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The goal of the training program is to prepare you to partner with local counterparts and communities to advance host country development priorities and foster lasting connections and intercultural understanding. In consultation with Peace Corps staff, Volunteers and host country partners, host families, and community members, we have developed a comprehensive training program designed to enhance your knowledge, skills, and attitudes and to adapt them to our local context so that you can engage professionally, in the spirit of service and friendship.

Your training objective is:

Lead your personal development of the required Volunteer Competencies outlined under the four primary job functions of (1) Exemplify commitment to service and resilience; (2) Demonstrate responsibility for personal health, safety, and security; (3) Integrate into communities; and (4) Facilitate participatory development.

Our training and learning resources support your development of volunteer competencies. You will be assessed throughout your service, particularly PST, to help you recognize the competencies you already have developed, focus on the competencies that need further development and determine if you are ready for service. Learning and Assessments are developed using the Volunteer Competency Model (VCM) to ensure you fulfill your four job functions:

  1. Exemplify commitment to serve and resilience
  2. Demonstrate responsibility for personal health, safety and security
  3. Integrate into community
  4. Facilitate participatory development

Pre-Service Training (PST) provides learning experiences that allow you to accelerate your own competency development so you can enter into your service ready to fulfill Peace Corps’ Core Expectations and approach to development as a professional Volunteer. Your PST is both your onboarding and trial period. You will be assessed to determine if you have the competencies needed to serve your assigned community.

In-Service Trainings (ISTs) Provide learning experiences that build off the competencies you developed in PST and the experience and insights you’ve gained serving your assigned community. You will use the data you’ve collected during your participatory community analyses to focus on the continued development of your competencies to continue to effectively serve your community’s needs.

Pre-Service Training

Community-based training

Peace Corps Panamá has a “community-based training” approach, meaning that most of your PST will be spent in a Panamanian community. You will be expected to lead self-directed learning activities that will require you to collaborate with local community members with a service-oriented approach and cultural humility.

Host family stay

The host family that you will be assigned to is a real Panamanian family with their own personal habits, lifestyle, and identities; therefore, no two PCTs will have the same host family experience. Your host family is prepared to welcome you into their home and support you in promoting your safety and wellbeing while you live with them. They are not expected to serve you. Building a relationship and adapting your own behaviors to your assigned host family is contingent upon you. We will be there every step of the way to help coach you through that process.

The training communities you will live in are rural, therefore, be prepared to reside in a home without air-conditioning, hot water, and WiFi. Outside of localized short-term outages, all homes will have consistent electricity. In some households, you may have to take a “bucket shower” and use a latrine. Potable drinking water will always be available in your host family’s home. All housing will meet the agency’s global safety and security requirements and Host families have been trained in Peace Corps’ safety, security, and health expectations for Trainees.

Language acquisition

PST will have an emphasis on language acquisition through structured and unstructured language-building learning experiences, while also focusing on strengthening your intercultural competence. These critical skills will help you create a foundation for your ability to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panamá. The technical knowledge and skills that you arrive with and/or gain during your training will not be effective if you do not have the necessary communication and intercultural skills. You will be assigned to a Language and Culture Facilitator (LCF) who will facilitate the resources and opportunities you need to build your language competence.

You will receive three Language Proficiency Interviews (LPI) administered by our ACTFL-certified Language and Culture Facilitators (LCF). Your interview will push you to your maximum level of Spanish comprehension as a means of measurement. You will be placed in Language and Culture groups with an assigned LCF based on your level of Spanish comprehension. You will be required to achieve a Mid-Intermediate level of Spanish by your final LPI as outlined by ACTFL Guidelines to qualify for service.

Trainee assessment & criteria to be invited to serve

Peace Corps recruiters and placement staff invited you to attend PST in Panamá after they assessed your potential to become a successful Volunteer. Success in PST depends on your self-discipline, professionalism, orientation to service, and motivation.

Every Staff member who is involved in your training will formally meet twice during your PST to assess your performance. We will periodically communicate feedback to you so that you can improve and be able to reach out for the support you need and will solicit feedback from you to ensure we are meeting your needs. It is important to note: simply completing training does not automatically qualify you for Volunteer service. You must also meet or exceed the Volunteer qualifications and competencies established during training. The Peace Corps Panamá Country Director makes the final decision (based on recommendations by staff) about your readiness to serve before taking the Peace Corps Volunteer Oath at the Swearing-In Ceremony.

Technical Training

Technical training will prepare you to work in Panamá by building on the skills you already have and helping you develop new skills in a manner appropriate to the needs of the country. The Peace Corps staff, Panamá experts, and current Volunteers will conduct the training program. Training places great emphasis on learning how to transfer the skills you have to the community in which you will serve as a Volunteer.

Technical training will include sessions on the general economic and political environment in Panamá and strategies for working within such a framework. You will review your project’s goals and objectives and will meet with the Panamá agencies and organizations that invited the Peace Corps to assist them. You will be supported and evaluated throughout training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities, report your progress, and serve as a productive member of your community.

