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2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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Living Conditions in Eastern Caribbean

Communications

Mail

There are several ways to send letters and packages from your island nation to other countries. The primary way is by using the local postal service. They have air mail letter and small packet rates as well as express mail service to the U.S. Express mail is the fastest and most reliable.

If you need something to be mailed to you quickly and are willing to pay a much higher price, you can use DHL, FedEx, or U.S. Express Mail. These should be sent to the Peace Corps office address for your island of service.

Customs inspectors are always present when a new shipment of packages arrives. They are authorized to open and inspect packages.

Please request that senders declare package contents and their value accurately on the green customs slip which is affixed to the package. Ensure you note educational supplies if that is the content, as those are more easily sent through customs.

Packages with a declared value of U.S. $100 or more will likely be detained by customs for further inspection. Customs will notify you that your package has been detained. The Peace Corps will do all the necessary paperwork and retrieve your package.

You are responsible for paying both the Customs agent’s fee as well as all duty taxes assessed before you can receive your package.

Telephones

Volunteers have the option of using their own phone or using a Peace Corps-issued phone upon arrival. Volunteers who prefer to use their own phone are provided with a local sim card. Ensure that the phone is carrier-unlocked. Please note that phones without a physical sim tray are accepted; however, e-sims will be at the expense of the Volunteer.

Internet

Each Peace Corps office has a computer with internet access for use by Volunteers. Some schools have Wi-Fi accessible to teachers, but it may not be reliable. Volunteers have the option of purchasing a data plan using the provided allowance provided by Peace Corps. Purchasing insurance for your laptop and bringing an external or thumb drive are strongly recommended.

Housing and site location

The specific island of service is determined by different factors including the Volunteer’s professional work background. Our team works closely with the Ministry of Education, school partners, and communities across Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to identify housing and site locations that will ensure a safe and productive service for our Volunteers.

The population in most capitals/larger towns across the four islands ranges from approximately 10,000 to 24,000 people. Across the islands, the site locations range from small villages (under 1,500 people) to mid-size towns (about 3,400 people). Volunteer sites can be as near as 15 minutes and as far as 2 hours from the capital and the Peace Corps office, by bus. During service, Volunteers often visit larger towns to pick up supplies as needed.

All homes will have running water, either through a rain catchment system or delivered by pipes through the water company, and electricity.

The current is 220 volts, although some newer homes have both 220- and 110-volt outlets. If you have items that operate on 110 volts only in a 220-volt house, you must bring and use a step-down converter. The islands can experience water shortages, power surges and occasional power cuts, so bring a good surge protector. During training, Peace Corps will help you better understand how to prepare for water shortages and power outages. Homes come semi-furnished. Volunteers will receive a settling-in allowance so they can buy other basic household items.

Housing will change over the course of your service. All housing options are safe and will support your success as a Volunteer. During the first 3 weeks, Volunteers will be housed in a dormitory or double occupancy hotel. In the remaining 6 weeks of training you will live with a family. Upon successful completion of training, Volunteers move into apartments.

Living allowance and money management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the community. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level comparable to that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers may bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and debit cards are preferable to cash.

Food and diet

There is a wide range of food choices available in the islands. Caribbean cuisine includes vegetables, starchy root vegetables (plantains, yams etc.), stewed meat, fish, rice, beans, and legumes. The Eastern Caribbean offers a wealth of fresh fruit and vegetables, most of which can be purchased daily from fruit stalls and grocery stores. Many Volunteers are pleasantly surprised to find one or more fruit trees in their backyards, and many have used yard space to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, peas, and beans. Many vegetables available in the United States are also grown here and, while a few are seasonal, different types are available year-round. Volunteers who are vegetarians or vegans can buy produce and other items from the local markets. Fresh fish is always plentiful, as is fresh meat and locally grown chicken. Volunteers are provided information on the nutrition, preparation, and safety of local foods throughout their service.

Transportation

In the Eastern Caribbean, local buses are integral to the transportation network, linking diverse communities and catering to residents and tourists alike. These buses, typically minibuses or vans, are often vibrant in color and adorned with various decorations or slogans. Operating along specific island routes, they connect major towns and villages and stop at designated bus stops.

