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For the official Welcome Book for Swaziland see here
PEACE CORPS / SWAZILAND HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Swaziland
The Peace Corps was invited to work in Swaziland in 1969, a few months after the country gained independence from Great Britain. Over the next 28 years, 1,400 Peace Corps Volunteers served in Swaziland, working in the education and agriculture sectors. Playing a prominent role in Swaziland’s development, Volunteers taught English, agriculture, mathematics, science, and vocational education in secondary schools and promoted agricultural cooperatives in rural areas. A small number of volunteers were stationed in the urban areas, doing projects such as technical training at Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) and in Manzini, computer work in the Ministry of Finance, urban planning, and geology.
A programming review in 1994 recommended that Peace Corps/Swaziland begin phasing out the education project because of the Ministry of Education’s lack of long-term priorities and objectives for the education sector. In addition, the ministry did not have a strategy for overcoming the increasing deficit of qualified secondary school teachers. These factors made the sustainability of the education project difficult.
The same review recommended the design of an environment project to protect the environment, further the education of the public on conservation issues, and promote small business development. This project was successfully launched in 1995, but in 1996, the Peace Corps faced budgetary constraints that necessitated the early closure of the Peace Corps/Swaziland program.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Swaziland
The greatest problem confronting the people of Swaziland is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As of 2005, the infection rate of adults (ages 15 to 49) was 42.6 percent, giving Swaziland the highest HIV rate in the world. In addition, approximately 70,000 children have been orphaned as a result of AIDS.
Despite King Mswati III’s declaration of AIDS as a national crisis, little additional government funding has been allocated to combating the disease. Moreover, the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland is exacerbating the impact of the current food crisis and drought in-country. The United Nations estimates that almost one-quarter of the population will require food assistance. The current rate of life expectancy in Swaziland, as a result of HIV/AIDS, is down to 37.5 years of age.
In April 2002, a Peace Corps assessment team visited Swaziland to determine how Volunteers could assist the Swazi people. The team found that the overwhelming effects of AIDS on the country’s people indicated a need for immediate assistance. The areas in which the Peace Corps feels it can best help the people of Swaziland are training teachers and community members in life skills aimed at HIV/AIDS prevention, initiating and promoting programs in HIV/AIDS awareness, identifying partnerships and resource alliances to fight the epidemic, strengthening existing HIV/AIDS intervention strategies and activities, mobilizing communities to respond to the effects of HIV/AIDS, and working with in-school and out-of-school youth.
The Peace Corps reopened its Swaziland program in 2003. The program is now devoted entirely to HIV/AIDS prevention, mitigation, care, and support.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW: SWAZILAND AT A GLANCE
The Swazis are descendants of the Nguni people, who settled in the area that is now Mozambique in the mid-18th century. After a series of conflicts with people living near what is now Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, the Swazis settled in an area of South Africa formerly known as Zululand (now KwaZulu-Natal province), gradually moving northward in the early 1800s to the area of modern Swaziland. Swazis’ contact with the British came when King Mswati II asked British authorities for assistance against Zulu raids into Swaziland. After Mswati’s death, the Swazis reached agreements with Britain and South Africa over a range of issues, and from 1894 to 1903, South Africa administered Swaziland. Swaziland became a British protectorate in 1903 after the Boer War of 1899-1902. The British refused repeated requests by South Africa that the territory be handed over and administered Swaziland as a “high commission territory.”
Britain expected that Swaziland would eventually be incorporated into South Africa, but after World War II, South Africa’s intensification of racial discrimination induced Britain to prepare Swaziland for independence. Political activity calling for independence and economic development increased in the early 1960s. In 1966, the British government agreed to discuss a new constitution with the Swazis. A committee agreed on a constitutional monarchy for Swaziland, with self-government to follow parliamentary elections in 1967. The country became independent on September 6, 1968.
