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What To Expect When You’re Expecting 2 Years In Jamaica

I can’t believe it’s already March 2010.

Group 81 trainees will arrive at staging in Miami in about 2 weeks and we’ll meet them shortly after.  If any of you are reading, I wanted to say congratulations and also provide a few comforting tidbits of information. Here you go!

What To Expect when all you can do is EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED:

  1. Expect your training (PST) to be 10-11 weeks of intensive, overwhelming readying.  Expect to wonder about your 2 year placement until almost the end of training-this has changed since our PST.  The wait time has been lengthened to ensure that your site match is the best it can be! You will bond with your intake group, especially those in your sector.  You will live with roommates for a bit, and then with host families. You will visit current PCVs at their sites (hope to meet one or two of you out here in Portland!).  You will work in teams on sector projects at different locations across the island.
  2. Expect to be bombarded with opportunities to get involved with groups and projects outside of your main site placement–PCJ has “nuff tingz a gwaan” and these are opportunities for each of us to improve the reach of PCJ in Jamaica and to support the staff and each other.  Try not to miss the briefs and signup periods for these, as the earlier the better.  Once you’ve been at your site for a while, it’s harder to branch out and make any time commitment to other things.  That said, plenty of us wait to join extracurriculars UNTIL we’ve integrated a bit at our sites, so we know the time and effort we’ll be able to commit.  Either way, just know there are lots of areas to get involved. Here are some of them:
    1. VAC (volunteer advisory council) is a PCV-elected body that both advises staff and communicates the needs/concerns of the volunteers to staff.  The exec body has 5 persons (Pres,VP, Sec, Treas, At-Large) and these are elected at the all-vol meetings in June.
    2. In addition to the exec team, volunteer led sub-committees exist within VAC to encourage cross sector collaboration.  Some current sub-committees are: Nuts&Bolts (engineers,construction), HASL (health across sector lines), LTAG (literacy) and ITAG (computer).
    3. PSN (peer support network) is a group of volunteers committed to supporting the emotional wellness of the volunteers & trainees. They receive professional crisis & counseling training on-island and confidentially provide an attentive and caring ear.
    4. Peace Corps Jamaica has been chosen to start a Teen Sexuality Pilot Project as part of the US-PEPFAR funding.  This will include research and outreach. Any trainees or PCVs with interest or background in pertinent areas are welcome to participate.
  3. During the last 20 months of my service, I have seen a lot of changes in the operations of PC-Jamaica.  This is due to new staff coming in, and lots of hard work researching and developing innovative solutions to age-old PC challenges.  So, you guys are going to be somewhat guinea pigs (as we all have been to a point) for some big changes in the training process and new strategic processes to improve site development and reporting.  Everyone hopes these changes will cause you to be happier and more productive in your service.  I’ve also seen amazing responses here to the more modern, global outcry of Peace Corps volunteers: internet and cell phone usage in the bush?! Group 81 will be equipped with cell phones and internet capability where they live and work–all over Jamaica. It’ll be slower than you’re used to and sometimes spotty–but you’ll have it from day one and I think that’s cause for celebration.
  4. Expect to be asked for your feedback.  Yes, they really want to know and they take it seriously.  If you have strong opinions or good ideas, please don’t hold back–say it to the most appropriate person in a respectful and thorough way.
  5. No way around it–PST is inherently stressful.  It’s demanding.  Its purpose is to equip you with the skills and information necessary for you to successfully complete your service in Jamaica.  Its purpose is NOT to make you fall in love with Jamaica or with Peace Corps (that happens much MUCH later, if ever).  When we were being recruited, I recall someone telling me the two most important requirements were (1) flexibility and (2) sense of humor.  Do not use these sparingly during training…we’ve all been through it and so will you.  Just embrace it and learn all you can. Be good to yourself, as well.

We (as in PC-Jamaica, the staff and the VAC team) are in the process of seeing how we can get as many PCVs to the airport on March 18th to meet you all.  Feel free to call Josh and myself or email us with your last minute packing questions, other things keeping you up in the middle of the night–haha.  We are happy to give you our input, but remember that “evri likkle ting gonna be arait.”

Afrika, Anista & Jess at a Millbank grave digging

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One Response

  1. Hey Josh.. this is great info for the new comers..
    It might be wrong of me to ask.. but here i go anyways..
    I was wondering if the house you guys are renting is just for pc people.. or is it something yall rented on your own.. Just wondering..

    Blessings..

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