My Assignment


I want to try to convey exactly what I'm going through, as I write this blog. 
The info I'm putting on this page is stuff I've been sent to read BEFORE ever stepping foot in Namibia, or even my staging. So, this is how I am being prepared....

And I plan on reviewing all of this material AFTER I have been there -
and will compare the 2....

This is all the info you could want to know (as I receive it!) about being a Peace Corps Volunteer.


I was reading this booklet today - on the plane home for Christmas. 
Maybe it was the fact that I was on a plane, or maybe it's just really hitting me - 
I will be away from everyone and everything I have ever known - 
for at least 27 months. 
And I actually started tearing up, and had to hold back from crying like a little baby.

This is the link to the booklet they want your family to read:
On The Homefront

Below was my first, of many, informational guides I received. This was actually what I had to read, before accepting the invitation to serve. I decided to just copy it and place on here, though I know it's very long, so you can get a better idea of what information I was given in the beginning....and believe me, this is just ONE of many "books" I need to read!  Of course, as my service begins and continues for 27 months, I'm hoping this blog will give you even more of a true picture of all I'm doing in Namibia....

And if you're really in the mood to read, here are 2 more "books" 
 with lots and lots of information:

"Namibia boasts clear skies for more than 300 days of the
year, providing brilliant days and star-filled nights. The varied
landscape provides opportunities for hiking, camping, bird
watching, and game viewing."
-Namibia Welcome Book

A Note from Your Associate Peace Corps Director for Health 

Dear Invitee, 

Greetings form Namibia! 

This is an exciting time to join the Peace Corps Namibia team of Volunteers working to support the Government of Namibia in its multi-faceted approach to preventing the further spread of HIV/AIDS and expanding our community health program. You are invited to join in these efforts as Peace Corps provides assistance to the Ministry of Health and Social Services; the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport, and Culture; as well as numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs) and community based organizations (CBOs). 

The Health Volunteers that you will be joining are a dedicated and hardworking group whose creativity and commitment have contributed to the increased demand for Peace Corps Volunteers. Peace Corps service requires a particular type of commitment. You must be willing to give of yourself in an unselfish and determined way. Working in an environment where HIV/AIDS has a name and a face demands resilience, the ability to find satisfaction in hardship, and an ability to think of the long-term impact rather than the day-to-day distress. 

You’ll have work hard, think creatively, live sensitively, be a self-starter and be willing to help others make things happen. All the Peace Corps staff are excited to have you join our program in support of Health in Namibia. Welcome on board! 

Associate Peace Corps Director/Health YOUR ASSIGNMENT  


Namibia achieved independence in 1990 and remains a land of great potential. However, the extent to which this potential will be realized has become increasingly challenged by one of Africa's most devastating HIV epidemics. Namibia's first HIV infections were diagnosed in the late 1980s. Today, Namibia has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. The HIV prevalence is the general population is estimated at 13.3 %. More than one-in-five adults is HIV positive, and AIDS is one of the leading cause of death and hospitalizations. The HIV epidemic has left almost 150,000 children orphaned, meaning they have lost one or both parents due to HIV. 

In 1999, President Samuel Nujoma launched the National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS (Medium Term Plan II). This plan charged all ministries with developing strategic plans and workable implemenation schedules for addressing the escalation of HIV/AIDS in Namibia. 

As the lead ministry with primary responsibility for prevention, treatment care and support for those affected by HIV, the Ministry of Health, Social Services (MOHSS)—among its many health related functions— provides and coordinates HIV counseling and testing services, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, male circumcision, HIV behavior change programs to address multiple concurrent partners, provides anti-retroviral treatment (ARV), and treatment for opportunistic infections and tuberculosis. Through non-governmental (NGO) and faith based organizations (FBO), services for orphans and vulnerable children are provided. The Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture is also increasingly engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The regional youth offices and multi-purpose centers are implementing innovative programs to promote youth outreach. A focus of the Ministry’s efforts is promotion of the national Youth Health Program to improve the reproductive health status of young people ages 15 to 35 and prevention of HIV/AIDS. 

At the government and the grassroots level, the Peace Corps can play an instrumental role in helping to strengthen the capacity of individuals, institutions, and communities to minimize the impact of public health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, reproductive and adolescent health, non communicable diseases, malnutrition, or poverty through prevention of diseases and promotion of health. 