The first post-independence elections were held in May 1972; however, in 1973, King Sobhuza II repealed the constitution and dissolved Parliament, imposing a state of emergency in which he assumed all powers of government and prohibited political parties. A new constitution in 1978 continued to concentrate political power in the hands of the monarch, but called for the appointment of a prime minister and a cabinet and an elected Parliament, the Libandla, in which political parties would remain illegal. The Parliament’s functions were restricted to conveying advice to the king and his principal advisory body, the Liqoqo (Supreme Council of State).
The current monarch, King Mswati III, was crowned in April 1986. Shortly afterward, he abolished the Liqoqo, and in 1987, a new Parliament was elected and a new cabinet was appointed. An underground political party, the People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), emerged in 1988 and clandestinely criticized the king and the government, calling for democratic reforms. In response to this political threat and to growing calls for greater accountability in government, the king and the prime minister initiated a national debate, which continues to this day, on the political future of Swaziland. Although steady pressure has been exerted on the king from both inside and outside the country, he remains immune to threats and continues as one of the world’s few absolute monarchs.
A new constitution was written and adopted by Parliament and then signed by the king in summer 2005.
National executive power in Swaziland is vested in the king, who appoints, and is assisted by, a prime minister and cabinet. One house of Parliament (the Libandla) is the National Assembly, which has 65 members, 55 of whom are directly elected from a list of candidates nominated by traditional local councils and 10 of whom are appointed by the king. The 30-member Senate consists of 10 members elected by the National Assembly and 20 appointed by the king. Judicial authority is vested in a high court and subordinate courts. Civil matters among Swazis are handled by traditional leaders, subject to appeals to the high court.
In this small, landlocked country, subsistence agriculture occupies more than 80 percent of the population. Manufacturing consists of a number of agro-processing factories. Mining has declined in importance in recent years. Diamond mines have shut down because of the depletion of easily accessible reserves; high-grade iron ore deposits have been depleted; and health concerns have cut the world demand for asbestos. Exports of soft-drink concentrate, sugar, and wood pulp are the main sources of hard currency. Surrounded by South Africa except for a short border with Mozambique, Swaziland is heavily dependent on South Africa, from which it receives nine-tenths of its imports and to which it sends two-thirds of its exports. Remittances from the Southern African Customs Union and Swazi workers in South African mines substantially supplement domestically earned income.
People and Culture
Swaziland has been a monarchy ever since the Nguni people entered the territory about 400 years ago. The monarchy plays an integral role in the life of the nation and is the focus of many traditional ceremonies and much of its cultural life.
Although indigenous religions are not widely practiced, traditional Swazi culture remains strong and is celebrated in the forms of religious music, dance, poetry, and craftsmanship. Two important ceremonies that are central to Swazi culture are the Incwala (fruit ceremony) and Umhlanga (reed dance). Swaziland is predominantly a Christian country, with 30 percent of the people holding traditional beliefs and 10 percent being Muslim.
The population of Swaziland is estimated at 1.1 million, with an annual growth rate of -0.4 percent. Most of the people are ethnic Swazis, although there are small populations of Zulus, Tsonga-Shangaans, and Europeans. Mozambican refugees of both African and European descent also form a significant minority. English and siSwati are the official languages, and English is used for all government business.
The administrative and judicial capital is Mbabane, while the traditional royal capital is Lobamba. Approximately 25 percent of the population lives in urban areas. In 2005, an estimated 71 percent of school-age children were enrolled in primary schools, while an estimated 45 percent were enrolled in secondary schools. The literacy rate is estimated at 80 percent.
The Kingdom of Swaziland is one of the smallest political entities of continental Africa. Covering an area of only 6,945 square miles or 17,363 square kilometers (slightly smaller than New Jersey), it is surrounded by South Africa on the north, west, and south and separated from the Indian Ocean on the east by Mozambique.
The geography consists of a surprisingly wide range of ecological zones, from savanna scrub in the east to rain forest in the northwest, with patches of the finbos, or “fine bush,” which is renowned in South Africa. The mountainous border with Mozambique is harsh and dry, and sharp mountains poke out of the highveld in the west. More than 75 percent of Swazis work in agriculture, mainly at the subsistence level, although the nation is not self-sufficient in food.
