February 20, 2002 - Personal Web Site: RPCV Rebekah Robertson on some issues with regard to Peace Corps service in Mozambique

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mozambique: Peace Corps Mozambique : The Peace Corps in Mozambique: February 20, 2002 - Personal Web Site: RPCV Rebekah Robertson on some issues with regard to Peace Corps service in Mozambique

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RPCV Rebekah Robertson on some issues with regard to Peace Corps service in Mozambique

RPCV Rebekah Robertson on some issues with regard to Peace Corps service in Mozambique

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Upon the suggestion of a friend, names have been changed.

Iíve been holding off on writing about some Peace Corps issues that have really troubled meósome things that happened, not related to my personal situation, that Iíve found really disturbing. This is triggered by some discussions Iíve had this week.

During the Christmas holiday this past December, one of the volunteers from my group, Moz 3, was in a car accident. He was driving the car and the accident resulted in the death of two passengers. One of those passengers was his Father.

At the end of December, Ronís Father and sister were visiting and they went to South Africa, taking along a past PCV, Nikki, who was working for PSI . I had brought things for Nikki (she stayed on a third year to work for PSI as a PCV and then became part of the PSI staff) when I went to Mozambique and had talked with her Mom over the phone and met her sisteróthis was back in October 2000. Her Mom was a sweetheart.

The word from the PC Mozambique desk is that early in the morning, around 4am, the group set out early with Ron driving a rented car. He fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident. His Father, sister, and Nikki were in the car. His Father was killed and so was Nikki. Ronís sister was fine and Ron went to the hospital with minor injuries. While PC reports that Ron fell asleep at the wheel, the word from PCVs in Mozambique is that police think the car was shot at and thatís how the accident occurred.

It was really shocking to hear the news. Nikki was one of the kindest people you could ever meet. And it was a shock to hear that Ronís Father had been killed in the accident. How horrifically awful. Ron returned to the U.S.

I had called the PC Moz desk here in DC the other week to ask a question about my insurance and I asked how Ron was doing (hoping that the injuries were all healed). They said he was fine and that he wasnít reinstated yet but planned to return to Mozambique. I was surprised (incredulous) to hear itóthat he would return and that PC would consider it.

Another volunteer from Moz said Ron is going back on Sunday, this Sunday. I find it surprising (disturbing), for a variety of reasons, that he would be cleared by the PC medical staff to return to Mozambique. When I spoke to another RPCV last night, she called it negligence on PCs part. I have to agree.

The other thing that has bothered me is that during service, I myself felt this, and I heard other volunteers say it as well, that they felt if they complained about anything, they could get sent home. And I donít mean complaints like: my water tastes bad. I mean complaints like: the support from staff is bad, you put me in a school where they donít want me, my Mozambican housemate and his girlfriend donít want me in their house, the house you gave me is below the level of fellow Mozambicans, etc.

There is definitely an atmosphere in PC Moz (again, the experience is always different depending on the country staff) that if you complained, you wouldnít have a choice in the matter if PC decided to send you home. So volunteers start trying to find out how much of the situation they can complain about, hoping to get some assistance, without complaining too much so PC doesnít decide they donít want to deal with you.

This leads me to the next issue. We had a volunteer who was older, Sarah. The other PCVs treated Sarah terribly. Anyone could tell you that. They were mean to her and didnít want to have anything to do with her. (This wasnít the first time older PCVs have been rejected by the group. An older, African-American PCV who had served in Moz 1 was ignored completely by the other volunteers in her group. She finally addressed the fact, tired of being ignored and treated rudely, so the other PCVs were aware that she was offended.)

Sarah was 36 and in a totally different place in her life than kids just out of college. I had gone to the PC nurse during training and complained about how the other volunteers treated Sarah and that I felt like I had to defend her. I could relate to Sarah completelyÖI had been on my own, paying my own bills, paying my own rent (in her case, mortgage), working professionally, etc.

While I was included in things because I looked like I could have been just out of college, I really couldnít relate to these kids just out of school. I actually listed on my survey of how training was (a total disgrace) that they needed to make sure that they have a greater variation of ages. Having everyone just out of school and only three people who were older (27, 30, 36) was ridiculous.

When the volunteers from Moz 4 came to my site during training, one of them, in her late 20s, told me that she was having a hard time relating to people and all people did was go out drinking every night and because she didnít do that, she didnít click and connect with anyone. She said she was the only older person. I couldnít believe it. Obviously PC Moz doesnít read feedback from people and doesnít try to improve things or avoid repeated mistakes.

Back to Sarah. Sarah was placed at a site that was one of the worst sites, literally. She was placed there with another volunteer. Weíll call him Joeóhe was one of the three of us who were older. Joe got the nice new cement house and Sarah got the house of the previous volunteer that had no privacy, was outright unsafe, was dirty and consisted of three rooms that could only be entered from outside (each room was simply a room). It was quite simply an unacceptable house and below the living level of her fellow teachers.

Here in the U.S., Sarah has her own home on the beach in San Diego. To put a volunteer in a situation like this, after they owned a home, seems ludicrous to me. And her living situation made me wonder, and made other volunteers wonder, and made Sarah wonder as well, if PC had set her up for failure.

While at site, when she was visited by the PC nurse, she was complaining about the house. The latrine was filled up to capacity with waste when she arrived, and the whole house reeked of waste. The PC nurse told her she better not complain or PC would send her home.

She went several times to the school (your school provides housing) to ask if someone could do something about the latrine (it was set up like a toilet. You sat on the latrine like a toilet). One night, someone affiliated with the school came to her house with a bucket and began scooping out the shit from the latrine, without any protection for his hands, arms, face, etc. Sarah tried to stop him, telling him it wasnít safe. He said it was fine and scooped more shit, throwing it into her front yard. The next day he went into the hospital sick and was in the hospital for the next week.

And finally, I felt that PC Mozambique really instilled behaviors of alcoholism as a norm. Since our group was so young and still had the mentality of life being to go out and drink at the bar, PC Moz really played into that and in my opinion, encouraged the behavior.

posted by rebekah robertson at 10:31 PM

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mozambique; Blog; Safety and Security of Volunteers



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