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Community Services Volunteer

Project description

Timor-Leste, formerly known as East Timor, is a nation of remarkable resilience and potential. Having gained sovereignty in 2002, this young and independent Southeast Asian country boasts a vibrant culture and a population eager to rebuild and advance its nation after decades of conflict. Timor-Leste offers a unique opportunity for Volunteers to leave a lasting impact on its economic landscape.

Heavily dependent on petroleum revenues, Timor-Leste’s government is actively diversifying its economy by promoting agriculture, tourism, and non-petroleum sectors to reduce this reliance and create a more sustainable economic base. With a youthful population (nearly 70% under 25), there's a strong drive among young Timorese to acquire skills and develop small businesses.

Community Economic Development (CED) Facilitators will serve in rural villages, collaborating closely with local counterparts to enhance their communities’ economic and livelihood opportunities. They may work in youth training centers, co-facilitating courses on English language, computer skills, or other entrepreneurial or job-seeking skills. Alternatively, CED Facilitators might be placed with existing agricultural or business cooperatives, farmers, youth, or women’s groups, guiding them towards improved business practices, enhanced financial management, innovative product design, or more effective marketing. Some Volunteers may work with local non-governmental organizations or government offices, focusing on organizational capacity development. Regardless of the assignment, Volunteers will apply participatory tools for development, facilitating collaborative efforts with counterparts and the broader community to identify needs and develop action plans.

It's common for work colleagues, community leaders, and neighbors to ask (CED) Facilitators to provide English lessons. This recognition stems from the fact that English proficiency significantly enhances employment opportunities and staff capacity development. Timorese who speak English tend to earn salaries that are 30% higher than their peers. CED Volunteers should expect to teach English, either at their worksite or within an English club. This English instruction can be integrated with other tasks, such as teaching job seekers or providing guidance on reading and interpreting financial documents or grant opportunities. By sharing this valuable skill, you'll not only contribute to the community but also establish stronger relationships and build trust with its members. As trust within the community deepens, you may discover additional avenues for service. CED Facilitators will receive training on pertinent topics like nutrition and climate change issues in Timor-Leste, which can lead to further engagement opportunities within your assigned site.

In Timor-Leste, Volunteers can drive positive change by collaborating closely with local organizations to achieve their objectives. Your participation can be a significant step toward a brighter future for this developing nation, offering you a fulfilling and culturally enriching experience. Join us in supporting economic development in Timor-Leste and become a part of this transformative journey.

Required skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline;
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field with professional business experience;
• 5 years of professional experience in business management;
• Demonstrated experience in supporting entrepreneurship or teaching the basics of business;
• Commitment to serving a community at their pace, level, and according to the community’s priorities, as demonstrated through experience coaching, mentoring, and/or organizing community activities.

Required language skills

There are no language requirements. During pre-service training, Volunteers will learn Tetun, the country's official language, and are expected to demonstrate intermediate proficiency after ten weeks of training. Tetun is not grammatically complex and utilizes the Latin alphabet, making it relatively easy for Volunteers to attain the required Intermediate-Mid proficiency. Many Volunteers go on to achieve an Advanced level with further experience at their site. In addition to Tetun, many Volunteers also choose to learn a local language or dialect spoken in their district. If you have a background in Portuguese or Spanish, you'll find that your knowledge of these languages can be advantageous in your Tetun studies, as many Tetun words have been incorporated from Portuguese. Many Timorese speak Bahasa Indonesian, which is another language some Volunteers learn.

Living conditions

Peace Corps Timor-Leste requires Volunteers to reside with a host family during Pre-Service Training and for their entire two years of service at their permanent site. This connection with a respected family in the community serves as a cornerstone for Volunteers to establish meaningful relationships with other community members, laying the groundwork for effective service. Homestays align with the intercultural goals of the Peace Corps, and host families generously offer contextually secure and supportive living environments, fostering continued opportunities for language practice, learning, and intercultural exchange. Volunteers consistently highlight their host family relationships, during both pre-service training and at their permanent sites, as one of the most enriching aspects of their service.

Host families in Timor-Leste are typically large and multi-generational, often including four or more children. In towns with larger and better schools, school-aged relatives may also reside with the family during the school year. The Timorese population is predominantly Catholic, with church attendance being a vital community activity.

Smoking cigarettes is prevalent, and some elders in the family may chew betelnut. Although alcohol is occasionally offered at weddings and specific community gatherings, it is generally discouraged, especially for women. Becoming intoxicated can have adverse effects on one's reputation and credibility.

Timor-Leste comprises 13 municipalities, each with populations ranging from 50,000 to 120,000 residents. Most Volunteers are placed in rural areas, often at the village (suco) or sub-village (aldeia) level, where populations typically number fewer than 2,000 people. A few Volunteers may be assigned to district capitals (vila). Except for third-year extendees, all Volunteers live outside of Dili, the capital city.

During the rainy season from December to April, roads may become impassable, necessitating Volunteers to walk or cycle up to an hour over rugged terrain to access public transportation (small trucks or minibuses) to larger cities. Road reconstruction is frequent, potentially affecting travel times.

The availability of amenities like electricity, running water, and cell phone reception varies between sites. There may be times when electricity is not accessible in your home, and although cell phone coverage is improving, there are still areas with limited reception. In the municipalities, Volunteers often rely on their cell phones for internet access, occasionally using two different SIM cards to access various data packages and better coverage.

Volunteers may face unwanted attention when outside their host communities, on public transportation, or in Dili. Although such experiences can be uncomfortable and distressing, Post offers training and strategies to equip Volunteers with the skills to handle these situations effectively.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Timor-Leste: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and health/crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

Peace Corps Timor-Leste welcomes married couples, particularly those who can serve in different sectors, such as one spouse in Community Economic Development (CED) and the other in English Education (ED). It's important to note that currently, Peace Corps Timor-Leste can only place male and female couples. During the 10-week pre-service training, couples should be prepared to live separately. Once in the field, all Volunteers, including couples, are required to live with a host family for their entire two-year service. While couples will have their own room within the household, they will share common living spaces with their host family, which may require some adjustment in terms of privacy expectations.

Couples serving in Timor-Leste may encounter societal expectations to conform to traditional gender roles. Timorese might inquire about the number of children a married couple has or encourage them to have children if they don't already. Couples who have served in Timor-Leste have found that they can navigate these situations with politeness. Generally, they report receiving more respect compared to their unmarried colleagues. Overall, couples have had positive experiences and are content with their service in Timor-Leste.

In Timor-Leste, most couples have church weddings. However, some are considered fully married after an engagement ceremony involving the bride and groom's families. This is especially common when a church wedding is impractical or when the associated celebrations are financially burdensome at the time of engagement.

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