Swaziland’s natural resources, including game reserves and national parks, are well-managed. Wildlife is abundant in all the reserves, and the country has hundreds of bird species. In addition to wildlife, Swaziland has subtropical woodlands and swamps in the east and hardwood forests in the western highlands, which the logging industry is chipping away at.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Swaziland and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.
A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experiences, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Swaziland
On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Mbabane to how to convert from the dollar to the lilangeni. Just click on Swaziland and go from there.
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Swaziland and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local Volunteer activities. Or go straight to the Friends of Swaziland site:http://pages.prodigy. net/vonreyn/index.htm.
This site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring. Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about their service.
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
Online Articles/Current News Sites About Swaziland
The official government website, which also contains a link to Swaziland Today, a weekly newsletter
The website of Swaziland’s only daily newspaper
The website of the U.S. Embassy in Mbabane
A site with news from all regions of Africa
Current news from the BBC
A site sponsored by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The website of the Southern Africa Development Community
The website of Africa Action, a U.S. organization that works for political, economic, and social justice in Africa International Development Sites About Swaziland
A United Nations site with thorough information on the AIDS epidemic
Site of the U.S. Agency for International Development
Site of the World Bank
Site of the World Food Programme, the United Nations’ main agency in the fight against global hunger
- Hall, James. Sangoma: My Odyssey Into the Spirit World of Africa. Carmichael, Calif.: Touchstone Books, 1995.
- Kessler, Cristina. All the King’s Animals: The Return of Endangered Wildlife to Swaziland. Honesdale, Pa.: Boyds Mills Press, 2001.
- Krog, Antjie. Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa. Times Books, 2000.
- Locke, Ron and Peter Quantrill. Zulu Vanquished: The Destruction of the Zulu Kingdom. London: Greenhill Books, 2005.
- Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. London: Little Brown, 1995.
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, N.Y.: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Postal rates in Swaziland are reasonable, and airmail to the United States generally takes two to three weeks. Aerogrammes and other mailing supplies can be purchased at post offices. Sending large packages via airmail can be very expensive, but smaller items such as cassettes can be sent via airmail for a reasonable charge. Surface mail takes two to four months to reach the United States. During pre-service training, you will receive mail at the training location. During Volunteer service, you are likely to be able to receive mail directly at your site.
Domestic and international phone service is available in large towns and in some villages. You will certainly have the opportunity to make or receive international calls during your service. Cellular phones are becoming more affordable as cellular service is available throughout Swaziland, and Peace Corps/Swaziland provides Volunteers with funds to purchase a cellular phone after completion of pre-service training. However, depending on network coverage, you may not be able to telephone your home from your site on a regular basis.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
E-mail access is available at Internet cafés in Mbabane and other large towns. As telephone service has increased, so has Internet access. You are likely to have access to these services approximately every one to two months, unless there is access near your site. You should not expect to have access to the Internet and e-mail during pre-service training.
Housing and Site Location
Your community will provide safe and adequate housing in accordance with the Peace Corps’ site selection criteria. However, you need to be very flexible in your housing expectations. Housing will vary from a mud house with a thatch or tin roof to a cement block house to a room with a local family in a traditional homestead. Most Volunteers live on rural homesteads with Swazi host families. There is no guarantee that you will have running water or electricity; if you do not, you will collect your water from a community tap and spend evenings reading by candlelight or lantern. You will receive a settling-in allowance in local currency to purchase necessary household items.
Living Allowance and Money Management
The Peace Corps provides each Volunteer with a small allowance during training, a settling-in allowance, and a monthly living allowance for routine, basic expenses. A leave allowance equivalent to $24 a month and a travel allowance for official in-country travel are also provided. The allowances are calculated to allow a modest lifestyle in Swaziland, which most Volunteers find to be adequate.
