It’s official! I am excited to say that I have received and accepted an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia!
Here are the details:
I came home from work on Wednesday and headed straight for the front porch to look for that big envelope I had been so eagerly waiting for, and to my surprise it was there! I brought it inside, gathered up my family, and began to tear into it (slowed only by my parents who made me stop to take pictures!). When I opened it up I saw:
Program: Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL)
Job Title: TEL Trainer
Orientation: August 28, 2012
Pre-Service Training (in Barranquilla, Colombia): August 29, 2012- November 16, 2012
Service Dates: November 17, 2012-November 14, 2014
I received a lot of information but it is all subject to change and will be different for every volunteer, so I am trying to keep an open mind and remember “qué sera, sera”. That being said, from reading through my volunteer booklet and assignment description I can share the following information.
When the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, Colombia was one of the two original countries of service. In 1981 the Peace Corps had to pull out of Colombia because of safety concerns. In 2010 the Colombian government invited the Peace Corps to return. There are currently 16 volunteers in Colombia. I have been invited to serve in Colombia’s first project (TEL) and second group of volunteers after 30 years of Peace Corps absence.
My main job as a TEL trainer will be to work in primary and secondary schools training teachers, co-planning and co-teaching, developing English learning materials and curriculum, and community outreach with things such as English classes, development projects, etc. I will also have the opportunity to develop and work on secondary projects in my community that I will determine based on need when I arrive.
Given the security situation in Colombia (I plan on going into more detail about Colombia in a future entry) I will be required to live with a host family for the entire length of my service. I am actually happy about this as I feel it will allow me the best opportunity to become bilingual. I will likely live in a semi-urban town on the North Atlantic cost of the country either in or near the cities of Baranquilla, Santa Marta, and Cartegena. The home I live in will likely have intermittent electricity, water that may be potable, and most will have modern bathrooms while a few have outdoor latrines. Most homes are made of brick or concrete walls, with a flat brick or corrugated tin roof, wooden doors, and windows. Many homes will have bars over the windows and barred doors over the wooden doors. Volunteers live on about $4 per day during pre-service training and about $10 per day during service. This allows you to pay your host family rent as well as compensate them for any meals they will be providing. Volunteers are expected to live off of this allowance and adopt a lifestyle similar to that of a member of the community.
It will be up to me and my host family to decide what meals we will eat together and what meals I will obtain on my own. The local diet consists mostly of fish/beef/poultry twice a day supplemented with “bollitos” or “arepas” (not sure what these are yet!) and sometimes vegetables. Rice is often eaten with lunch and dinner and eggs are a common protein supplement when there is no meat. Fresh exotic fruit juice is commonly found at all meals.
In my volunteer description booklet it says, “Living in Colombia means that you will have to follow stricter guidelines than Volunteers in other countries. Our work is focused on the North Atlantic coast where the security situation is stable and deemed safe for our presence. Nevertheless, many parts of Colombia continue to be under FARC rule and off-limits to Volunteer travel.” It goes on to detail the travel restrictions in place and that there will be an added focus in training on safety and security. I have full faith in the Peace Corps decision to return to Colombia and know that every precaution has been taken to ensure our safety as volunteers.
I will post again soon with more details about Colombia once I have done some more research (so far I have watched an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain..love him!). I posted some pictures from when I got the invite in the mail on my pictures link. Right now I am working on applying for my visa and government passport, submitting all the necessary paperwork, and trying to stay focused on my remaining four months of teaching without too much daydreaming of Colombia! I am so excited and also very grateful that I have almost 6 months notice to begin preparing for service. My friends and family have been so supportive and excited (although many are a little nervous about Colombia) and I am so appreciative of their support.
Congratulations to everyone who has received invites recently, I am so excited for you all! If you happen to receive an invite to Colombia I would love to get in touch! Send me an email at katiecmccarthy at hotmail dot com.
Until next time…. paz y amor.