Peace Corps Experience in Namibia
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
  Getting Some Experience...and putting Peace Corps in perspective

So, as many of you know, I had no experience working with people affected by HIV/AIDS before I received my invitation to work in Namibia. I wasn't too worried about the lack of experience for two reasons: (1) I assumed the Peace Corps invited me to the program to focus on capacity building and program development (areas I do have experience in) and (2) I was excited to have the opportunity to learn something new, particularly given the importance of possessing knowledge regarding HIV. But do not let me convince you that I was in a state of total calm about this lack of experience. Indeed, I could hardly fathom having the USG pick up the tab on my airfare and housing to work in a field in which I didn't have at least a little experience. So, I spent the last few months trying to get just that: a little experience.

Among the endeavors I embarked upon:

Among those I will be completing before departure:



It may have served me well to keep a more detailed journal of these experiences as they unfolded. However, planning and discovering the opportunities seemed work enough at the time and the whole process moved so quickly that I hardly had time to reflect in writing. Nevertheless, the overall experience thus far has been refreshing—a welcome reprieve from a daily routine in which I was becoming all too familiar with a Dell monitor.

Before the barrage of cultural immersion, bumbling over tribal dialect and Peace Corps hoopla that Nov-Dec will bring, I’ll be shoving all that my best judgment deems necessary into 80 lbs of luggage and jumping on a plane to Washington D.C. At said time I’ll have to tighten my belt and hope that my crash course in working with PLWHA (a fancy acronym used by those in the field to refer to People Living With HIV/AIDS) will be sufficient preparation for field work in Namibia—where the adult HIV prevalence rate hovers around 20%.

 
Thursday, October 12, 2006
  What am I doing for the next 2 years?

Well...I'm still in the dark about that one myself, but I can provide an excerpt from the invitation packet I received from the Peace Corps. Time will reveal how accurately (if at all) the pre-departure hype matches reality. Nevertheless, here's what I've been told:

"As a volunteer with the Community Health and HIV/AIDS Project (CHHAP), you will be assigned to one of the two following programmatic areas listed below based on your background, skills, and experience. Please note that you may be the first Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to work with a particular organization and as such you may be challenged to develop the specifics of the project as you go along. On the other hand, Volunteers that are following in the footsteps of one or two Volunteers may discover more shape and structure to their assignment. But in either case, the initiative and commitment of the Volunteer will be the determinant factor in defining the effectiveness of the Volunteer's work and contribution...

A. Volunteers Working with Gov't Ministries

B. Volunteers Working with Health Extension and Faith-Based or Community Based Organizations

If you're curious about why the Peace Corps is doing this work in Namibia, the following link provides some illuminating background info:
HIV/AIDS Epidemiology (and more) in Namibia
 
A Chronicle of Joseph Luchenta's 27 months as an HIV/AIDS Program Volunteer in Southern Africa

DISCLAIMER
The contents herein are my own and are neither affiliated with nor endorsed by the United States Peace Corps or any other organization

ARCHIVES
October 2006 /

REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA
Population - 2.03 Million (07/2005 est.)
Per Capita GDP - $7K (PPP, 2003)
HDI (2002) - 0.607 126th
Gini Coefficient (2005) - 0.7
Click the map below to learn more
Republic of Namibia


MAP(Click for geography info)
Republic of Namibia

LINKS
UNAIDS Profile
BBC Profile
Documentary on HIV in Namibia
World Bank Profile
Journal and Pics of Former PC Namibia Vols

BLOGS
Matt Petric

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