Official Invitation To Serve
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PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER ASSIGNMENT DESCRIPTION

The following excerpts were taken from the official Invitation to Serve information packet provided by the Peace Corps Placement Office. Once a candidate has been offered an assignment they have ten days to either accept or decline.

Country/Training Class Name:
GABON CONSTRUCTION

Project Name/Assignment Title:
RURAL PRIMARY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION & EQUIPMENT/ARCHITECT

In-Country Training:
21 JANUARY 99 - 16 APRIL 99

Service Duration:
16 APRIL 99 - 16 APRIL 01

PROJECT BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

The purpose of this project is to assist in the construction of rural primary schools and teacher houses. The project attempts to assist Gabon in realizing its objectives to provide modern classroom space for all primary school pupils and to attract qualified teachers to rural villages by providing adequate local-style housing.

To assist the Government and people of Gabon, Peace Corps (PC) and Gabon's Ministry of National Education (MEN) created the Rural Primary School Construction Project. A second initiative resulted in the creation of the School Desk Project. The projects have been combined under the heading of Rural Primary School Construction & Equipment Project (or Programme de Construction et d'Equipment Scolaire). In 1994 the decision was made to turn over the project: phase out PC and train Gabonese personnel to support and run a viable construction program on their own. Skill transfer is still needed in masonry, carpentry, material usage, field supervision, plan reading and management. The refinement of existing plans (school and housing) will also be necessary. Presently, there are three volunteers working in the program who will be closing their service three months after you are sworn in. Your group will be one of the last in the attempt to bring the program to a level where it can operate independently by the projected 2002 turnover date.

The school construction program began in 1963 and is Peace Corps Gabon's oldest project. Despite many changes and periods of inactivity, it has built more then 600 classrooms and produced thousands of durable desks. The task of leaving it an independent organization in 2002 is ambitious and enormous: you have a rare and exciting opportunity to be part of that team.

JOB DESCRIPTION:

The program is in a period of transition and the plans for school construction are being totally revised to include improvements in structure and function based on lessons learned until now. As experience is gained with the new plans, it may be necessary or desirable to modify some details. It is possible that the program could be asked to provide services that it has not provided in the past. These may include such things as construction of simple health clinics or training of Ministry of Education personnel in school and/or construction inspection. You will be asked to assist in the training of masons and carpenters in subjects such as plan reading or material selection and use.

The program is in a period of transition and the plans for school construction are being totally revised to include improvements in structure and function based on lessons learned until now. As experience is gained with the new plans, it may be necessary or desirable to modify some details. It is possible that the program could be asked to provide services that it has not provided in the past. These may include such things as construction of simple health clinics or training of Ministry of Education personnel in school and/or construction inspection. You will be asked to assist in the training of masons and carpenters in subjects such as plan reading or material selection and use.

Construction in Gabon is much more difficult than in the United States. Cement blocks are made by hand and often sand and gravel are collected from local stream beds. In some cases local lumber is used, necessitating trips to the rain forest to cut poles and stakes. At times roads are blocked, bridges washed out, or materials are unavailable.

In two years time you will truly work yourself out of a job by providing some of the basic knowledge needed by program employees. To do this successfully, you will need to be able to adapt your previous knowledge of materials and methods to those that are appropriate in Gabon. In some cases it will be best to teach US methods, in other cases you will realize that things work better here if they continue as they have been. The trick will be to know the difference.

FLEXIBILITY AND COMMITMENT:

Many areas in the interior of Gabon are underdeveloped and are uniquely difficult environments in which to serve. Life in the capitol; is easier in terms of creature comforts, but still offers its share of hardships and constraints. If you accept this position you will be joining a team of dedicated PCV's and Gabonese, who are working very hard to improve access to improved education in the rural areas. It is one of the most challenging assignments PC has to offer. No decision to leave the U.S. for two years to work overseas is easy. This decision should be carefully thought over. To achieve success in This crucial position takes a great deal of personal motivation, a strong commitment, a desire to help others, a conscientious and rigorous effort to maintain good physical and mental health standards, and ability to adapt to trying circumstances. In terms of human relations and cross-cultural understanding, much will be expected of you that neither your background or training can predict. It is planned that training (12 weeks of intensive French ;language, cross-cultural, health and technical training) will help prepare you for the frustrations and difficulties inherent in the job and your ability to accept and work with Gabonese. At the same time, our training cannot prepare you for the combination of flexibility, patience and tolerance that will be required of you.

You should be able to look back after two years on tangible achievements. You will know that you have worked with Gabonese and taught them skills which will improve their job performance and help them succeed as an independent organization in the future; you will appreciate the changes in their lives which you and your work will have brought about as well as the changes and lessons you will learn from them. Because of the uniqueness of this program and the excellent reputation that construction and school desk PCV's have established with the Gabonese Government as well as with the villagers they have lived and worked with, we require a strong commitment to maintain that reputation. We ask that your acceptance be very carefully weighed and considered before a final decision is made.

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION INCLUDED IN THE ASSIGNMENT:

Housing will be provided in Libreville, the capitol city, and will include electricity and running water.

Diet will consist primarily of local foods such as cassava (?), yams (yuck!), pineapples (yummy!), fish and wild game (I've always wanted to try porcupine).

During my 12 weeks of training I will be living with a Gabonese family in a village without electricity or running water.

French is the official language. No prior French language skills are required, but a strong commitment to learning French is (I've been taking French classes for the past five months and am picking it up as well as can be expected. I'm interested to see how French has been integrated into the local dialects).

A used Toyota diesel pick-up truck will be available for work purposes.

AIDS and STD's are prevalent, therefore, volunteers must practice safe sex (condoms are always available through the medical office) or abstinence.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever broke out twice in Gabon in 1996.