished from the U.S. and Guyana militaries and has tried to keep its image as detached as possible.  
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In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at [email protected].  
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For women, a small nose piercing or normal ear piercing is acceptable. It is not acceptable for men. Multiple ear piercings or piercing of the tongue, lips, or other parts of the body are generally unacceptable for a professional person in Guyanese culture. Therefore, any such piercings should not be apparent once you arrive in Guyana.  
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===Security Issues in Mauritania ===
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===Personal Safety ===
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When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Mauritania. You can reduce your risk of becoming a target for crime by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in Nouakchott; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. The following are safety concerns in Mauritania you should be aware of:
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More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents.
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Robbery/burglary—The homes of some Volunteers have been burglarized in the past, and Volunteers should take the same precautions that they would in the United States. The Peace Corps covers proper home safety during training, and requires landlords to install locks on all Volunteer homes (doors and windows).  
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The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Guyana.  At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.  
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Harassment—Volunteers have reported varying levels of harassment during their service. While children can be a constant nuisance—asking for pens, candy, and money; calling Volunteers names; and sometimes throwing rocks— even adults can be troublesome. Volunteers are sometimes subjected to overt sexual comments, persistent demands for money or a visa for the United States, intense pressure to convert to Islam, being called derogatory names, or harassment based on race or nationality. This tends to happen more often in larger cities where the Volunteer is not as well-known. Strategies for dealing and coping with harassment are covered during pre-service training.  
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The crime rate is high in Guyana. While it may be tempting to point to Guyana’s poverty when trying to explain this high crime rate, poverty is only a contributing factor, and it does not explain the situation conclusively.  
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Threat of sexual assault—Volunteers have been targets of sexual assault in Mauritania. Cross-cultural differences in gender relations are often associated with sexual assaults, and the assailant is often known to the Volunteer. Techniques taught in Peace Corps/Mauritania’s training program regarding sexual assaults can seriously minimize your risk. Volunteers are urged to report all assaults and threats of assault to the Peace Corps medical officer so that staff can respond with appropriate support. Note that sex outside of marriage is not looked upon favorably in Mauritania, and openly disregarding this norm may jeopardize your safety and/or ability to develop mutually respectful relationships in your community and at your job.  
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During pre-service training, you will be introduced to behaviors that, if followed, will minimize your risk. Many of these are the same precautions you would take at home (e.g., living in a secure house, avoiding dangerous neighbors, and taking special precautions when moving around at night).  Additional steps specific to being a trainee or Volunteer in Guyana, such as getting to know your community, understanding what constitutes appropriate behavior in Guyanese culture, building relationships with trustworthy individuals, and following the Peace Corps/Guyana housing policy, will be presented.  
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===Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime ===
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===Rewards and Frustrations===
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You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will enhance your acceptance. In coming to Mauritania, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States: be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Mauritania may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.  
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Rewards and frustrations are a reality of life. However, there are some specific frustrations that you are likely to experience while living and working in Guyana. For instance, you may feel that your Guyanese colleagues do not carry out their duties in a manner that reflects an appropriate level of “commitment” to the job. Additionally, there may be long time lapses before decisions on important issues are made. There may also be an absence or shortage of resources that you consider basic to the successful completion of your work. Thus, you may need to slow down your pace and reconsider your expectations for the way business is done in Guyana.  
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Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and at their sites, but receive far more negative attention in highly populated centers, where they are anonymous. In smaller towns, host family, friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Keep your money out of sight—use an undergarment money pouch, such as the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. You should always walk with a companion at night.  
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On the other hand, you will have an opportunity to be innovative and work with your counterparts to find alternatives to traditional ways of doing things. You will find the Guyanese to be friendly. People will help you at personal sacrifice. You will experience the change you make in people’s lives by simple things you say and do. You will experience satisfaction from working in the interest of others.  
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===Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Mauritania ===
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Your main satisfaction will derive from helping local people achieve their development aspirations, while learning about a new culture and about yourself in the process. You will encounter unusual social and cultural situations that require flexibility and understanding on your part. As you communicate honestly and demonstrate your interest in Guyana, you will be able to enjoy your community, its customs and people, and your role as a Volunteer. Just as in any community, your village will have a variety of personalities, some helpful and welcoming, others disinterested or unsure of why you are there.
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The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents.  Mauritania’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
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[[Category:Guyana]]
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The Peace Corps/Mauritania office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memoranda from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
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Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Mauritania. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
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Certain site selection criteria are used to determine the availability of safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival.  The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for the Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites.  Site selection criteria are based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other support needs.
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You will also learn about the country’s detailed emergency action plan in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Mauritania will gather at predetermined locations until the situation resolves itself or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
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Finally, in order to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to either the Peace Corps medical officer or the Peace Corps safety and security officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
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[[Category:Mauritania]]
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[[Category:Health and Safety]]
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Latest revision as of 15:03, 22 November 2013



Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in [[ ]]
As a Peace Corps Volunteers, you will have to adapt to conditions that may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced and modify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basic practices— talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping — may take significantly different forms in the context of the host country. If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with a deep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new and potentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.
See also:

Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyles by Country Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline

For information see Welcomebooks

[[Category: ]]


Contents

[edit] Communications

[edit] Mail

Mail service between the United States and Guyana is fairly reliable. Airmail letters from home usually take two weeks to arrive in Guyana and four to five weeks to arrive in the United States from Guyana. Surface mail may take months. The further a Volunteer’s site is from a large city, the less dependable and frequent the mail service.

During training, your address in Guyana will be:

“Your Name,” PCT

Peace Corps

PO Box 101192

Georgetown, Guyana

South America


Once you move to your site, you will be responsible for sending your new address to family and friends.

We recommend that you establish a regular writing pattern with friends and relatives in the United States, since they may become concerned if they do not hear from you over an extended period of time. Some Volunteers and their families sequentially number their letters to keep track of how many were sent and received. This is one way of knowing whether someone is just too busy to write or if letters are not arriving. We have found that after trainees have been sworn in and move to their sites, writing habits change as they become more involved in projects and the newness of the lifestyle wears off. A delay in the mail may also be the result of being in a more isolated site.

As for packages, Volunteers are responsible for paying import duties on items mailed to them from outside the country. The customs process for obtaining sent items is often lengthy, although the duty on items is generally minimal. Customs will notify you directly if you have been sent a package. Peace Corps/Guyana cannot help get these packages released from customs. Small padded envelopes are recommended over boxes.

One alternative to shipping packages through regular mail is to send items through a service such as DHL International or Federal Express. Both companies have offices in Georgetown, but their services are expensive. You can have items sent through these companies to the Peace Corps office in Georgetown, but you must provide the street address and phone number. (The street address for the Peace Corps is 33A Barrack Street, Kingston, Georgetown, Guyana. The phone number is 592.225.5073.) Another alternative is a local company, Laparkan, that offers relatively inexpensive air freight service to Guyana from New York, Toronto, and Miami. Surface mail for packages takes four to six weeks.

We do not recommend that family or friends send you money, airline tickets, or other valuables through the mail. Airline tickets can be paid for in the United States and picked up in Guyana using a reference number. There are also several travel agents in Georgetown through which Volunteers can purchase airline tickets.

[edit] Telephones

International phone service to and from Guyana is relatively good. Volunteers can call the United States collect by placing the call via a Guyanese operator (002) or directly by placing it with a U.S. operator (151 or 165). Do not bring prepaid phone cards, as they cannot be used without incurring a second charge for the same call. Likewise, calling cards and credit cards do not work from Guyana. Collect calls are expensive, costing about $7 for the first minute and $1.40 for each subsequent minute. The rate for direct calls to the United States from Guyana, about $1.20 per minute, is often cheaper than the rate from the United States to Guyana. Local phone booths and Internet cafés also offer calls to the U.S. Volunteers are not allowed to place international direct calls or send international faxes from the Peace Corps office. For these services, you must use local facilities in Georgetown.

