Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Uganda February 2011 Bridge to Post

Welcome and Introduction

In a short time from now you will be congregating for Staging, and soon after that you’ll be on your way to Uganda! Our staff here has been preparing for your arrival for some time now, interacting with communities and partner organizations to identify viable work sites and identifying and training the people who will facilitate your Pre-Service training. We are most excited about your arrival.

Arrival in Uganda

Suggested Dress upon Arrival

Please plan to dress nicely upon arrival. This means skirts (below the knee) and shoulders covered for women; trousers and shirts with a collar for men; No jeans, shorts, T-shirts or skimpy tops. All of you should be wearing comfortable but tidy shoes; please no flip-flops or sneakers upon arrival. This will generally be the case during training, although sports andfieldwork will involve a different look – we’ll go over that once you are here.


Several Peace Corps staff will meet you at the airport. We will be waiting for you when you exit the airport after you clear immigration and customs. We’ll also help get everyone together through immigration and customs, and on the bus for a thirty-minute ride to a simple little place with a lot of Peace Corps Uganda history called Lweza Training and Conference Centre. We hope to move you to Homestay families in the Lweza area as soon as the election process isover.

Peace Corps Uganda Staff

You’ll be meeting a number of Peace Corps staff the first few days: The Country Director (CD) Ted Mooney; Associate Peace Corps Director for Administration (AO) Gary Vizzo; Training Manager Shirley Byakutaga; Program & Training Officer (PTO), Jan Droegkamp; Program Manager (PM) for Education Mary Olinga; the Safety and Security Coordinator (SSC) Fred Kiyingi; and the Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMO) just to name a few. They and others will meet with you early on to start the process of your in-country training and to getting to know you. During the program team interviews we want you to tell us more about your skills and hobbies; and the Peace Corps Medical Officers will collect data regarding your health profile.  All this information will assist us in determining the initial language groups and family homestay
assignments. Also, on the first day of training you will receive an “Introduction to Pre-Service Training” from the Training Manager.

Emergency Contact Info

Peace Corps Uganda emergency contact phone number is: 256.772.200534. This cellular phone is held by a staff person 24-hours a day. Staging staff will provide you with emergency contact information should you need to contact someone during your flights and transiting in Europe. Our in-country medical personnel also have a duty cell-phone number which is:

Orientation (Arrival Week)


February 11, 2011: Airport arrival, transfer to Lweza Training and Conference Centre and a welcome tea. Lweza Training and Conference Centre quarters will be shared with other customers apart from our training group.

February 12, 2011: The Country Director will welcome you and the Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) will introduce you to the medical program and give out Medical Kits to you.  Thereafter, the Safety and Security Coordinator will give you some security tips. Other activities include an overview of Peace Corps Uganda by the Country Director, the Role of Volunteers in Development (RVID) and Introduction to the Project Plans by Project Manager.

February 13, 2011: You will do a lot of getting to know each other and team building activities, and come up with group norms to guide you in living and working with each other harmoniously.

February 14, 2011: Valentine’s Day! You may want to do a Valentine’s Day activity to begin the day. There will be individual meetings with the Program Manager, the Country Director, and Medical Officers. During the same period, there will be “survival” Luganda lessons – the language commonly spoken in Kampala, Entebbe and Buganda region. You will also have your passport photos and passports collected by a staff member. A small amount of walk-around money will be given to help you buy some few personal requirements

February 15, 2011: You will learn survival Luganda for one week and learn about the history of Uganda and its current affairs. You will be arriving at a time when elections will be planned so it will be interesting for you to learn and see how the history of Uganda affects the political aspects of the country

February 16, 2011: You will have a Safety and Security session in the morning focusing on the Acceptance model. You will also be introduced to the Ugandan school structure.