While HIV/AIDS is the major public health issue, it is not the only issue that MOHSS addresses. The country also faces one of the highest notification rates of tuberculosis. Many individuals living with HIV are also infected by tuberculosis. Furthermore, maternal mortality has increased over the past few years and the rate of decline in infant mortality has slowed. The Ministry of Health and Social Services has intensified its efforts to improve maternal and child health. The widespread abuse of alcohol is another problem that the MOHSS is addressing. 


As a Volunteer with the CHHAP project, you will be assigned to one of the two following programmatic areas listed below based on your background, skills, and experience. Please note that you may be the first Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to work with a particular organization or community and, as such, you may be challenged to develop the specifics of your assignment as you go along. On the other hand, some Volunteers are following in the footsteps of one or two Volunteers and may discover more shape and structure to their assignment. But in either case, the initiative and commitment of the Volunteer will be the determining factor in defining the effectiveness of the Volunteer's work and contribution. 

A. Volunteers working with government ministries, including the Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Health, or local government: 

  • Assist in creating demand for HIV counseling and testing. 
  • Assist in creating demand for male circumcision. 
  • Train community members on interactive tools addressing drivers of the HIV epidemic. 
  • Assist organizations in monitoring and evaluation of their program data. 
  • Assist in the establishment of HIV/AIDS awareness clubs at schools. 
  • Support people living with HIV in the community through training of gardening skills and ways of living positively with HIV. 
  • Help to establish adolescent friendly health services and counseling services. 
  • Develop health information and communication tools and materials. 
  • Provide information and materials to local institutions and community members. 
  • Work with your supervisor and counterpart on various health issues in your community (i.e., alcohol and drug prevention, nutrition, hygiene promotion, prevention of common illnesses, reproductive health and family planning, routine immunization, sexual and gender based violence, dental hygiene, safe motherhood, etc.) 
  • Help to create innovative income generating activities. 
  • Assist school and community groups to use artistic, cultural, social, and traditional practitioners to disseminate information. 
  • Assist supervisors and counterparts in planning and conducting national health events, e.g World TB day, World AIDS Day, National Immunization Campaigns. 
  • Provide learning support, life skills education and psycho social support to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs). 
  • Conduct short-term trainings for staff and community members. 
  • Liaise with national and regional level officials to coordinate, plan, and implement health-related activities. 
Ministry of Youth offices and multipurpose centers have proven to be good platforms for meeting youth and reaching out to surrounding communities through eight official program areas: Youth Development, Juvenile Justice, Environmental Education, Life Skills, Leadership Development, Career Guidance/Employment Creation, Culture, and Youth Health. Many of the activities of the Peace Corps Volunteer will be cross-cutting and integrated into many of the program areas. 

Ministry of Health facilities provide a good platform for reaching youth, home-based care workers, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Assignments can be at the district or community levels, and provide 
platforms for a variety of activities related to health education, health information systems, community mobilization, and outreach or life skills training. Activities focus on not only HIV/AIDS but also on other public health issues, such as tuberculosis, malaria, water and sanitation, adolescent friendly health services, reproductive health services, maternal and child health, psycho social support, nutrition education, outreach services to marginalized communities, support community Tuberculosis care, and adressing issues of gender-based violence. 

B. Volunteers working with faith-based, community-based, or international organizations: 
Help conduct needs assessments at the community level. 

  • Bolster the organizational and institutional capacity of local NGOs or FBOs to respond to needs of people affected by HIV/AIDS. 
  • Contribute to program development. 
  • Provide information, education, and training on optimal nutrition, first aid and health care, support, and treatment. 
  • Identify and conduct training for community volunteers and outreach workers on home-based care and support for those enrolled in ARV and Tuberculosis treatment programs. 
  • Work with your supervisor and counterpart on various community health issues in your community (i.e., alcohol and drug prevention, nutrition, hygiene promotion, prevention of common illnesses, reproductive health and family planning, routine immunization, sexual and gender-based violence, dental hygiene, safe motherhood, etc.) 
  • Plan and implement creative activities to develop life skills and raise awareness among children and young adults. 
  • Assist youth and community leaders to develop and disseminate information about HIV/AIDS through creative, artistic, or cultural methods. 
  • Assist counterparts in developing life skills education programs for orphans and vulnerable children. 
According to the needs of the community, generating a secondary project which could be either be tied to or completely independent of your primary assignment is encouraged. Most communities have various needs and interests, such as home-based care, orphan and vulnerable children care, income generation, and girl's empowerment activities, all of which would benefit from the support of Volunteers. Interacting with community members may provide more opportunities to identify needs and generate relevant community projects. 