Some Volunteers will have their own landline telephones or easy access to a neighbor’s. Some Volunteers will be issued a Peace Corps cellphone based upon certain site conditions. It is possible to purchase your own cellphone in Guyana. However, be aware that many cellphones purchased in the United States will not work on Guyana’s cellular phone system. It is possible to buy and activate cellphones in Guyana ranging from a low of about $50 U.S. to $550.

Encourage your family and friends to research local phone companies or look on the Internet to find special deals and offers on international calling.

[edit] Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access

There are computers with Internet access and printers for Volunteer use at the Peace Corps office in Georgetown. Volunteers must provide their own paper (which can be purchased in-country). If the computers are being used, access to a staff computer may be arranged (for work-related purposes) through the administrative officer.

There are Internet cafes in all the major towns and many villages that offer services at a reasonable cost. You can use these services to access the Internet or prepare documents. Approximately 80 percent of currently serving Volunteers have Internet access either through an Internet cafe, their work sites, or from home via a landline service.

Upon arriving at site, Volunteers will identify neighbors, coworkers, and leaders in the community who have transportion and communication capabilities since most likely they will not have their own direct access. This process of identification is an integral part of the community entry process. When Volunteers possess personal communications (e.g., cellphones) they are slower to integrate into their community. Other local means of communication include police radios, hospital/health post radios, and privately owned radios. All are considered an important linkage in Volunteer communication support.

If telephone/radio communication of host families and/ or neighbors is not available, and if telephone/radio communication (including public phone) is not within 50 meters from the Volunteer’s residence, then Peace Corps will work with the Volunteer to resolve the communication situation.

[edit] Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training and the first three months of Volunteer service you will live with a Guyanese family. Most homes have electricity and indoor plumbing, and many have televisions and telephones.

Living with a host family allows for your integration into the community and helps ensure that you live safely and securely in the community. Following pre-service training and your first three months of service, Volunteers have three housing options: continue living with a Guyanese family; living in an independent house/flat connected to a family’s house; and living in a separate house that is part of a family’s compound. The Peace Corps strongly prefers that Volunteers live with a Guyanese family in their house or compound as a first option.

In order to encourage integration into the Guyanese culture

and to minimize American presence in an area, no more than two Volunteers may live in the same house except in unusual circumstances. Exceptions to this arrangement must be approved by the country director. All Volunteer housing must be scrutinized by the Peace Corps’ medical officer and safety and security officer and be approved by the program director.

Houses in Guyana typically are constructed from wood or cement block and have two to three rooms. Most towns have running water and intermittent electricity. Rivers serve as a main water supply source in many villages.

[edit] Living Allowance and Money Management

During pre-service training, each trainee is given $500 Guyanese dollars (about $2.46) per day, payable for seven days at once. This sum is intended to be used mainly for transportation purposes. Trainees’ daily meals are provided by host families. Nonetheless, you may wish to bring some walk-around cash for training. Former trainees say that $100 is adequate.

As a Volunteer, you will be expected to live at the same economic level as the Guyanese people in your community. You will receive a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance to cover your daily expenses. The monthly stipend will allow you to live modestly by the standards of the people in your community, yet not in a manner that would endanger your health or safety. The total amount of your settling-in allowance will depend on the condition of your house and its furnishings.

The living allowance is not a salary. It is meant to cover food, utilities, household supplies, local transportation, recreation and entertainment, incidental expenses, occasional replacement of clothes, and toiletries. The current monthly living allowance is 41,811 Guyanese dollars, about $200 (U.S.), which will be deposited monthly in a local bank account that you will open at your site. Guyana’s largest bank has recently opened branches throughout the country; thus, you will likely have a bank at your site. For Volunteers placed at sites without a local bank, Peace Corps/Guyana will work with them to arrange an alternative means of accessing the living allowance.

The living allowance is based on an annual Volunteer survey and an independent price survey conducted by Peace Corps staff. The allowance will not change by fluctuations in the exchange rate.