The frequency of local buses varies depending on the route and time of day, with more populous or tourist-heavy areas seeing more frequent service, while remote regions may experience less regularity especially in evenings and on weekends. These buses stop at designated stops and also make unofficial stops along their routes, particularly in rural towns.

While generally adhering to schedules, local buses can sometimes accommodate delays or passenger needs. However, delays or other challenges can be caused by congestion during peak hours, maintenance issues, high speeds, and road conditions. These conditions are common in many public transportation systems across the Eastern Caribbean.

Social activities

Getting to understand and enjoy social activities in your new community will be an opportunity to discover new activities and determine how to continue activities you enjoy. Life on an island can have a slower pace which could be challenging for some but also provides an opportunity to be creative. Activities may include reading, walking, writing letters, photography, socializing with new friends, doing arts and crafts, watching or participating in sports, listening to music or the radio, playing indoor games (e.g., cards or dominoes—the national pastime), and playing musical instruments. Volunteers report that some of their socializing habits changed in the Eastern Caribbean. This is especially true for evening activities. Communities often retreat indoors in the evening, spend time with their families, and prepare for the next day. On weekends, they attend social events with families and friends. There are a variety of ways to enjoy social activities in the Eastern Caribbean. Making friends will be part of the process of building relationships in the community. People are friendly and hospitable on the islands, and the more friends youmakes and the more you join in local activities, the more you will enjoy your two years here.

  • All islands have local festivals, with Carnival being the biggest.
  • There are plenty of shows, house and street parties, and steel band concerts. Also, most islands have an annual jazz or Creole-music festival, which are big cultural treats.
  • Outdoor sports are popular among Volunteers and host country nationals. For sporting enthusiasts, there are several cricket, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and running clubs. Many Volunteers have initiated sporting groups or clubs in their host communities.
  • The islands have good hiking trails, mountains for climbing, and dense rain forests you can visit, preferably with a certified guide.
  • The islands also offer wonderful snorkeling and many warm sandy beaches for swimming and relaxation.

Professionalism, Appearance, Dress, and Behavior

Professionalism in the Peace Corps requires an awareness of the host community workplace culture, community values, and your self-presentation. To maintain a positive, culturally appropriate professional standing within a host community or workplace, Volunteers may need to adjust their style of dress, hair style, facial hair, make-up, piercings, manner of greeting others, etc., to demonstrate respect for local culture and customs. How you present yourself, in both informal and professional settings, is a reflection of you as an individual and of you as a representative of Peace Corps and the United States. In the U.S., dress (and other elements of personal appearance) may be seen as an expression of personal freedom and identity. In many host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the way you dress and present yourself may be interpreted as an expression of regard—or disregard—for those host community members around you.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities, develop their language skills, and get to know the individual members of their community to better understand their traditions, culture, and local norms. As mutual trust is established over time, there may opportunities for Volunteers to adjust their personal appearance and dress outside of the more rigid local standards. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss these potential adjustments with staff and other cultural mentors.

  • In the workplace, at school, during trainings and at the Peace Corps office, professional, and conservative attire is expected.
  • This includes lightweight slacks or khakis with a button-down shirt or polo shirt, a skirt and modest skirts and dresses below the knee. Casual, sports, and leisure lounge attire are only acceptable in your home and at the beach.
  • Please note that shorts, tank tops, half-shirts, tube tops, flip-flops, tops with spaghetti straps, t-shirts, strapless blouses and dresses, and low-cut tops are not acceptable items of professional dress, whether your community work is in an office or in an outdoor setting.
  • Please refer to Packing Guidance for more details.
  • Visible body piercings and tattoos are not generally accepted in the Eastern Caribbean, particularly in schools. Small rural towns are more conservative, and tattoos and piercings are not accepted. Volunteers should be prepared to cover visible tattoos and remove piercings to support integration and show respect to the communities where they serve. This includes facial piercings (including tongue piercings) and navel rings, as well as earrings for men.