You will have access to your bags the whole time you are at training but for emergency purposes (in case your luggage gets misplaced en route) you need to pack a small “ Go Bag.”  This should include nice clothes for your arrival, some appropriate attire for sports activities such as soccer or a volleyball game, and a couple of changes of comfortable clothes as described in the Welcome Book. Shorts are not appropriate, except at times when participating in a sports activity, and should never be worn outside of where these activities may be held.  Women’s skirts should be well below the knees. Light, comfortable trousers are appropriate for men. Please be advised that generally in Uganda, flip-flops should only be worn when showering or as house slippers, but not in public. You will have the opportunity to reorganize your baggage for the training period, and to leave a large bag in a storage area at the training site and take what you need to your homestay. Please note the education program has a more conservative approach to dress and considers the dress code as part of professionalism. You may need to begin adjusting your mindset about dress.


You will receive vaccinations on the first days of your arrival. You will receive further information once you are here.


Please know that there is no immediate access to phones or the Internet at the Lweza Training and Conference Centre. PLEASE make sure your loved ones have realistic expectations regarding this before you leave the U.S.! Postal services are not available in Lweza and letters take about four to five weeks to arrive at their destination after they are sent. This is the case for mail going either direction. As such, it may be thought best to get your “pipeline” of letters started right away.

Local Currency/Money matters

You will receive a weekly allowance called a small daily “walk-around allowance” in Ugandan shillings to cover the purchase of personal items such as a bottle of water, a soda, newspaper, etc. You can exchange money at a local bank in Kampala but, if thinking to do so, please know it is best to bring larger denomination bills, such as $50 or $100, dated after 2006, since it will affect the exchange rate. Remember, though, don’t bring anything you can’t afford to lose.

Local Conditions

Well, what to say? It’s a wonderfully different place. Visitors at times find it hot, but the shade is cool. It might be raining or it might be dry – this time of year is variable. If it is dry, it will be dusty. The most important thing to remember is that respect here in Uganda is shown initially through your willingness to dress nicely and cleanly in someone’s presence; please follow all guidelines for dressing in this conservative culture.

Safety and Security
You will want to buy a mobile phone here and we will help you do that in the first several weeks of training.

Please use your best street smarts when it comes to safeguarding your personal possessions.  Keep money, phones and cameras close to your body. Keep your eye on your luggage at the airport. Female Volunteers might get unwanted attention during their stay in the Lweza area.  During PST we will discuss this at length and find culturally appropriate ways to say no to the attention and possible harassment in the workplace and the community.

Pre-Service Training

Training Site

Lweza Training and Conference Centre is a thirty-minute ride from Entebbe Airport. It is a simple little place with a lot of Peace Corps Uganda history. When Peace Corps re-opened in 1991, this place was its first home. A number of PCV generations have initially passed through here. In addition it is the only monkey sanctuary in a sub-urban setting! You will reside here for at least two weeks and later on you will be using the training centre as your hub for the rest of PST. The surroundings are developing very fast with a lot of building construction going on.


Vegetarians can get along quite well in Uganda. Plant protein foods are plentiful (beans, peanuts, soybeans, etc.) and there are a lot of vegetables, greens, and fruits. However, vegetarians should be prepared to explain to homestay families their concept of vegetarianism.

Overview of Training Schedule

This Pre-Service Training will be mix of a center-based and a community-based approach.  This means that, after a few days gathering at central points for large sessions, we will then begin to hold our sessions in the communities, especially in schools in smaller groups, using the trainer houses, or places where community members gather. It emphasizes hands-on training and learning by doing. You will practice working with community groups to enable you get acquainted with Ugandan learning and working styles. The initial weeks of training are as follows:

Week 1: Overcoming jet lag, and interviews with individual Program team members and the Medical team. This week involves community entry, as Trainees begin to understand how to communicate with their Ugandan staff and communities. We will explore Uganda’s history, issues of community development and the Volunteer’s role in that development; personal health; and cross-cultural issues. The focus is on community entry skills and techniques, the concept of HIV/AIDS—at the global and local level.

Week 2-3: Field-based training:

In these weeks you will be exposed to many different relevant technical areas and issues regarding the Ugandan education system and procedures which will be presented to you through a combination of classroom and experiential learning activities.