Peace Corps Volunteers will be trained and expected to serve community members using the following methods:

  • Co-facilitate: Co-guide participants, with a local work partner, through a structured, participatory process, series of activities, or methodology to achieve their goals.
  • Co-train: Co-lead participants, with a local work partner, through a planned learning process by using training techniques and methods to achieve learning objective(s).
  • Field-based instruction: Guide participants through an informal, on-site, experiential learning process based on an activity plan to acquire and/or apply new contextually and conditionally appropriate knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
  • Guided learning: Guide participant(s) through an ongoing process of reflection, feedback, and action planning to apply and/or adopt new knowledge, skills, attitudes, or behaviors.
  • Co-planning: Co-design and manage, with a local work partner, a group project or event with local leadership and management that provides a collective or community benefit.
  • Mentor*: Co-guide participants, with a local work partner, through a structured and ongoing process of development and action planning that draws on the mentor’s own lived experience and contributes to the achievement of the mentees’ desired goals. *Only Youth Leadership Development Volunteers implement this method with work partners.

Volunteers will be trained in the programmatic areas to understand the local context and gain basic knowledge and skills. Volunteers are not expected to be technical “experts” in these programmatic areas however we expect Volunteers to have some experience and competence to build upon. The most important expectation we have is that Volunteers collaboratively work with local community members to help them identify their needs and create their own ideas to meet those needs leveraging local knowledge, skills, and resources.

Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS)

SAS Volunteers work in the following programmatic areas:

  • Basic business skills: Support [individuals/groups] to make sound decisions about the feasibility, management, and sustainability of their small-scale economic activities.
  • Dietary diversity: Support [WRA and/or key household decision-makers] to increase dietary diversity of households.
  • Integrated Pest Management: Support [farmers/individuals] to improve integrated pest management practices or technologies.
  • Organizational performance: Support organizations to improve internal systems, practices, and learning processes.
  • Post-harvest management: Support [farmers/individuals] to improve post-harvest management practices or technologies.
  • Soil and water conservation: Support [individuals/groups/communities] to improve soil and water conservation and management practices or technologies.

Community Environmental Conservation (CEC)

CEC Volunteers work in the following programmatic areas:

  • Youth Camps: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to plan, implement, and assess [youth] camps that integrate life skills.
  • Youth Clubs: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to plan, implement, and assess [youth] clubs that integrate life skills.
  • Environmental education: Support [students’/youth/educators’] increased awareness of environmental issues.
  • Fuel-efficient cookstoves: Support [households] to construct and use fuel-efficient cookstoves.
  • Solid waste management: Support [households/schools/community groups] to improve solid waste management practices.
  • Tree planting and care: Support [individuals/households/community groups] to plant and care for trees.

Youth Health and Well-being (YHWB)

YHWB Volunteers work in the following programmatic areas:

  • Adult support of youth health: Support adults [caregivers, families, community groups] to support youth health and well-being.
  • Youth Camps: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to plan, implement, and assess [youth] camps that integrate life skills.
  • Youth Clubs: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to plan, implement, and assess [youth] clubs that integrate life skills.
  • Youth-friendly services: Support [health service providers/healthcare workers] to deliver youth-friendly services.
  • Youth health: Support youth to adopt behaviors that improve their health and well-being.
  • Health education delivery: Support healthcare service providers and/or school-based staff to deliver health education.

Youth Leadership Development (YLD)

YLD Volunteers work in the following programmatic areas:

  • Youth Camps: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to plan, implement, and assess [youth] camps that integrate life skills.
  • Youth Clubs: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to plan, implement, and assess [youth] clubs that integrate life skills.
  • Digital Literacy: Support individuals to safely and effectively find, evaluate, create, and communicate information using digital technologies.
  • Employability: Support [individuals/youth] to identify, pursue, and secure employment opportunities
  • Life skills: Support youth to develop and strengthen life skills and apply them in their daily lives.
  • Positive youth development: Support youth, families, and service providers to incorporate a Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach in their programming and daily lives.
  • Service learning: Support an [organization, service provider, local partner] to engage and empower community members in carrying out service-learning opportunities that benefit the community and achieve defined learning objectives for service-learning participants.

Peace Corps Response (PCR)

PCR Volunteers work in the following programmatic areas:

  • Organizational performance: Support organizations to improve internal systems, practices, and learning processes.
  • Organizational management: Support community health workers (CHWs) to perform management functions.
  • Project design and management: Support organizations to apply recognized project design and management practices to their projects.

Language Training

Language proficiency is at the heart of successful Peace Corps service and effective language skills are essential to your personal and professional satisfaction. Language proficiency is critical not only to your job performance, but also helps you integrate into your community, can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings, and supports your personal safety. As a result, language training is central to the training program and closely tied to intercultural competence, diversity and inclusion training.

Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so you can practice and develop language skills further once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will develop strategies to continue studying language during your service.

Intercultural Competence, Diversity, and Inclusion Training

Intercultural training will provide opportunities for you to reflect on your own cultural values and how they influence your behavior in Panamá. You will also discuss the questions you have about the behaviors and practices you observe in Panamá, exploring the underlying reasons for these behaviors and practices. Intercultural and community development training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. Training will cover topics such as the concept of time, power and hierarchy, gender roles, communication styles, and the concept of self and relationships. Because adjusting to a new culture can be very challenging, you will participate in resiliency training which provides a framework and tools to help with adjustment issues.

The host family experience provides a unique context for intercultural learning and is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of PST and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in Panamá. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.

Health Training

During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You will be expected to practice preventive health care and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in Panamá. Nutrition, mental health, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also covered. It will be important to be open and remain culturally sensitive as you undergo health training and suspend judgement as to not project your cultural beliefs and values.

Safety and Security Training

During the safety training sessions, you will learn how to reduce your risks at home, at work, and during your travels by building your awareness and indirectly practicing culturally competent communications skills. You will also learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your service.