The local currency is the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni). South African rand are also accepted as legal tender. MasterCard credit cards are widely accepted in Swaziland, while Visa has more limited use. Traveler’s checks are also widely accepted. (Be sure to keep the original receipt of purchase.) Volunteers recommend that you bring some U.S. currency and credit cards if you plan to travel during vacations or after your service. The amount of cash you need will depend on the amount of traveling you plan to do. In neighboring South Africa, credit cards are widely accepted at places of business, and there are many ATMs that provide access to bank accounts in the United States.
Food and Diet
The staple food in Swaziland is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge and eaten with vegetables or a sauce. Common vegetables include tomatoes, greens, potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Various fruits and vegetables are available seasonally, which means that some things will not be in markets year-round. A variety of meat and dairy products is also available. You are likely to find canned goods and basic food items throughout Swaziland. Vegetarians will be able to maintain a healthy diet in Swaziland after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. However, being a vegetarian will require some compromises and a willingness to continually explain your diet to others.
The primary modes of transportation in Swaziland are public buses and minivans. Minivans travel between towns on irregular schedules (i.e., when full), so travel via this form of transport is never a timed affair. Bus schedules are fairly regular, but buses generally are not available in remote, rural areas. Roads generally are in good condition in the larger towns and cities. Poorly maintained vehicles, livestock wandering into the road, and intoxicated drivers are the main causes of road accidents in Swaziland.
Swaziland Volunteers receive an all-terrain bicycle (along with a helmet) to facilitate transportation to and from their work. Peace Corps policy requires that helmets be worn when riding. The bikes provided by the Peace Corps are men’s bikes, which can be difficult for women to ride when wearing a skirt. Female Volunteers often wear shorts under their skirts to accommodate this.
Volunteers are not allowed to own or operate motor vehicles, including motorcycles. Furthermore, Volunteers are not allowed to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle. All trainees will receive a copy of Peace Corps/Swaziland’s transportation policy during pre-service training. Violation of this policy will result in your being terminated from Volunteer service.
Geography and Climate
Swaziland can be divided into four distinct geographical areas, running north to south, each with its own climate and other characteristics: highveld, middleveld, lowveld (or bushveld), and the Lubombo Plateau.
On the western border is the highveld, lying on the edge of an escarpment at altitudes averaging 4,000 feet. This mountainous area has abundant rivers, waterfalls, and gorges. The climate is temperate with wet, warm summers and cold, dry winters. The capital, Mbabane, is located in this area. Moving toward the east, at a lower altitude, is the middleveld, which gets slightly less rain, has a warm climate, and features lush, fertile valleys. This region is the main area for agriculture and industry and has the densest population. Adjacent to the middleveld is the lowveld, which is hotter and drier than the areas to the west. Major export crops such as sugarcane and citrus fruits are cultivated here. Dominated by grasslands and thorn trees, the region is the least populated area. Eastern Swaziland consists of the Lubombo Plateau, an escarpment bordering Mozambique. This mountainous area is broken by three main rivers and has a subtropical climate much like that of the middleveld.
The moderate climate ranges from subtropical to temperate depending on the altitude. June through September is cool and dry, but often cold at night, while October through May is warm and wet. Higher elevations are generally cloudy, mist covered, and about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the country. The temperature in Mbabane ranges from 59 to 77 degrees in January and 42 to 67 degrees in July (Farenheit).
Your social life will vary depending on where you are located. In more rural communities, the major pastime is visiting with neighbors and friends. Cultural festivities, sporting events, weddings, and even funerals provide opportunities to meet and catch up with community members and their extended families.
Although Volunteers often want to visit other Volunteers on weekends or holidays, the Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain at their sites to develop relationships in their community and to promote the second goal of the Peace Corps, i.e., cultural exchange. Also, in accordance with the Peace Corps’ philosophy of full community integration, Volunteers are deemed to be on duty seven days a week, except on national or local holidays.