If you plan to travel to the interior of Guyana during your service, you will need some extra cash. For safety factors, though, do not bring large amounts of cash with you to Guyana. Former Volunteers advise using PayPal to receive money. With PayPal the sender and receiver will both need U.S. bank accounts and e-mail addresses. You will also need a check card with a VISA or Mastercard logo. Money can be sent directly to your U.S. bank account and you can then go to Scotia Bank in Guyana and get a cash advance using the check card. (Of course you will be charged a fee but former Volunteers say this is far cheaper than Western Union and much cheaper than wiring money.)

You may wish to bring additional money for travel to other countries. Credit cards or traveler’s checks are recommended for this. If you do bring credit cards, make sure you have a reliable system for making payments on charges incurred while you are away from the United States.

The Guyanese dollar floats against the U.S. dollar, and the exchange rate varies. It has been holding relatively steady since December 2003, at about $200 Guyanese per $1 U.S.

[edit] Food and Diet

Pre-service training will provide you with an introduction to the Guyanese diet. During training, meals with your host family will mainly be Guyanese dishes and will represent an important aspect of your cross-cultural experience. Guyanese food varies greatly depending upon locale, religious leaning, and ethnic background.

Guyana has been accurately described as the food basket of the Caribbean. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables similar to those in the United States are available, as are inexpensive exotic fruits and vegetables. In addition, American standards like peanut butter, pasta, and tuna are readily available.

While many Guyanese consume a variety of meat ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary (e.g., labba and other “wild meat”), there are also many vegetarians in Guyana because of its diverse cultures and religions. Vegetarian Volunteers fare well in Guyana.

Overall, past Volunteers have not experienced major dietary problems. Still, their remarks reflect that there is a much greater variety and availability of foods on the coast than in inland areas. Many fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and you have to adapt to their availability and your access to markets. A recipe book created by previous Volunteers will be made available to you and will help guide your food choices.

[edit] Transportation

The main means of transportation for most Guyanese is the minibus. Trainees and Volunteers also use this mode of transportation. The price for traveling around central Georgetown by minibus is $50 Guyanese (about 24 cents), and special taxi service for the same area costs $300 Guyanese (about $1.47). The cost for traveling longer distances and along the coastland varies according to the distance and the location.

Many communities are accessible only by river. Corials (paddleboats), speedboats, and jet boats are widely used for this purpose. It is mandatory for trainees and Volunteers who live and work in the riverine areas to use life jackets, which Peace Corps/Guyana provides. Travel among counties is also highly dependent upon the rivers. While the Demerara Harbour Bridge links West Demerara to Demerara and Georgetown, ferry service exists for crossing the Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice rivers and for transport to Bartica and other river communities.

Traveling by air is the major form of transportation to areas in the interior of Guyana and to the rest of the world. Approximately six international passenger flights arrive and leave daily. The three major airlines that frequent Guyana are BWIA, North American Airlines, and Liat 1974 Ltd. Airlines. There are also about four daily cargo flights.

[edit] Geography and Climate

Guyana is located approximately five degrees north of the equator and is on the northern coast of the South American continent. While Guyana is not an island, it is part of the Caribbean Community and is often described as a West Indian nation.

Guyana’s 214,970 square kilometers (approximately 83,000 square miles) are divided into four ecological zones: the coastal plain (25 kilometers wide); the sand belt (about 150 to 250 kilometers wide); the highland, which consists of the four major mountain ranges of Acarai, Imataka, Kanuku, and Pakaraima; and the interior savanna, making up about 11,655 square kilometers.

Guyana is known for its high temperatures, heavy rainfall, small climatic differences, and high humidity. The daily temperature in Georgetown fluctuates between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but it varies elsewhere depending on the part of the country. For example, the constant heat and high humidity are mitigated near the coast by the northeast tradewinds. Rainfall is heaviest on the plateau and the coast, where the long wet season is from April to August and the short wet season is from December to early February. Dry seasons fall in between the rainy seasons. In the savanna, however, there is one long dry season from the end of April to the end of September, and the rainy season runs for the remainder of the year.