Week 3, 4 and 5: Tech immersion
Secondary Education Trainees: You will be familiarized with National Teacher College activities; engage in practice teaching within local secondary schools; gain practical skills and knowledge in laboratory management; and many other activities that will effectively prepare you for classroom teaching in Math, Sciences, an ICT.
Primary Teacher Trainers: You will become familiar with College-based Training of pre-service teachers in the field; observe and engage in primary education classroom teaching; focus on effective curriculum development; become familiar with teacher development and management systems; gain skills and experience in planning and facilitating workshops, and much more.

Week 6 Language Immersion:
You will go with your language trainer in an area where the language is spoken to give you a better feel and grasp of the language in a real life setting.

Week 7: You will focus on other Peace Corps initiatives and ways to promote them at your schools, among the youth.

Week 8: You will have other component sessions and go on a site familiarization tour.

Week 9: Language final assessment and wrap up.

Week 10: You will meet your supervisor and counterpart and relationship-building will kick-off a future site visit. Then you will conclude by being sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer if you complete all the training requirements to become a Volunteer.

Cross-training: Secondary and Primary Education Trainees will be cross-trained in such areas as alternative discipline in schools; hygiene and sanitation education in the schools; malaria prevention and control; games and sports; instructional material development in resource-poor settings; etc. In addition you will learn about such areas as integrating HIV/AIDS education; construction and promotion of fuel-efficient cook stoves; Life Skills promotion and education; etc.

Building Community Relationships:
You will explore work opportunities using an asset based approach and how to extend PCV work to reach all the beneficiaries of a project. Overall, you will redefine your role as a development agent. In addition you will be required to demonstrate your readiness to embark on your technical work by presenting a model workshop based on the needs assessment you will have done in a Ugandan community through Self Exploration Studies.

Language Proficiency Testing:
Peace Corps regards language both as a social and safety issue. It attaches great importance to your learning a local language to enable you integrate in the community. You will take a language proficiency test to gauge your proficiency in a Ugandan language that you will begin to learn during the arrival week.

Basic methodology and assessment criteria for PST
Peace Corps Uganda’s Pre-Service training emphasizes 1) hands-on experience, and 2) developing an ability to live and work comfortably and effectively in a rural Ugandan setting.  While the initial week of training involves coming together at a central site, as the training progresses we move sessions more and more into the community. We find this is the fastest way to get you acclimated into the culture, so that you can become a more effective volunteer.

“Competencies” are the skills, knowledge and abilities that we have identified as necessary for effective service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda. In each component of training, we use “competencies” to help focus the sessions and to help you monitor your progress. The trainers have the responsibility of recommending you to our partner organizations (NGOs and Government Ministries) and to your Program Manager as ready to be sworn–in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. You will be advised of these competencies during the first week of training, and you will be asked to take part in several assessments during PST in order to monitor, 1) the effectiveness of training, and 2) your progress toward acquiring the necessary competencies. You will have a language proficiency interview and you will present a qualifying project. You will demonstrate to the training staff your ability to integrate into a community shown in the skills you
will develop through interactions, taking into action what you have learned, and habits formed at home.

Overview of Training Components
Training components are:
• Cross Culture
• Community Development
• Language
• Safety and Security
• Technical knowledge and skills
• Administration
• Medical

Sample Day’s Schedule While with Homestay Families
A sample Trainee’s day usually begins at 8.00a.m. and ends at 5.00 p.m. for formal training– which includes four hours of language sessions, usually two in the morning and two as community practice, and then a technical session. There is a strong emphasis on integration, so the specific aspects of cross culture and safety and security are incorporated into language and technical sessions. After 5:00 PM Trainees are expected to return to their home stay families.  There you will continue learning language and cultural skills through participating in home chores and in interacting with family members and neighbors.