Swaziland has a few television stations and several radio stations that play popular music.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Swazis value professional dress in the workplace, and dress is more conservative in rural areas than it is in cities. In the United States, we often view clothes as a reflection of our individuality. In Swaziland, dressing well is seen as a sign of your respect for others, and how you are viewed by your local colleagues will be highly dependent on the way you present yourself. Swazis do not appreciate clothes that are dirty, have holes in them, or are too revealing. Wearing such clothes will reduce the amount of respect given to you and therefore your effectiveness. While jeans and T-shirts are acceptable as casual wear, it is more common to see men in shirts with collars and casual slacks and women in casual dresses or skirts or slacks with blouses or shirts.
The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that not only fosters respect toward you but reflects well on both the Peace Corps and the United States. Your dress, behavior, and attitude will all contribute to how well the agency is received. As an invited guest, you must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts.
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety section, 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 Swaziland 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 Swaziland. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Rewards and Frustrations
Invariably, Volunteers who have completed their service speak of the relationships that they have established as the highlight of their service. Many speak of how they learned to value and respect a more family- and community-centered way of life and of how they have grown in patience and understanding. Most are able to point to specific contributions they have made to a country’s development. In Swaziland, such contributions might include increasing the dialogue about HIV/AIDS; helping improve the level of knowledge about HIV/ AIDS among community members, teachers, and students; seeing colleagues try new approaches to nonformal education; and helping a community organize and plan an important project.
The positive reflections are the endpoint of a series of highs and lows that are part and parcel of the process of leaving the United States, arriving in Swaziland, and adapting to the practices and slower pace of life in a new culture. You will have less guidance and direction than you would get in a new job in the United States. Oftentimes you will need to motivate yourself and your counterpart without receiving any feedback on your work. You will need flexibility, maturity, openmindedness, and resourcefulness to overcome difficulties. Community development work is not a 9-to-5 job. Often there is little structure in place as a result of the devastation of HIV/AIDS in the rural areas. If you are willing to respect and become integrated into your community, to work hard at your assignment, and to be open to all that Swaziland has to offer, you will be a successful Volunteer. You, too, will be able to look back positively on the relationships you have built and the small differences you have made by virtue of those relationships.
Overview of Pre-Service Training
Training is an essential part of Peace Corps service. Our goal is to give you enough skills and information to allow you to live and work effectively in Swaziland. In doing that, we build on the experiences and expertise you bring to the Peace Corps. We anticipate that you will approach your training with an open mind, a desire to learn, and a willingness to be involved. Trainees officially become Volunteers after successful completion of training.
The nine-week training program will provide you with the opportunity to learn new skills and practice them as they apply to Swaziland. You will receive training and orientation in language, cross-cultural communication, development issues, health and personal safety, and technical skills pertinent to your specific assignment. The skills you learn will serve as the foundation upon which you build your experience as a Volunteer in Swaziland.
At the beginning of training, the training staff will outline the training goals that each trainee must reach before becoming a Volunteer and the criteria that will be used to assess achievement of those goals. Evaluation of your performance during training is a continual process based on a dialogue between you and the training staff. The training director, along with the language, technical, and cross-cultural trainers, will work with you toward the highest possible achievement of training goals by providing you feedback throughout training. After successful completion of pre-service training, you will be sworn-in as a Volunteer and make the final preparations for departure to your site.
Technical training will prepare you to work in Swaziland by building on the skills you already have and by helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.
Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Swaziland and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your technical sector’s HIV/AIDS goals and will meet with the Swazi agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout the training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your HIV/AIDS project activities and be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to your new surroundings. Therefore, language training is the heart of the training program, and you must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. SiSwati language instructors teach formal language classes five days a week in small groups of four to five people.
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further on your own. Prior to being sworn-in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during your two years of service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Swazi host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families have gone through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Swaziland. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive heathcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Swaziland. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.
During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to adopt a lifestyle that reduces your risks at home, at work, and during your travels. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention, transportation safety, and your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides trainees and Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical and cross-cultural skills. During your service, there are several training events. The titles and objectives for those trainings are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for three to six months.
