Let the training begin 9/25/2010

10 10 2010

So today was the first day of real training.  It started with a segment called “Welcome to Tanzania” by our country director, and I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty inspiring.  Apparently, President Kikwete (of Tanzania) was the first African president to visit with Obama in the White House.  Many things were discussed, but the first thing that President Kikwete asked for was “more Peace Corps volunteers”.  I think the fact that the Tanzanian president personally asked Obama for more volunteers speaks volumes about the work Peace Corps has done in Tanzania up to this point, and shows that we are fully supported not only by the American government but the Tanzanian government as well.  It was also stressed upon us that for many people in Tanzania, we may be the only Americans that they ever come in contact with, so it’s up to us to dispel any mis-conceptions, and to be a representative of our country 24/7/365.; that’s a huge responsiblity, but I guess if the people here only get to see one beautiful American face, it mind as well be mine…  But seriously, the Tanzanian government is putting a huge focus on upgrading their school system.  From 2002 – 2010, the number of secondary schools in the country has skyrocketed from 927 to 4266.  Clearly, they are building schools faster than they can fill them with qualified teachers, so that’s where the Peace Corps becomes such an integral part of the overall plan for this country.  We are acting to fill the gap until Tanzania can train enough of its own people to fill the vacancies.  Currently there are around 66 volunteers in country, but I’ve heard that the president has asked for as many as 400.  The official mission statement of the Tanzanian School system is to “collaborate with students, educators, & communities to increase the long-term capacity of the Tanzanian education system, and to encourage healthy life styles and empower the youth”.  I’m really proud to say that *hopefully* in a couple months I’ll be a part of that.

In addition to the talk by our country director, we got a visit by the RSO (Regional Security Officer) of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam.  He basically tried to scare the crap out of us, but what it came down to is there is little to none violent crime in Tanzania.  95% of all crimes committed are petty theft, so the biggest issues is keeping your belongings safe while traveling and walking around in larger towns.  We were even warned by the employees here in country that if we scream “thief!” if we suspect someone is trying to pick our pockets, there’s a good chance that the Tanzanians will find the guy and beat the living hell out of him, since the justice system here is way to slow for many people to deal with.  So for those of you worried about my safety, I am in one of the safest places possibly with some of the most qualified people.

The final presentation was by two gentleman (1 Tanzanian, and 1 American) about the role of PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) in Tanzanian, and how Peace Corps volunteers can be active in supporting its goals.  If you’re not familiar (as I wasn’t), PEPFAR was a bill that was signed into law by President Bush, then extended again in recent years to help developing countries with things like AIDS education.  As Peace Corps volunteers, we will receive special training on how to hold AIDS info sessions, setup community awareness campaigns, and other various mediums to help stem the spread of AIDS.  Additionally, one part of the PEPFAR initiative is to help empower and provide a source of income for people living with AIDS.  As part of our training, we will learn to cultivate a PERMA garden and then will be able to teach community members sustainable, environmentally friendly farming techniques.  I’m super stoked about growing my own food, but BOY, would I love a Chick-fil-a sandwich right now….




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