Available Resources 
One of the most important aspects of your project is to draw on the resources available within the community and through the many FBOs, NGOs, and government ministries working on health-related issues. A goal of the Volunteer is to assist in linking organizations at the regional and community level with people who are in need of their services. The office to which you may be assigned will likely have limited access to telephones, faxes, photocopiers, and computers, although some have internet connectivity. Transportation may sometimes be difficult to arrange, but Volunteers have found it manageable. 

Location of Job 
Health Extension Volunteers are based in small towns, rural areas, and larger towns. They can operate from offices, schools, multipurpose centers, hospitals, or clinics. Volunteers may be required to visit surrounding communities in their assigned region, giving them some opportunities to work in different areas for short periods of time, usually 3-4 days at a time. 

Work Hours 
Volunteers with government ministries will typically work Monday -Friday from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. with a one hour lunch break (generally 1:00-2:00 p.m.). In addition, Volunteers may occasionally work after hours or on weekends if special events or activities are planned. Volunteers with FBOs and NGOs may have a less structured work day, but the host organizations are typically open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Volunteers will likely be involved in community activities on weekends and after hours. 

Cultural Attitudes and Customs in the Workplace 
Regional ministerial facilities are often staffed by well educated and qualified Namibians, many of whom have advanced degrees. Health facilities, which are likewise staffed by well-qualified Namibians, benefit from the additional support of foreign health professionals. In both cases, the atmosphere is quite formal and the dress is professional. In most offices and health facilities, staff are addressed by their surname (last name) and rank is always acknowledged. Morning greetings are very important and should be done daily, even if just to say ―hello.‖ Before speaking to someone to pose a question, always take a few minutes to devote to small talk (How was your weekend? How is your family?). Most offices do not have answering machines , voice mail, or fax machines. While community members are often less well educated, they are extremely committed to working to prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS and to promoting community health. They are willing to work after hours and weekends. Aside from being less formal than in the work environment, community members are likely to spend more time greeting and getting to know you as an individual. 

Dress Code 
The people of Namibia generally dress in conservative professional and casual attire. In the US, dress is often seen as an expression of personal identity. In Namibia, the way you dress is seen as an expression of respect—or disrespect—for those around you. It is essential that you dress in a manner appropriate to the community in which you work and live if you want to be accepted. The following are not recommended: short shorts and short skirts, sheer and/or sleeveless shirts for women, dirty clothes or clothing in disrepair, shower thongs or ―flip flops, and provocative or strategically slit or zippered clothing. It should be noted that strappy or spaghetti tops, halter-tops, or midriff-bearing tops are unacceptable for women in most work places, although they may be acceptable in public places. Facial piercings should be limited to discreet studs—avoiding hoops and larger pieces of jewelry. 

You will be expected to adjust to the standards set by the Namibian government regarding professionalism and conduct. Volunteers often express surprise upon seeing how dressed up colleagues are for meetings and work. Smart casual is the accepted attire for Volunteers. 
Men should bring dress shoes, slacks, 1–2 ties and short sleeved shirts (button down or golf). Women should bring nice, comfortable cotton dresses, skirts, dress slacks, blouses and closed-toe shoes. It is also highly suggested that you bring at least one more formal outfit, as there will be several occasions throughout your tour, including your swearing-in ceremony, for which you will need to dress up. Women tend to dress more formally than men do even on more casual occasions. 


Before being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will participate in an intensive eight-week Pre-Service Training program. Your training will be composed of several parts: technical, language/cross-culture, health maintenance, safety and security, and the role of the Volunteer in development. The bulk of the training addresses acquiring a required level of language skills. 
During training you will live with individual host families for the majority of your time. Facilitators and small groups of Trainees meet on a daily basis for intensive sessions. A wide variety of community members are called upon to cooperate with training activities. Trainees and facilitators are charged with seeking out local people and resources. 

