Sunday, August 8, 2010

So what's this training thing all about?

So some of you must be wondering what all we're supposed to learn in this 10 weeks of training. Here's an overview of what our first few months will be like:

Orientation (Arrival Week)
August 11, 2010: Airport arrival, transfer to Lweza Training and Conference Centre and a welcome meal. Lweza Training and Conference Centre quarters will be shared with other members of your training group.

August 12, 2010: The Country Director will welcome you, and the Program Managers will give you an overview of your sector programs. Activities include an overview of Peace Corps Uganda by the Country Director, the Role of Volunteers in Development (RVID) and Introduction to Project Plans by Project Managers. In the afternoon, there will be individual meetings with the Program Managers, the Country Director, and Medical Officers.  During the same period, there will be “survival” Luganda lessons – the language commonly spoken in Kampala, Entebbe and Wakiso. You will also have your passport photos. A small amount of walk-around money will be given to help you buy some few personal requirements.

August 13, 2010: Interviews will continue as necessary; running hand in hand with the survival Luganda lessons and introduction to Ugandan English. You will fill in immigration forms to trigger off the immigration process and please bring enough passport photos (12) and your Peace Corps Passports will be collected by a staff member.

August 14, 2010:  The day’s activities include an introduction to home stay living with a panel of current Peace Corps Volunteers to help you prepare for the intricacies of life with a Ugandan family.

August 15, 2010: You will have an opportunity to meet with some of your trainers. They will take you around the city- Kampala to give you an orientation of how business is conducted in the city and for you to identify key areas that you will need to pass through.

August 16, 2010 You will depart Lweza Training and Conference Centre for the town of Wakiso, at the Raco Country Home, where you will meet your Uganda host families. At 2.00pm you will depart to your lodgings of the next 8 weeks with your home-stay family.

August 17, 2010: Return to RACO Country Home in the morning by 7:50 AM, to start your Pre-Service Training. You will do language and have a session on bicycle maintenance. Remember bicycle transport may be your major means of transport once a Volunteer and you will be expected to demonstrate your competency in riding and maintaining a bicycle during training.  Many Peace Corps Uganda Volunteers ride a bicycle to do their work, and please know that the wearing of a helmet, which will be issued, while doing so is mandatory. 

Pre-Service Training            

Training Site

Wakiso is in central Uganda about 45 minutes from Kampala. Trainees live in home stays that are within a six kilometer radius of the training center. You will receive during PST a simple, single-gear bicycle for use during training to assist you to go to and from training sessions and to your home lodgings.  You will also be given a helmet to wear when riding your bike, the use of which is mandatory while riding the bike.  In Wakiso, international calling is possible from payphones, though it may take a few days for you to have the energy and time to figure out the system.  PLEASE make sure your loved ones have realistic expectations regarding this before you leave the U.S.!  Postal services are available in Wakiso, but letters take about three to four weeks to arrive at their destination after they are sent.  This is the case for mail going either direction.  As such, it may be thought best to get your “pipeline” of letters started right away.  Family and friends can use this address during PST and PST only:

Your name, Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

After PST, you will have access to a P.O. Box closer to your site.
Overview of Training Schedule
The Pre-Service Training follows a community-based approach.  This means that, after a few days gathering at central points for large sessions, we will then begin to hold our sessions in the communities, in smaller groups, using the trainer houses, or places where community members gather. It emphasizes hands-on training and learning by doing. You will practice working with community groups to enable you get acquainted with Ugandan learning styles The initial weeks of training are as follows:

Arrival / Week 1: Overcoming jet lag, and conducting individual Program Managers and Medical informational and familiarization meetings:
 This week involves community entry, as Trainees begin to understand how to communicate with their Ugandan families and communities.  We will explore Uganda’s history, issues of community development and the Volunteer’s role in that development, personal health, and cross-cultural issues.  The focus is on community entry skills and techniques, the concept of HIV/AIDS, at the global level and the Ugandan situation.

Week 2, 3, and 4 Center and Field-based training:
In these weeks you will be exposed to many different relevant technical areas and issues regarding the health and development of Ugandan communities which will be presented to you through a combination of classroom and experiential learning activities. You will practice community entry techniques and you will learn how to work with grassroots development partners. The relationship between socio-culture and HIV/AIDS will be conducted and understanding a participatory approach to development using Participatory Analysis for Community Action (PACA) tools.

Weeks 5- Tech immersion/PCV visit
During this week, all Trainees will be in the field experiencing some of the responsibilities they will assume as Volunteers. You will travel using public transport by your own self to visit a current Peace Corps Volunteer. During this period, you will shadow the volunteer, you will learn about their way of life and their work and  community integration skills.

