This Sunday marks just two months until staging for my Peace Corps service in the Philippines. Staging is what PC calls the initial orientation here in the US, before flying out to the Philippines. This event only lasts a few days, and PC staff uses the time to issue passports, go over the rules and schedule, and allow us to meet fellow volunteers. After that, all 80-90 of us are put on one plane and sent to the other side of the world.
There’s a lot I still don’t know about what I’m getting myself into, but here’s some quick answers to some of the questions I’ve been getting.
Do you know what you’ll be doing?
Yes and no. I am going to be a Coastal Resource Management Volunteer. According to the welcome book: “Coastal Resource Management (CRM) Volunteers assist coastal communities’ efforts to implement restoration and protection of marine habitats and to enhance food security through participative community action and environmental education. They work with local government units to implement integrated CRM plans, assist communities with environmental education and training, and establish the bases for legal protection of fish stocks and marine habitats. Although environmental education is a core function of the CRM sector, it is very much people-centered and participatory in its approach to conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine resources.” However, I won’t know my actual role until I get through most of training.
How long is your service?
My entire service is 27 months. This is 3 months of training and then 2 years of service. Towards the end, there may be the option to extend my service for a third year.
Do you know where you’ll be going?
I know that my pre-service training will most likely take place in Bataan (in red on the map). After that, I don’t know where I’ll be. And, I won’t find out until several months into training. Being a CRM volunteer, I’ll likely be somewhere rural and coastal.
What are they paying you?
I am technically a Peace Corps Volunteer, so this definitely isn’t about the money. But, I won’t be funding myself. I will be given a monthly stipend meant to reflect the typical earnings of someone in my community, well below what I would be earning in the states, but more than enough to get by. Upon returning to the US, PC does give returning volunteers a “readjustment allowance” to help us… you know… readjust.
Do you have to learn a new language?
Language training is an important part of PC service. Although there are many places in the Philippines where I could get by with English alone, this is not encouraged as the point is to integrate with the local culture. The Philippines has 2 official languages, English and Filipino (a standardized version of Tagolog), as well as 19 regional languages. All volunteers will be taught Tagolog and are expected to be at an intermediate fluency by the end of our 3 month training. However, depending on where I serve, I may need to learn an additional language specific to my region. My goal is to have 50-100 Tagolog words down with semi-fluency in greetings before I leave.
Can I come visit?
Of course! Although, not until I’ve completed training and the first three months of service, and extended stays are not encouraged. But, it helps the Peace Corps with it’s second and third goals: “To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served” and “To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans”. Still, no surprise visits.
Any other questions? Feel free to ask away in the comments section!