Swearing-In Date
The swearing-in ceremony will be April 21, 2011

Two Weeks...and Snow Everywhere

I have two weeks left here in the United States and it is snowing like crazy out right now.  I guess I might miss the snow a little bit.  It does look so pretty in my backyard right now, but I won't miss it cancelling my plans.  I was supposed to go down to the city tonight.  We were going to go to Happy Hour at Raven Lounge and then to Quizo at New Deck.  Quizo is probably going to be cancelled anyway and half of our group probably won't come, not to mention the fact that I don't think I can physically make it down there.  I was also supposed to get lunch with Karissa tomorrow and I don't even know if I'm going to be able to do that.  We are supposedly getting a foot of snow by tomorrow, however I think I will be okay getting down there for Restaurant week on Friday.  I guess this may be good thing though because I can spend more time with my mom before I leave.  I'm going to be in the city with my friends all weekend anyway.

I've been reading a lot of other current PCV's blogs and my packing is really coming along.  Almost everything is packed except some last minute clothes that I can't pack yet. Everyone is really stressing out about packing and what to bring and what not to bring.  I think I will be fine fitting everything in my bags.  They are getting full but it shouldn't be a problem.

Having the time off from work is going pretty well.  I saw Kait on Monday and I saw my grandparents and my great grandmom yesterday.  These two weeks are giving me plenty of time to pack and to see everyone.  I'm really glad I decided to quit my job when I did.

I think when I leave, I'll miss everyone a lot, but I'm ready.  I'm ready to do something and go somewhere.  I'm ready for a new adventure.  And from what I can tell I'll have my fair share of visitors.  My friends have even joked about writing their own blog to keep me updated on everything here.  I hope they do.  It would be nice to know what is going on at home and to keep updated.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Done Working

Yesterday was my last day of work at Bayada Nurses.  I really liked that job (especially compared to some of my other recent places of employment).  The people were nice and I was really learning a lot.  For my last day, they surprised me and threw a little going away party.  They got me a cake (which tasted amazing) and they gave me a huge "survival" basket (which included lots of snacks and other things that might be helpful to take to Uganda).  It was really nice and unexpected.  I feel bad leaving, but they got a new girl to replace me and she is really nice and really good at what she does.  So they'll be fine without me.  Hopefully when I get back, if I can't get a job there again, I'll find something equally as satisfying.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


So, Olivia is my dog (if you couldn't have guessed).  We just got her last October.  She is a six-year-old mini Daschund and she only weighs 7 pounds.  She is my baby.  In fact, I think she thinks her name is Baby, because I call her that all the time.  She responds to Baby more than to Olivia (and on top of that my parents call her Peanut).  I've already told people that I'm gonna miss her when I leave more than I miss certain people.  She is always happy to see me when I come home from work everyday (even if she is nipping at my fingers for attention) and she sleeps in my bed every night (she loves burrowing under the covers, in a little ball, right up against me).  Apparently, (according to my mom) when I'm not home, she sometimes sits and looks at my high school graduation picture on the wall.  Everyone keeps asking me what she is going to do without me and that she's gonna miss me so much.  My mom has even told me that I should take her with me.  My response was that I don't know if Uganda is a country where the people eat dogs...haha (wish I could take Baby with me, but the Peace Corps won't allow it).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Last Week of Work

So, this is the first day of my last week of work.  I'm hoping that once I'm done working things will get easier because I'll have some more time, but that may not be the case.  I've been making plans with people constantly.  Between doing things on my list of things to do, seeing friends and spending time with family, I'm getting pretty booked up.  I think I'll complete about half of my list of things to do, I'll get to see all my friends who really matter and I should be seeing my grandparents before they leave for Florida.  Everything is gradually falling into place.  I might even end up with too much time on my hands because everyone works Monday to Friday.  For now, I'm gonna enjoy myself.  I have a little over three weeks left.   Many people have been asking 'How are we going to do ______ while you're gone?'  My easy response to that is 'If I can leave and not have that many problems, you can live without me and be okay.'  I'm getting more and more excited everyday, but I'm not really that anxious.  Things are going well and I'm excited to get a little time off after this week.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Uganda Family Letter

Dear Prospective Volunteer:
Please give this letter to your family and ask them to hold on to it for as long
as you are in Uganda.