Weeks 6-7: Other key activities

You will be assessed mid way in training using Round Robin assessment method and  also practice your language though a mock interview.
In week 8: future site visit and Language Practice:
You will have an opportunity to visit your future site and have a good understanding of where you will be for next two years. You will meet your supervisors and future colleagues and start building your work relationships from then on. You will have an opportunity to speak your target with your community members.

Cross-training:. Community Health and Economic Development Trainees will receive cross-training in such areas as integrating HIV/AIDS education with sports for youth; PACA practice where the Peace Corps’ approach to development is promoted; construction and promotion of fuel-efficient cook stoves; Life Skills promotion and Cross-culture lessons etc. You will be exposed to Peace Corps initiatives of Women and Gender in Development, ICT as well as youth empowerment initiatives. All of these sessions will be integrated with improved livelihood and capacity building development activities

Building Community Relationships:

You will explore work opportunities using an asset based approach and how to extend PCV work to reach all the beneficiaries of the project. Overall, you will redefine your role as a development agent. In addition you will be required to demonstrate your readiness to embark on your technical work by presenting a model workshop based on the needs assessment you will have done in a Ugandan community through a Qualifying Project.

Language Proficiency Testing

Peace Corps regards learning a local language to enable you integrate in the community. You will take a language proficiency test to gauge your proficiency in a  Ugandan language that you will begin to learn during  the arrival week.

After undergoing pre-service training you will be sworn in.  The Swearing-In event is normally presided over by the U.S. Ambassador and Uganda Government Officials, which formally marks the end of pre-service training. You are expected to depart for your future site that very afternoon.

Basic methodology and assessment criteria for PST

Peace Corps Uganda’s Pre-Service training emphasizes 1) hands-on experience, and 2) developing an ability to live and work comfortably and effectively in a rural Ugandan setting.  While the initial week of training involves coming together at a central site, as the training progresses we move sessions more and more into the community.  We find this is the fastest way to get you acclimated into the culture, so that you can become a more effective volunteer.

“Competencies” are the skills, knowledge and abilities that we have identified as necessary for effective service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda.  In each component of training, we use “competencies” to help focus the sessions and to help you monitor your progress.  The trainers have the responsibility of recommending you to our partner organizations (NGOs and Government Ministries) and to your program Associate Director as ready to be sworn–in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  You will be advised of these competencies during the first week of training, and you will be asked to take part in several assessments during the PST in order to monitor, 1) the effectiveness of training, and 2) your progress toward acquiring the necessary competencies. You will sit a language proficiency interview and you will demonstrate to the training staff your ability to survive in the community by demonstrating your survival skills such as cooking, and presenting a qualifying project.

Overview of Training Components (see Welcome Book for details)
Training components are:
  • Cross Culture
  • Community Development
  • Language
  • Safety and Security
  • Technical knowledge and skills
  • Administration
  • Medical

Sample Day’s Schedule

A sample Trainee day usually begins at 8.00a.m. and ends at 5.00 p.m. for formal training –  which includes four hours of language sessions, usually two in the morning and two as community practice, and then a technical session. There is a strong emphasis on integration, so the specific aspects of cross culture and safety and security are incorporated into language and technical sessions.  After 5:00 pm trainees are expected to return to their home stay families.  There you will continue learning language and cultural skills through participating in home chores and in interacting with family members and neighbors.

Swearing-In Date

The swearing-in ceremony date will be October 21, 2010.

The departure

So I've been putting off starting this blog for a while now (as all of you who have asked me about it over the past several months know!), but since I have arrived in Philadelphia for orientation, I think it's safe to say that the journey has begun. Time to blog!

I had every intention of chronicling the entire packing process (mostly because I appreciated when other bloggers did the same thing!), but time got away from me. All I have to show for the long and painful packing process is my desperate attempt to pack my niece and nephew to take with me:

While they would fit under my 80 lb weight limit, there might be some trouble getting through customs, so I thought it was best to leave them home :(

The trip to orientation: well, it was early and long. I had a 6:30 am, 5.5 hour flight from San Diego to Philadelphia. The good news: it was WAY shorter than the trip we'll be taking to Uganda on Tuesday!

We're staying in a hotel about 7 miles outside of the city, but I'm meeting a college friend for dinner, so I should get to see some some of Philly before I leave!

As for staging itself, this is the schedule we got a few weeks ago:


12:30 pm: Registration, turn in completed forms

2:30 - 4:25: Who we are, what's expected of you

4:25-4:45: Break

4:45-7:00: What you expect, what's next, closing


2:30 am: Check out of hotel

3:00: Depart for JFK

11:15: Flight departs for Uganda

It's a pretty vague schedule, so I'll post more once I know what it's all about. Now: off to explore Philly!
ttfn - ta ta for now!