- Close-of-service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences. The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.
YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN SWAZILAND
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 Swaziland maintains a health unit with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary heathcare needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Swaziland at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Health Issues in Swaziland
The most common health concerns in Swaziland are HIV/AIDS and malaria. Because malaria is endemic in the country, you will be required to take antimalarial pills. In addition, you will be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, meningitis, tetanus, typhoid, and rabies. Gastrointestinal infections are also common, but can be avoided by regularly washing your hands, thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, and boiling drinking water. Swaziland’s rate of HIV/AIDS infection is the highest in the world, and HIV/AIDS is a major health and development problem in the region.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Swaziland, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, 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 shipments to arrive.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Swaziland will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Swaziland, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
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 is worth a pound of cure” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Swaziland is to take the preventive measures that follow. 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, Guinea worm, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation for Swaziland during pre-service training.
Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. 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.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. 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.
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 the medical officer know immediately of significant illness and injuries.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the 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 during pregnancy can be met.
Feminine hygiene products are widely available in larger towns in Swaziland, therefore the Peace Corps medical office will not provide them to Volunteers.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that might occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since 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 may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
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. 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.
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 pre-departure orientation (staging). 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, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Swaziland. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.
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. 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.
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.
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. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious eye infection or disease. 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 an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in heathcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary heathcare 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 heathcare 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 or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
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.
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.
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.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.
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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.
For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
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; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
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.
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. 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.
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Swaziland as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
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.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. 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).
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.
What if you become a victim of a violent crime?
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.
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.
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.
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-aday, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at [email protected]
Security Issues in Swaziland
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 Swaziland. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. Volunteers and their homes are mostly the targets of petty crime, for example, pickpocketing on a crowded bus or burglary of a home while the occupant is on an extended vacation.
As a Volunteer in Swaziland, you will draw unwanted and unsolicited attention that exposes you to a greater risk of harassment than you have likely encountered in the United States. While your safety is ultimately your responsibility, the Peace Corps expects that the skills you develop in pre-service training will help you modify your behavior in ways that will enhance your safety in a different cultural setting. Because alcohol can fuel risky behavior, you must act responsibly with regard to alcohol consumption wherever you are in Swaziland.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
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 make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Swaziland, 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 Swaziland may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “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 by using an undergarment money pouch, 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. Always walk with a companion at night.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Swaziland
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. Swaziland’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Swaziland 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 memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Swaziland. 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.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a 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 Volunteer support needs.
You will also learn about Peace Corps/Swaziland’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented 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 Swaziland will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate. Given global security threats, Volunteers should minimize travel away from their sites and must obtain approval from the country director or associate director for absences from their sites, including travel to neighboring countries.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps 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.
DIVERSITY AND CROSSCULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling the Peace Corps’ mandate to share the face of America with our host countries, we are making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Swaziland, 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 Swaziland.
Outside of Swaziland’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Swaziland 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 Swaziland, 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 your pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Peace Corps/Swaziland has an active diversity committee consisting of Volunteers interested in promoting diversity and assisting fellow Volunteers with diversity challenges.
