As recalled by a Volunteer of PCTG
1. What to expect: The Pre-Service Training through the experiences of a volunteer.
This section is to inform you, the future Peace Corps/The Gambia (PCTG) trainees of what to expect once you arrive in country. Once you reach staging you will be provided with much of the same information included in this section and some of it you will be made privy to once you arrive in the country. So if you are one of those people who like to live adventurously and want to be surprised, awed and may be even shocked, every step of the way from staging to the ariport, you are advised to stop reading and skip this section. However, if you want know everything “now now,” prepare to be enlightened.
Once you get off the plane in Banjul International Airport1, you will be welcomed by a cohort of PCTG staff and volunteers, who will just as excited to meet you as you will be to meet them. Soon after you are cleared from customs and immigration your luggage will be loaded into Peace Corps vehicles and you will be ushered into a PCTG bus to take you to Peace Corps the Gambia Hostel(AKA Fajara Transit house), where you will spend your first week in The Gambia. At the FTH you will share a room with a person from your group for the entire week you are there. You will have access to electricity, cold showers, bunk beds,sit-down toilets, ceiling fans and some of the best food in The Gambia.. (View Pictures Here)
Fresh off the Plane in The Gambia
GPI will mark the beginning of a two and a half month long intensive cultural, language and technical training. To start of with the Language and Culture Helpers (LCHs) will give you the fundamental knowledge about The Gambia, its culture, its people, its traditions and its languages. This fundamental knowledge is what you will spend the rest of your training and if you are like most volunteers, the rest of your service building upon. At the same time training staff will give you an overview of what will be covered in your training, as well as inform you about PC/Washington and PCTG rules and regulations that you will be required to abide by while in training. During this week you will also have many opportunities to meet your sector’s supervisor, the Associate Peace Corps Director or APCD to ask all the questions you want about anything and everything having to do with your sector and PCTG administration. Furthermore, you will also have an opportunity to meet alone with your APCD, the technical trainer and the training manager to talk about your skills and your interests; from this discussion your APCD will attempt to match your skills and interests with what your primary language you will be best suited for. The Peace Crops Medical Officer (PCMO) will be busy making sure you have all of your immunizations, med kits, mosquito nets, malaria prevention medicine and water filters so that you are prepared for your next step of training.
GPI is not all work and training and sitting on cement platforms; while at GPI you will have many opportunities to meet many of the current volunteers and probably some of the volunteers your group will be replacing. You may even get a chance to speak with the volunteer you will replace, of course, neither you nor the volunteer will know that at that time. There will be also many chances to walk over to the Peace Corps Headquarters to use the computers for emailing and using the phones to call your family and friends2. You will be taken to the local market to practice the language you will have learned in the first couple of days; you will also visit the post office to buy stamps and mail letters and you will also be taken to a currency exchange establishment. If you insist upon it, you will also get the opportunity to visit the Peace Crops Transit House, where volunteers stay when they come down to the capital from their sites. You will also have the chance to spend a day the beach, only 30 Minutes walk from GPI, just chilling and relaxing while getting to know the volunteers and your group mates.
After a week at GPI and the initial inroduction to The Gambia, it's languages and culture, you will be ready to go to your training village. You will be placed in a group of 2 to 4 and taken to one of the several villages used for Pre-Service Training (PST). While in your training village you will be given intensive training language and culture. You will have the oppurtunity learn in a structured classroom setting with the LCHs and to practice what you learn with your host-family and the community at large. However, you won't be spending the rest of your PST in your training village; you will be have the oppurtunties to go to the Tendaba Camp (view pics here). Everyone from your group will come together for a week after every two weeks or so in training village. At tendaba you will get eat sort-of western food, maybe have electricity, and get to take showers! However, the main purpose of the camp is to bring everyone together for techinical training to prepare you for service. Tendaba is a great place to hang out after a long day technical sessions. At the end of the day you can relax by the river or the pool or just chil in the outdoor and open dining hall while playing cards and drinking nice, cold...soft drinks.
After eight weeks of village and Tendaba and field trips, you will return to the Kombos (the developed area close to the capital.) Once back you will have the oppurtunity to go to the beach and take a break. And then you will be back in training; at this time first you will have your final language test and then a few more techinical sessions and administrative sessions with the staff of PCTG to prepare you for your role as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After about four or five days of this you will be finally ready to be sworn in as a volunteer of the PCTG at the American Ambassador's Residence (view pics here).