January 12, 2011

Dear Families,

Greetings from the Uganda Desk in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that I welcome your family member to Peace Corps. During the past year I have received many requests from Volunteers and family members alike regarding travel plans, sending money, relaying messages and mail, etc. As I am unable to involve myself in the personal arrangements of Volunteers, I would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance by providing specific examples of situations and how I suggest they be handled.

Irregular Communication
The mail service in Uganda is not as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service. Thus, it is important to be patient. It can take four to six weeks for mail coming from the United States to arrive in the Uganda. From a Volunteer's site, mail might take 1-2 months to reach the United States. Sometimes mail is hand carried to the States by a traveler and then mailed through the U.S. postal system. However, these types of trips are infrequent and are often dependent on timing and the proximity of Volunteers’ sites to one another.

I suggest that in your first letters, you ask your Volunteer family member to give an estimate of how long it takes for him/her to receive your letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other. Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows if he/she has missed one. Postcards should be sent in envelopes—otherwise they may be found on the wall of the local post office!

Volunteers often enjoy telling their "war" stories when they write home. Letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, etc. While the subject matter is good reading material, it is often misinterpreted on the home front. Please do not assume that if your family member has been ill that he or she has been unattended. Peace Corps has three Medical Officers on staff in Uganda. Through regular contact, they monitor the health of the Volunteers. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer comes to Kampala and is cared for by our medical staff.  If the Volunteer requires medical care that is not available in Uganda, he/she will be medically evacuated to Kenya, South Africa, or the United States, depending on the medical care required. Fortunately, these are rare circumstances and our Medical Officers are superb!

If, for some reason, your communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member for three months, you should contact the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, extension 1470. OSS will then contact the Peace Corps Director and ask her/him to check up on the Volunteer. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), please do not hesitate to call OSS immediately so that the Volunteer will be informed as soon as possible.

Email Access and Telephone Calls
E-mail access is very limited in some areas and sometimes non existent. Volunteers may have email access as little as once a month, or even once every two months.

The telephone system in Uganda is relatively good. Service to the United States is somewhat reliable, phones exist in larger towns, and Volunteers can often plan to be at a phone on a certain date to receive calls from home. This usually works, but there are also innumerable factors that can make the best-laid plans fall apart. Once your Volunteer is in-country, he or she can update you on telephone availability and provide you with his or her specific contact information and logistics. Many Volunteers in Uganda purchase cell phones and are able to receive calls from the United States. It may require them to walk 10 minutes to the nearest hill to get better reception, but Volunteers generally find them to be reliable and useful throughout Uganda.

The Uganda Desk calls the Peace Corps office in Kampala once every two weeks. However, these calls are reserved for business only and we cannot relay personal messages over the phone.  All communication between family members and the Volunteer must be done via international mail, or via communication arranged between PCV and family via personal phones, e-mail, and the like.

Sending mail during Pre Service Training (PST)

Your name, Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Mail after PST should be sent to each individual Volunteer’s PO Box at his or her assigned site, which he or she should communicate to you after settling in to his or her assigned site.

Sending packages
Both parents and Volunteers like to send and receive care packages through the mail.  Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to the possible theft and heavy customs taxes. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. We do not recommend, however, that costly items be sent through the mail. Once a Volunteer has sworn in and has been placed at their site, they should forward you their mailing address at their new site. Please do not continue to send packages/mail to the following address after Pre-service Training.

John Doe, PCV
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

We recommend that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more frequently. Sending airplane tickets and/or cash is not recommended. Several services such as DHL, FedEx, UPS do operate in Uganda, but can be very expensive. Certain airlines will allow you to buy a pre-paid ticket in the States; they will telex their Nairobi office to have the ticket ready. Unfortunately, this system is not always reliable. Several European carriers fly to Kampala. Please call the airline of your choice for more information. You could also send tickets via mail services as mentioned previously. However, Peace Corps will assume no liability in the event of a lost/stolen airline ticket.

Trying to send cash or checks is very risky and is discouraged. If your Volunteer family member requests money from you, it is his/her responsibility to arrange for its receipt. There is Western Union service available in Kampala, although there are many charges involved in the sending and exchange of money. Bear in mind that Volunteers will be aware of people visiting the States and can request that they call the Volunteers' families when they arrive in the States should airline tickets or cash need to be sent back to Uganda.

I hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda. I understand how frustrating communication difficulties can be when your family member is overseas and I appreciate your using this information as a guide.  Please feel free to contact me at the Uganda Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. My phone number is 1-800-424-8580, ext. 2323 or locally, 202-692-2323.


Patrick Koster, Desk Officer


So, I've obviously been preparing for the past month now.  I still feel totally overwhelmed with trying to organize myself and trying to see everybody before I leave.  My packing list has been constantly altered based on items I've been buying and information I've been getting from some of those in Uganda already (other PCVs).  They all seem very excited for us to get there.  I've also been talking to a lot of other soon to be PCVs that I will meet at staging on the 8th.  Everything just seems to be happening so fast.  But for now I will leave you with a couple fun facts:

The Ugandan flag...The flag features black, yellow and red stripes.  The black stands for the people of Africa.  The yellow stands for the sunshine.  And the red represents blood because it is believed by some that all Africans are connected by blood, like a brotherhood.  The bird on the flag is the grey crowned crane, which actually comes in two varieties, the South African Crane and the East African Crane, both of which can be found in Uganda. (this post is credited to Julie's nerdiness)

Philadelphia is exactly 7142 miles from Kampala...Check it out 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Staging Information

I just got my staging information today.  As expected, staging is in Philadelphia, which is a little disappointing and a little good at the same time.  I don't get to go anywhere fun and different.  However, at the same time, I have less traveling to do and I might be able to see my friends and family a little longer than expected.  I will be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn on 11th and Arch.  So I can arrive at staging either the night of February 8th or really early in the morning on February 9th (most definitely I will arrive the night of the 8th...why not take advantage of a free night in a nice hotel).  Staging activities occur all day on the 9th and then we leave for JFK airport at 2:30 on February 10th.  We leave JFK at 10:40 AM.  It is a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.  We will arrive there at 8:40 AM February 11th.  We leave Johannesburg at 2PM and we have a 4 hour flight to Entebbe, Uganda arriving at 7:05 PM.

So, now all I have to do is finish packing and make sure I fill out all the necessary paperwork.

Friday, January 7, 2011


I've finally sucked it up and decided that I'm going to buy a Kindle.  This means I'm going to have to return some of the books I recently bought from Amazon, which shouldn't be too much trouble.  I just don't think I'm going to have room or want to carry a lot of books with me.  I'm still going to have to bring some books, because a few of the books I have don't come in Kindle versions.  I came to this conclusion about buying a Kindle when I realized that a lot of my books are free for Kindle and although it is a hassle to return the books I have, its probably worth it.  And the money that I'm spending on the Kindle, I'll probably save from the money I would've spent on books that I'm now getting for free.  These are the things that come about when I have too much time on my hands.

So, if anyone wants to give me any book suggestions...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Correspondence Match

The Peace Corps has this program called Correspondence Match, where a Peace Corps Volunteer can share their experience with a U.S. classroom teacher.  The fact that I'm supposed to be working in education makes it even better, because I can set up correspondence between my students and the students in a U.S. classroom.  So, all that being said, I was wondering if there were any teachers out there that are interested in having their classroom matched up with me.  Or if anyone knows of a teacher who might be interested.  If so, let me know and I will work on getting that set up.  It's probably easiest to set it up before I leave, so if you are interested let me know soon.  Also, feel free to check out the link above for more information.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quitting My Job

So, I finally told my boss yesterday that I'm quitting my job.  This was a hard thing to do, because I really like this job and I've only been here for about two months.  Joining the Peace Corps also just seems so ridiculous to some people.  I have yet to make an announcement to the entire office (that might be tomorrow's battle).  After that point, I anticipate being bombarded with questions (some more intelligent than others).  I wish I could just quit without telling anyone.  This would avoid the awkward conversations with these people I barely know.  I guess it will only be three weeks and then I'm done, so I'll just keep trudging forward.