Although you were recruited to this project to work on Community Health and HIV/AIDS because of your technical skills and background, we do not expect that you will have extensive knowledge or experience in the Namibia health arena. The technical training component will provide you with the historical context for your work and then expose you to current issues and practices. You will be placed in situations that will enable you to practice utilizing your skills and experience, and acquire new skills in a Namibian environment very similar to the one where you will serve. During your two-year service in Namibia, you will have other opportunities to strengthen your skills and share your knowledge with other Volunteers. 

The second component of the Peace Corps/Namibia training program is the language/cross-cultural component. Through this component Trainees will develop initial language competencies and the skills necessary for further language acquisition. Formal language lessons, guest speakers, and "cultural encounters," such as local celebrations, will complement exercises in observation, participation, adjustment, and assimilation. Trainees may also be asked to do individual informal research assignments. Language/cultural facilitators not only teach formal language classes but also serve as cultural and technical guides for the trainees. Namibian languages are socio-linguistically diverse, presenting a particularly exciting learning challenge. 

The third component of the PC/Namibia training program is the role of the Volunteer in their host country's development process. During this component, Trainees explore different development approaches and techniques, how their own attitudes, values and working styles affect their contribution to development and what we mean when we talk about a "community-based" development effort. 
Finally, Pre-Service Training also includes approximately 20 hours of health maintenance. This component consists of personal health care and maintenance lessons, as well as personal safety policies and procedures. 

During your two-year service, you will have other opportunities to strengthen your skills and share your knowledge with other Volunteers and community counterparts. Peace Corps/Namibia provides Volunteers with the opportunity to participate in at least three in-service training workshops. The focus of these workshops is often Volunteer-driven and based on specific needs such as HIV/AIDS education and awareness. 


Upon swearing in and during your first six weeks of service, every Volunteer will live with a Namibian host family. This experience will present you an opportunity to first connect on a personal level with at least one family in your community and, secondly, help introduce you to the larger community. 
Housing conditions vary according to the resources of the area. You may be living in a traditional house (hut) with an outside pit latrine, no flush toilet or no electricity, or ―western style housing with a flush toilet. Do not expect that all housing will have running water and/or electricity. 

After pre-service training, Peace Corps will provide you with a modest monthly living allowance. The ministry or the host agency to which you are assigned is responsible for paying your monthly utilities and providing you with basic furniture (such as a bed, stove/hotplate, table, and chair). Basic foodstuffs can be bought in most communities, with a wide variety of shopping available in the larger town centers. There is no guarantee you will have a refrigerator; the vast majority of Peace Corps Volunteers do not have one. Please be prepared to manage your dietary needs without access to a refrigerator. 

Health Volunteers assigned to regional facilities will generally live in the town close to their workplace or on the same compound of their workplace. Examples of possible housing arrangements include a small one bedroom flat (apartment) , hostel type accommodation (nurses dorm) or a government house normally allocated to staff. These are usually located within 3-5 kilometers from the worksite. As such, electricity, running water, and in-door or shared bathroom and toilet facilities are all present, although actual accommodations vary. You may be asked to share accommodation with a Namibian of the same sex, another Volunteer, or you may live independently. Some Health Volunteers may live with a host family for their entire service or with amenities similar to the ones described above. In some cases, traditional style housing may be provided with outdoor toilets and no electricity. Volunteers who live with host families will have one bedroom and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. Some Volunteers walk to work, others use public transport, and some bicycle to work.

While you will have an unique assignment, it is not uncommon for multiple Volunteers to work in the same community. For example, there may be another Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to a secondary school as an English teacher in your community. 


The onset of HIV/AIDS in Namibia has generated the opportunity for new partnerships and new projects to be developed with Peace Corps Volunteers playing a vital role in project development and capacity building. Many Health Extension assignments, subsequently, are in the earlier phase of pilot initiatives. This means that if you are assigned to one of these areas, there may be less structure than you might expect. This can be challenging for new Volunteers, but it also provides many opportunities for you to reshape and mold the job according to new needs and the wishes of your counterparts. You will be asked for your feedback from the Peace Corps regularly in order to continue defining this assignment area. 

