Safety and Security
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American can put a Volunteer at risk. Property theft and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Volunteers complete their two years of service without a serious safety and security incident. Together, the Peace Corps and Volunteers can reduce risk, but cannot truly eliminate all risk. Read more on how the Peace Corps approaches safety and security.
Support from Staff
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your service. The plan includes information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for responding safety and security incidents.
Our first priority after an incident is to make sure the Volunteer is safe and receiving any necessary medical treatment. The faster an incident is reported, the faster we can provide support, including security, medical, emotional, and legal. Peace Corps staff will also support Volunteers who choose to make a formal complaint with local law enforcement. It’s important for Volunteers to report incidents as soon as possible after they occur so that Peace Corps can assess and determine if there is a lingering or ongoing safety and security concern for either Volunteer victim or their peer Volunteers, and take the necessary precautions to preserve the right to file a complaint if they choose to do so. The Peace Corps will train you to develop strategies mitigate risk and how to respond if you are the victim of a crime, including how to get to a safe location quickly and contact your Peace Corps office.
Crimes that do occur abroad are investigated and prosecuted by local jurisdictional authorities. If you decide to file a complaint, the Peace Corps will assist you in navigating this process. All Volunteers who are victims of crime have access to the Office of Victim Advocacy, which provides information on the medical, emotional, and legal support options available, and will support you through the process. The Office of Victim Advocacy is available 24/7.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
As a Volunteer, you must be prepared to assume a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. To reduce the likelihood that you will become a victim of crime, you can take steps to make yourself less of a target such as integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. In many ways, you can do what you would do if you moved to a new city anywhere: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware.
Factors that Contribute to Risk
Numerous factors can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within a Volunteer’s control. By far the most common crime that Volunteers experience is theft of property, which is more likely to happen when Volunteers are away from their sites, in crowded locations (such as markets or on public transportation), and when leaving items unattended. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people in smaller villages/towns know each other and are more likely to look out for their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite worksites for pickpockets.
Before you depart for service, you can take measures to reduce risk:
- Leave valuable objects in the United States, particularly those that are irreplaceable or have sentimental value
- Leave copies of important documents and account numbers with someone you trust in the States
- Purchase a hidden money pouch or “dummy” wallet as a decoy
- Purchase personal articles insurance
After you arrive in-country, you will receive detailed information about common crimes, factors that contribute to Volunteer risk, and local strategies to reduce that risk. Some of those include avoiding high-risk areas, knowing the local language, choosing safe routes for travel, and limiting alcohol consumption. You will also be informed of local safety and security policies, including any prohibitions on using certain types of public transportation, hitchhiking, and; avoiding high-risk recreation activities; and others.
Please take time to review the crime data and statistics for Guinea.
Safety Issues In-Country
- Unwanted Attention: Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites,
but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers, and away from
their support network (“family,” friends, and colleagues) who look out for them. While whistles
and exclamations may be fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress
conservatively, abide by local cultural norms, and respond according to the training you will
receive. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the
kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not
keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs.
- In Conakry: Volunteers should exercise additional caution when visiting Conakry; you may not
travel by foot at night and should arrange for transportation ahead of time.
- Travel: One of the two most dangerous aspects of Volunteer service in Guinea is public
transportation (the other is malaria). Do not travel in taxis that appear unsafe (during pre-service
training, you will participate in a session on strategies for selecting the safest transportation
option available). In addition, do not be afraid to speak to a driver who is driving too fast or in an
unsafe manner. Risks increase greatly when traveling after dark. Traveling at night is not allowed
by Peace Corps policy except in emergencies.
- Security at Home: Volunteer homes have been burglarized in the past. To reduce the risk of a
break-in, assess your house carefully for adequate protection against burglars. Peace
Corps/Guinea will work with Volunteers to ensure that their housing is safe and secure. In some
cases, you will need to use your settling-in allowance to have necessary modifications made to
Identification: Volunteers are regularly asked for ID by local authorities. You will receive a
Peace Corps and Guinea-issued ID; always carry these with you.