Step Nine

During training (Pre-Service Training = PST), you are matched with a host country organization that needs you, be it a handicap organization, farming group, school, town hall, or youth center. You will have a few opportunities to voice your opinion on what kind of work you would like to do within your designated area. For example, I was a 'community development' trainee under the ‘Microenterprise & Computer Trainer’ division. A few years ago, a division called ‘Urban Planning’ existed under CD, so we had various people that were supposed to fill very specific, different positions. I said I would be interested in living and working with farmers, but did not want to teach computers. This automatically meant I was not matched with any of the organizations that requested computer trainers.

You will get a chance to visit your future ‘site’ usually during the 10th week of training called ‘Site Visit Week’. Every trainee goes to their future site this week for 3-5 days to meet with their future counterparts and see their future living conditions. Some people will not have a future home at this time because one will not have been located. Others will be able to see their future office or school and also their room in the apartment where they will live. In Cape Verde, most volunteers have roommates, hence you can see your future room in their apartment when you go to site visit because their previous roommate left already or will be leaving and they know which room you will get. I had a horror story happen when I visited my site and saw that my boss had added an addition onto his cement house so that I would have to live WITH HIM! I refused (somewhat politely, at first) to live in that proximity to him, and eventually ended up with my own gorgeous, stone house due to my ability to stand up for what I felt I needed in order to be happy. It is not considered normal for a volunteer to live with their boss, hence why I had been so adamant about getting my own place.

The site you visit during ‘Site Visit Week’ is usually non-negotiable. Some trainees will adore their sites, and others will abhor them. It will be very difficult to switch at this point because your counterpart will already expect your arrival in a few short weeks. If you do not go to that site, then most likely the organization requesting you will not receive another volunteer for another year (until the next group of trainees finishes training). This placement will be where you live and work for the two-year service period. At the end of the 3-month training period, there is an official ‘Swearing-In’ Ceremony where all trainees that have been nominated to volunteer service will swear to be good volunteers under the current US ambassador in your host country. All host families normally attend this, which also includes speeches from volunteers in their new language(s), and good, catered food (see my Photo Gallery for a picture or two).

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