Namibia has made great strides in gender equity: ministerial portfolios, senior level government, and private sector posts are held by women. Many rural, less educated women at the lower ends of the socio-economic scale tend to have less authority and control of income, spending, and reproductive health. This is driven as much by a lingering pattern of migratory labor, i.e., adult males working away from the homestead, as by tradition. Although this is changing, many rural communities will not have much experience with women who take on professional roles, remain unmarried, and live away from their families. Differences in cultural norms for women and men may result in unwanted sexual attention and a need to practice discretion in public. Smoking or drinking in public places often sends the wrong message. 

Stereotypical notions of Americans often exclude people of color, resulting in being identified by national/cultural origin or heritage in a setting where most Volunteers conform to the blond haired, blue-eyed stereotype. While many Peace Corps applicants tend to be Caucasian, Peace Corps/Namibia strives to create an inclusive environment, where all Volunteers can learn from and support each other, and at the same time understand why it is important at times to socialize with an exclusive affinity group. African Americans may face different—including higher—expectations for their performance, especially in acquiring language and adapting to local norms. Asian Americans are often grouped together as ―Chinese‖ and therefore must also respond to the stereotypes resulting from current events and Namibian involvement with Asian countries, or the presence of Asian merchants in the community. All groups are affected by the impact of popular culture on perceptions of minority groups. 

Senior Volunteers will find their age and wisdom an asset in the Namibian context. They will often have access to individuals and insights that are not available to younger Volunteers. On the other hand, they will be in a distinct minority within the Volunteer population and could find themselves feeling isolated. Senior Volunteers are often accustomed to a higher degree of independence and freedom of movement than Peace Corps’ safety and security practices may allow. Pre-Service Training is often particularly stressful for seniors, whose lifelong learning styles and habits may or may not lend themselves to the predominant techniques. 

Homosexuality has been the topic of much heated debate in Namibia recently. Human rights proponents argue that the constitution protects individuals regardless of sex and that this applies to sexual orientation as well. Others argue that it is unnatural and as such should be deemed criminal. The pragmatists point out that, in general, sexual behavior is not exhibited or discussed publicly in Namibia, and that homo- or bisexuality should remain private. Homosexual Volunteers may discover that they cannot be open about their sexual preference and may have to serve for two years without sharing with their community that they are gay. Homosexual Volunteers may serve for two years without meeting another gay Volunteer. Peace Corps/Namibia is committed to providing support to all Volunteers and to ensuring that all staff members understand the particular support needs of gay and lesbian Volunteers. Gay and lesbian Volunteers may find that some host country national staff members are less comfortable discussing issues related to homosexuality than others. 

Churches play a vital role in the life of most rural communities in Namibia. As such, they are social as well as religious institutions. You will find them to be a source of information and support regarding community events and practices. Faith-Based Organizations play a key role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Namibia. Volunteers may be asked by those in their community about their religious affiliation and may be invited to attend a community church. Nevertheless, many Volunteers who are not in the practice of attending Christian churches have found that these pressures are easily manageable. 


―For a Volunteer working on HIV/AIDS in Namibia, one must be able to push the boundaries enough to discuss sensitive issues not normally addressed here, but not push too far as to isolate themselves or their work." 

-"While it can't be guaranteed, it seems true that one spends a large amount of your first year in the Peace Corps determining what to focus on and how best you fit with your host organization and community. As I have been at site for 8 months now, I am realizing better ways of communication, the importance of not being passive, and the main projects I will likely be focusing on for the remainder of my service. Be assertive, patient, and interested in your host organization and community, and try to not compare. This is crucial to better service and relationships. Trying to quicken the tempo of project ideas may result in failing to understand real needs or possible downsides." 

―I think the most important aspect of this type of work in community development is self love and care. Sometimes I find myself so involved and over my head in complex conditions that I feel I am not doing anything. So, it’s all about stepping back, taking deep breaths, and consciously admitting that you cannot do it all and that’s ok! 

―Be patient, relax, things will happen! 

―If you can’t find counterparts or people to work with, start the project anyway. The counterparts will come with time.

And so here it goes!!!!

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