The Peace Corps uses a Volunteer Competency Model (VCM) as the agency standard for learning and performance. The VCM prepares and supports Volunteers to be effective in service as development professionals and ambassadors of world peace and friendship.
Peace Corps trainings (i.e. Pre-Service Training, In-Service Training, Mid-Service Training and Close of Service training as well as additional trainings e.g. Grassroot Soccer) are composed of many activities that contribute to the personal and professional growth and development of each trainee on the road to becoming a successful Peace Corps Volunteer. Through formal sessions, informal activities, host family interactions, simulations, and on-the-job tasks, trainees and Volunteers learn, practice, and apply new knowledge, skills, and attitudes. They also learn how to adapt and apply their prior life experiences to a new context. The ultimate objective of training, as part of the 27-month learning continuum, is to effectively prepare trainees for their jobs as development professionals in the host country and support Volunteers for a successful service.
Peace Corps staff design training and learning experiences and assess trainees development and performance of the competencies to perform the following job functions required of all Volunteers: exemplify commitment to service and resilience, integrate into communities, facilitate participatory development, and demonstrate responsibilities for health, safety and security. Trainees are required to meet established competency benchmarks, including language proficiency benchmarks in the local language, in order to be eligible to swear-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Fostering and sustaining intercultural relationships across similarities and differences is the foundation of Peace Corps’ approach to development. Therefore, in order to prepare Volunteers to integrate into host communities and develop intercultural competency, many Peace Corps programs arrange homestays with local families for an immersive language and intercultural experience. Living with host families also helps Volunteers develop appropriate and effective strategies to maintain health, wellness, and safety and security in the local context.
12-16 weeks upon trainees arriving in the country and must cover all job functions. This is a community-based training with at least 50% of activities done in the community as opposed to a center. The training curriculum covers a wide range of topics to equip volunteers with the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes for their specific assignments. The curriculum may include language and cultural immersion, technical training related to their program sector (e.g., education, health), cross-cultural communication, community development, safety and security, and Peace Corps policies and procedures. The purpose is to equip trainees with the skills they will need to perform primary activities while meeting expected competencies. Considerations for assessments at this training are below.
South Africa has two projects, HIV Awareness & Prevention Program for Youth (HAPPY) and Literacy Enrichment Project (LEP). Technical training aims to equip trainees and support Volunteers with the necessary skills to perform their primary activities as set out in the Logical Project Framework (LPF). Technical training subscribes to core competencies, capacity-building method competencies, and technical competencies.
Language proficiency in the local language(s) is critical to implement activities in your assigned project, develop effective and appropriate intercultural relationships with community members, and mitigate risks to trainees’ personal safety and security. A significant portion of pre-service training will be dedicated to language learning, with a mix of classroom, field-based learning, and self-directed language learning.
During pre-service training, trainees must participate in language instruction in small groups several days a week and complete regular assignments using the local language with a host family or community members. Trainees must also learn strategies for ongoing language learning to continue language learning journey throughout service. Trainees must meet a minimum language proficiency benchmark for oral communication to swear-in as a Volunteer.
South Africa uses the VCM guidance and resources to design a language learning strategy that supports the development of language requirements for successful service in the project. Posts refer to the Core Competencies Language Requirements Reference (CCLRR) to plan language training for trainees and Volunteers based on the language requirements. South Africa uses the Sector Specific Language Training (SSLT) Inventory workbook with the SSLT Guide to identify and document the mode of communication and the language functions needed for each language-dependent project activity task. This approach ensures greater integration of technical language functions, grammatical and cultural forms, and specialized vocabulary into the existing language curriculum.
Intercultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Training
Intercultural competence and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (ICDEIA) training is designed using the self-other-bridge model. The model starts with self-awareness and critical self-reflection. It prepares trainees to analyze their own reactions and worldviews – identities, feelings, values, experiences, and attitudes that are present for trainees in any given situation.
The second part of the model moves to perspective taking. This involves an exploration of others’ worldviews to try to understand something from an alternate point of view, taking into consideration how the identities, feelings, values, experiences, and attitudes of others are present in a situation.
Lastly, the model focuses on bridging – exploring options and behaviors that can serve as a bridge between two or more perspectives. This involves considering actions that might require adjustments to your own behavior to foster connection, collaboration, and inclusion.
ICDEIA training will cover cultural dimensions, such as concepts of time, power and privilege, communication styles, intersectionality, and other aspects of identity, mattering and marginality, as well as aspects of culture, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in South Africa.
Health and Wellness Training
During pre-service training, Peace Corps medical officers prepare Volunteers to demonstrate responsibility for personal health and wellness in service. The training focuses on preventative strategies, medical guidelines, and policies for reporting and response when urgent/emergent health needs present. Health topics covered include: routine health problems, behavioral health and well-being, gastrointestinal illness, mosquito-borne illness, sexual health, nutrition, and alcohol and substance abuse, among others.
Safety and Security Training
Maintaining personal safety and security during service is a shared responsibility of the Peace Corps and Volunteers. During pre-service training, you will learn what you can do to reduce risks in your home, in your workplace, and while traveling in country. You will learn to identify and mitigate safety risks, as well as about the support the Peace Corps provides in the event you become the victim of a crime.
Safety and security training consists of global core sessions on personal security and risk reduction, dealing with unwanted attention, sexual assault awareness, reporting and response, and bystander intervention, as well as country-specific sessions on topics such as: home safety, emergency action planning, transportation safety, gender and interpersonal relationships, incident reporting and response, and Peace Corps policies and legal context.