Overview of Diversity in Swaziland
The Peace Corps staff in Swaziland recognizes adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, religions, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Men and women are expected to fulfill distinct roles and responsibilities in Swazi culture, and women are traditionally regarded as members of a legal minority. In rural areas especially, female Volunteers may find extremely conservative attitudes regarding gender equality. Likewise, the behavior of female Volunteers is scrutinized or criticized more often than is the behavior of male Volunteers. Although the Peace Corps encourages understanding of and sensitivity toward other cultures, it may occasionally be necessary to explain or defend why you believe something or behave a certain way. In addition, you may often be asked about your marital status and receive marriage proposals, professions of love, and other unwanted attention from men.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
Most Swazis in cities and towns are aware of the different racial and ethnic groups that exist in the United States, but people in rural areas are not likely to have this level of awareness. Volunteers who are African, Asian, or Hispanic American may not be recognized as Americans. African Americans may be expected to learn local languages more quickly and may be more readily accepted into the culture than other Volunteers; on the other hand, they may be less readily accepted because of their Western cultural heritage. Asian Americans may be expected to exhibit stereotypical behavior Swazis have observed in films, which is sometimes referred to as the “kung fu syndrome.” In addition, the presence of Asian merchants in the country may have an impact on how Asian-American Volunteers are perceived or treated.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
In Swaziland, older members of society are viewed and treated with a great deal of respect. Younger Volunteers may have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. Swazi counterparts may be surprised by the amount of energy and physical fitness demonstrated by senior Volunteers. They may also be curious or puzzled about why a senior female Volunteer seems to have no spouse or children, even if she has the pictures to prove otherwise. Because most Volunteers are under 30, it may be difficult for older Volunteers to find friends and support among the most accessible group—other Peace Corps Volunteers.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers should know that Swaziland has a very conservative society. Homosexuality certainly exists in Swaziland but not with the same level of acceptance as in the United States. Local media frequently portrays homosexuality in a very negative light. Most Swazi homosexuals and bisexuals are likely to have migrated to the larger cities, while most Volunteers are posted in rural sites. Because of Swazi cultural norms, you will not be able to be open about your sexual orientation in your community. You may serve for two years without meeting another homosexual or bisexual Volunteer, and there may be little support for your sexual orientation within the Volunteer social scene. Lesbians, like all American women, may have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex, while gay men may have to deal with machismo: talk of sexual conquests, girl watching, and dirty jokes.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
The vast majority of Swazis have some religious affiliation and attend church regularly. Both Christian and non-Christian Volunteers may be expected to attend church with members of their community. You may be asked if you are Christian or why you do not belong to a certain Christian denomination, if you have been “saved,” and other questions you may consider to be a personal matter. Although this behavior may take some getting used to, you are sure to find effective ways to cope with these challenges and gain a deeper understanding of the Swazi people.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
There is very little infrastructure in Swaziland to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Disabled Volunteers may find living in rural communities particularly challenging. Nevertheless, the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in Swaziland without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/Swaziland staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in projects, training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Married couples who serve together in the Peace Corps are in a unique situation. While they benefit from having a constant companion to provide support, they may have differing expectations of service. One spouse may be more enthusiastic, homesick, or adaptable than the other. Spouses often experience differing levels of language ability, acceptance by their community, or job satisfaction. A wife may be expected by Swazis to perform certain domestic chores and may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to. A husband may feel cultural pressure to act as the dominant member in the relationship and to make decisions without considering his wife’s views.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Swaziland?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to bring pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/ travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.
What is the electric current in Swaziland?
The electrical current is 220 volts, 50 cycles. If you bring any American-manufactured electrical items with you, you will need a small power converter set (with plug adapters and a transformer). You may or may not have electricity at your site; therefore, you may want to wait to purchase electrical appliances until you know your particular living situation.
How much money should I bring?
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in Swaziland do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.
What should I bring as gifts for Swazi friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until they have completed pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with the local community leadership. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers and living conditions. However, The process of determining site assignments is based primarily on the expressed needs and requirements of the host community. Volunteers are generally assigned to work in rural areas where there is the greatest need and where accommodation is available. Peace Corps/Swaziland and the Swazi government expect that Volunteers should be willing to serve in any community to which they are assigned.
Within this framework, Peace Corps staff try to make the “best
fit” between trainee and site considering the trainee’s practical
work experience, academic training, specific technical skills, language proficiency and learning capacity. Considerations also include the trainee’s overall communication skills, ability to work effectively within host community structure, cultural awareness and adaptive skills, performance during pre-service training, and overall strengths and weaknesses. The medical officer will also determine if there are any medical factors that will determine a specific placement.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580,extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.
Can I call home from Swaziland?