[edit] Social Activities

Social activities in Guyana vary from place to place. A variety of activities, including dramatic productions, concerts, and beauty pageants, are held at the National Cultural Centre, city and town halls, and community centers in villages. Popular social activities include going to the cinema, discos, weddings, religious festivals and celebrations, folk festivals, and heritage-week activities representing the ethnic groups in Guyana. Fairs and barbecues are also popular events.

[edit] Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

Guyanese are fairly traditional and conservative, especially in smaller villages. Appropriate personal appearance and behavior will help establish your credibility and reflect your respect for the customs and expectations of the people with whom you live and work. From the biggest city to the most remote village site, you will be judged, especially initially, on your appearance.

Guyanese dress well and are always neat and clean. While businessmen do not always wear suits and ties, they do typically wear dress shirts and slacks. Women in business or government only occasionally wear slacks; more often, they wear lightweight suits or skirts with blouses.

Casual clothing can be worn in off hours and in nonformal situations. Remember that the Peace Corps office is a place of official business, so you need to dress and behave accordingly when you are there. Dress sandals may be worn at work by women, but shorts are not appropriate work attire for men or women. Public displays of affection are also not appropriate— even between married couples.

During training, you are expected to dress and behave as you would on the job. Shirts and shoes must be worn at all times. Spaghetti-strap or halter tops convey an unprofessional attitude that is inconsistent with a positive Peace Corps image. Although women should not wear shorts, capris are acceptable. For women, loose-fitting skirts are the most practical for getting around and walking.

Use your own discretion within the parameters noted above in choosing what to wear, and remember neatness, cleanliness, and maintaining a professional appearance in work settings are foremost. In coming to Guyana, it is not necessary to change your entire wardrobe. Many trainees and Volunteers wear the same clothing they wore at home. It is inappropriate for trainees or Volunteers to wear military surplus clothing such as pants, boots, jackets, and backpacks. The Peace Corps wants to be distinguished from the U.S. and Guyana militaries and has tried to keep its image as detached as possible.

For women, a small nose piercing or normal ear piercing is acceptable. It is not acceptable for men. Multiple ear piercings or piercing of the tongue, lips, or other parts of the body are generally unacceptable for a professional person in Guyanese culture. Therefore, any such piercings should not be apparent once you arrive in Guyana.

[edit] Personal Safety

More information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents.

The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Guyana. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.

The crime rate is high in Guyana. While it may be tempting to point to Guyana’s poverty when trying to explain this high crime rate, poverty is only a contributing factor, and it does not explain the situation conclusively.

During pre-service training, you will be introduced to behaviors that, if followed, will minimize your risk. Many of these are the same precautions you would take at home (e.g., living in a secure house, avoiding dangerous neighbors, and taking special precautions when moving around at night). Additional steps specific to being a trainee or Volunteer in Guyana, such as getting to know your community, understanding what constitutes appropriate behavior in Guyanese culture, building relationships with trustworthy individuals, and following the Peace Corps/Guyana housing policy, will be presented.

[edit] Rewards and Frustrations

Rewards and frustrations are a reality of life. However, there are some specific frustrations that you are likely to experience while living and working in Guyana. For instance, you may feel that your Guyanese colleagues do not carry out their duties in a manner that reflects an appropriate level of “commitment” to the job. Additionally, there may be long time lapses before decisions on important issues are made. There may also be an absence or shortage of resources that you consider basic to the successful completion of your work. Thus, you may need to slow down your pace and reconsider your expectations for the way business is done in Guyana.

On the other hand, you will have an opportunity to be innovative and work with your counterparts to find alternatives to traditional ways of doing things. You will find the Guyanese to be friendly. People will help you at personal sacrifice. You will experience the change you make in people’s lives by simple things you say and do. You will experience satisfaction from working in the interest of others.

Your main satisfaction will derive from helping local people achieve their development aspirations, while learning about a new culture and about yourself in the process. You will encounter unusual social and cultural situations that require flexibility and understanding on your part. As you communicate honestly and demonstrate your interest in Guyana, you will be able to enjoy your community, its customs and people, and your role as a Volunteer. Just as in any community, your village will have a variety of personalities, some helpful and welcoming, others disinterested or unsure of why you are there.

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