The Peace Corps program works to help Nicaraguans respond to these challenges and improve their quality of life through five projects: small business development, health, environment, agriculture, and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
Peace Corps History
Main article: History of the Peace Corps in Nicaragua
The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Nicaragua in 1969. Between 1969 and 1978, the program ranged in size from 75 to 125 Volunteers. Volunteers provided assistance in areas such as education, vocational training, rural nutrition, rural waterworks, agricultural extension, cooperatives, and municipal development. After the earthquake of 1972, efforts were dedicated to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.
The Peace Corps program in Nicaragua was suspended in 1978 because of civil war. In 1982, the Peace Corps attempted to reestablish a program in Nicaragua but was unsuccessful because of the highly polarized political situation in the country. Four experienced Volunteers from other Spanish-speaking countries reinitiated the program in May 1991. The program has since grown to more than 160 Volunteers working in four projects throughout Nicaragua. In January 1995, Peace Corps/Nicaragua piloted community-based training (CBT), an innovative, experiential learning model that you will soon participate in firsthand. CBT helps trainees adapt to field situations while living with Nicaraguan families during the full training period.
Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle
Main article: Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Nicaragua
Housing options and site locations vary greatly depending upon your project. Business Volunteers tend to live in towns and cities throughout Nicaragua ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 residents. The location of health, environment, and TEFL assignments varies from medium-sized cities to remote rural communities. And agriculture Volunteers generally live in small, remote communities (as few as 200 residents) concentrated in the northern region of the country. No volunteers are placed in the country's capital city, Managua, due to safety concerns.
Most (but not all) Volunteer homes have electricity, and most have running water. However, both electric and water service may be intermittent. A few homes even have telephones and, rarely, access to cable television. Volunteers in very rural sites may have to haul water to their home from a communal pump for their daily water supply. Your Volunteer assignment description provides greater detail about potential housing and site realities for your project.
Peace Corps/Nicaragua’s site and housing policy guides the selection of safe and accessible locations for all assignments that have viable work options. All Volunteers are required to live with a host family throughout training and during their first six weeks at their project site. Due to remoteness, and/or few housing options, some sites will require Volunteers to live with families for the duration of their service. The Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers live with a family throughout their service, as it enriches Volunteers’ Peace Corps experience while enhancing their safety and acceptance by the community. When independent housing options are available, Volunteers are permitted to rent homes that meet the Peace Corps’ housing criteria. While some sites have two or more Volunteers, only married Volunteers can share housing during their service. Most Volunteers live within a one- to two-hour walk or bus ride from another Volunteer.
When you are sworn in as a Volunteer, you will be required to submit a site locator form that will enable Peace Corps to locate and communicate with you throughout your service. Peace Corps staff will periodically visit you at your site to provide personal, professional, and medical support and guidance.
Main article: Training in Nicaragua
Upon your arrival in Nicaragua, you will participate in a three-day orientation that will provide you with basic, pertinent information on living in Nicaragua. You will find out about Peace Corps administrative issues as they pertain to Peace Corps training. Additionally, you will learn what the Peace Corps expects from you during training and what you can expect from the Peace Corps. You will have the opportunity to speak with current Volunteers in your project and ask questions about any initial medical concerns. After this orientation, you will begin living with a host family, spending Saturday night and Sunday with them before beginning pre-service training on Monday morning.
Peace Corps/Nicaragua uses a community-based training model that was pioneered in Nicaragua in January 1995. Many Peace Corps training programs worldwide have since adopted this model, in which most training activities take place in the community where one lives during training. This type of immersion has proven more successful than other methods in preparing Volunteers for the realities of service. Trainees in the Small Business sector spend PST (pre-service training) in towns in the department of Masaya, trainees in the Agriculture sector spend PST in the department of Esteli, and trainees in the other sectors spend PST in towns in the department of either Masaya or Carazo.
Training will consist of several components, including Spanish language, technical skills, cross-cultural awareness, the role of Volunteers in development, and health and safety issues. You will attend Spanish classes and carry out technical and cross-cultural tasks in your community Monday through Friday. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, the entire training group usually will come together for more formal training sessions. During training you will be regularly evaluated on your ability to acquire and demonstrate the language, technical, cross-cultural, and safety skills needed to be a Volunteer.
Health Care and Safety
Main article: Health care and safety in Nicaragua
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 Nicaragua maintains a clinic with two full-time and two part-time medical officers, who take care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are available at a local, American-standard hospital. If you become seriously ill, and adequate care is not available in country, you will be medically evacuated to the United States, or possibly Panama.
Diversity and Cross-Cultural Issues
Main article: Diversity and cross-cultural issues in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, 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 Nicaragua.
Outside of Nicaragua’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. While the people of Nicaragua are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
- Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
- Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
- Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
- Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
- Possible Issues for Married Volunteers
Frequently Asked Questions
Main article: FAQs about Peace Corps in Nicaragua
- How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Nicaragua?
- What is the electric current in Nicaragua?
Nicaragua uses the same electrical plugs as the USA.
- How much money should I bring?
- When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Once you are a volunteer you can travel AFTER the first three months in site and BEFORE your last three months. You will accrue two vacation days per months and can take up to 21 days at a time.
- Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
Yes, if you buy the insurance.
- Do I need an international driver’s license?
No, Peace Corps Nicaragua prohibits volunteers from driving during service.
- What should I bring as gifts for Nicaraguan friends and my host family?
- Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
It depends on each site and each sector. Most PCVs are no more than 2-4 hours away from another Volunteer.
- How can my family contact me in an emergency?
- Can I call home from Nicaragua?
Calling home to the USA is cheap and easy now with the use of voice over internet. Most towns have internet cafes and calling centers that charge by the minute. In the internet cafe, you would dial 1+ area code, just like in the states. Also, most cellular plans have reasonable rates for calling the USA.
- Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
Nicaraguan cell phones operate with "chips" in GSM phones. If you have an unlocked phone with a "chip" you can bring it and but a chip with a local number for about $15. Otherwise you may just want to buy a cheap phone in-country. Most PCVs buy and use phones in their service, and almost all PCVs have service in their towns.
- Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
It depends on each site. Surprisingly more and more towns are hooked up to internet. It may be slow and expensive. But all of the major towns have reliable and affordable service.
Main article: Packing list for Nicaragua
This list has been complied by Volunteers serving in Nicaragua 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. 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 Nicaragua.
Peace Corps News
The following is automatic RSS feed of Peace Corps news for this country.
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PEACE CORPS JOURNALS
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Contributions to the Nicaragua Country Fund will support Volunteer and community projects that will take place in Nicaragua. These projects include water and sanitation, agricultural development, and youth programs.
- Volunteers who served in Nicaragua
- Amigos de Nicaragua
- Pre-Departure Checklist
- List of resources for Nicaragua
- Inspector General Reports