International phone service to and from Swaziland is reasonably good in cities, although calls to the United States can be very expensive. You may not have quick or easy access to a landline telephone. Therefore, we recommend letter writing and setting up periodic calls from home in advance for special occasions.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
No. A cellphone purchased in the United States will not function using the local cellular service. Cellular phone service is growing in Swaziland although all regions are not covered.
Peace Corps/Swaziland provides Volunteers with funds to purchase a cellular phone following completion of pre-service training.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
Internet service is growing in Swaziland, and Internet cafes can be found in most large towns. If you decide to bring a laptop computer, you will be responsible for insuring and maintaining it. The Peace Corps will not replace stolen computers and strongly encourages those who bring them to get personal property insurance. Because of the high value of laptops, owners significantly increase their risk of becoming a victim of crime.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers who have served in Swaziland 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 Swaziland.
The climate in Swaziland varies according to both the altitude and the season. You should be prepared for temperatures ranging from 40 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You will be expected to dress professionally for your job. You will wash clothes by hand in cold water, in a basin or bucket, and hang them to dry on a line or the nearest fence. White clothes soil easily, so neutral colors are best for hiding dirt. Clothes made of rayon or nylon are good because they dry quickly and do not need to be ironed, but lightweight cotton fabrics are best for the hot climate. It does get cold in winter, so bring some warm clothes too.
- Warm coat or jacket (fleece works well and can be layered)
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Jeans (for weekends and travel)
- Two or three sweaters (lightweight cotton and wool)
- T-shirts (in neutral colors)
- Baseball cap or sun hat
- One-piece swimsuit
- Good socks (four to six pairs)
- Three or four pairs of dress slacks or khakis
- Three or four cotton dress shirts (both long- and short-sleeved)
- Several casual collared shirts, such as polo or golf shirts
- One sports coat for special events
- One or two ties
- Underwear and socks
- Three to five dresses or skirts (knee length or longer)
- Two or three pairs of trousers or dressy slacks
- Five to seven blouses and other tops (short- or long-sleeved)
- Tights to wear with skirts in colder weather
- Plenty of cotton underwear and bras, including a sports bra
- Two slips (knee- and ankle-length)
People who wear larger sizes (12-plus for men and 10-plus for women) should bring an extra pair or two of shoes and sandals, as larger sizes are difficult to find in Swaziland.
- Comfortable dress shoes for work
- Athletic shoes
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Sandals (e.g., Tevas or Birkenstocks)
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
All the little things you need to keep your life running smoothly are available locally at reasonable prices, albeit in a limited selection. You should bring enough toiletries to get you through pre-service training at least (including feminine hygiene products). Remember to bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you take, to cover you until the Peace Corps medical unit can order them.
You can buy most kitchen supplies in Swaziland (e.g., dishes, pots, glasses and utensils). However, you might consider bringing the following items:
- Plastic storage bags and containers (these can be purchased locally in larger towns)
- Can opener and vegetable peeler
- Sturdy water bottle (e.g., Nalgene)
- Cookbook or recipes
- Small packages of your favorite condiments, spices, sauce mixes, soft-drink mixes, etc. Miscellaneous
- Watch (durable, water-resistant, and inexpensive)
- Reliable alarm clock
- Small sewing kit
- Solar shower (much easier than “bucket bathing” with a cup and washbasin)
- Radio (FM/AM and shortwave), iPod, CD player, and favorite music
- Camera and film
- Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool
- lightweight sleeping bag (often needed when visiting other Volunteers or staying at back-packer lodges)
- small tent (if you enjoy camping)
- Pictures of your hometown, U.S. historical sites, family and friends
- Small flashlight and extra bulbs and/or headlamp
- Guidebooks on the region
- Hobby materials like journals, sketching pads, pencils, etc.
- Musical instruments
- Craft supplies for projects with schoolchildren
- Games (Scrabble, cards, chess, Frisbee, etc.)
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574)
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends. Additional copies can be downloaded from the Peace Corps website in the Family & Friends section at: http://www.peacecorpsgov/index.cfm?shell=resources.faf
- Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your heathcare during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.