Almost a year ago, I flew across the country to Boston for “staging,” before shipping out Cape Verde to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After a full day of orientation, we boarded the plane at Logan Airport. We were a group of 25 Trainees, and suprisingly, no “chaperones.” The Peace Corps staff in Boston bid us farewell, and deputized a few of us to handle the logistics until we landed in Cape Verde and met our new trainers and supervisors. Since I was one of two people in the group that already spoke Portuguese, I was one of those group leaders. Because of this, I ended up being first off the plane, and the first people I met in country were the Country Director and the Safety and Security Coordinator, who were waiting for us at the Immigration counter.
Fast forward to June 2012, and I feel like the same thing has happened in reverse. Since the Peace Corps Program in Cape Verde will be closing this year, each of the 25 first-year volunteers were given the option transfer to a different country to complete our second year of service. The 22 volunteers who accepted this offer have been assigned to Moçambique, Namibia, Togo, Benin, and Colombia (that’s me!). My assignment is as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, which is actually a different program than the “normal” Peace Corps. This means that while everyone else is transferring, I have technically completed my service, and will be starting a second tour of duty.
In my last days in Cape Verde I had a series of exit interviews and a small mountain of paperwork to complete. At the end of my final interview with the Country Director, I received an official copy of my Description of Service (DOS), signed and stamped with the Peace Corps seal. This document is pretty much what it sounds like, but it also serves as a letter of recommendation for my future pursuits. As the ink dried on my DOS, the word FIFO popped into my head. First in, first out.*
I am writing this post from Oakland, California... I survived 30 hours of travel back home, via Lisbon, Newark, and Salt Lake City. I have about a week to say hello and goodbye to all the people I love here, and to stuff my face with as much of my favorite food as possible. Last night (and this morning) it was Zachary’s deep dish Chicago style pizza. Yes. Time is of the essence, and the last thing I want to do is spend all week talking about what I’ve been doing in Cape Verde. With that in mind, I thought it might save some time if I shared my actual Description of Service on this blog. I also thought it would interesting since most of my posts don’t get into the nitty gritty of my actual work as a volunteer. So, here goes:
DESCRIPTION OF PEACE CORPS SERVICE
Andrew F. Williams
Republic of Cape Verde 2011-2012
After a competitive application process stressing technical skills, motivation, adaptability, and cross-cultural understanding, Peace Corps invited Mr. Williams to serve as a Small Enterprise Development Volunteer in the Republic of Cape Verde.
Mr. Williams began an intensive 9-week pre-service training on July 17, 2011, in Assomada, Cape Verde, located on the island of Santiago. The program consisted of language training, technical skills training, health education, cross-cultural communication and integration, and area studies training. As part of the technical training, Mr. Williams co-facilitated multiple projects in Fonte Lima, the town where he lived with a host family. His primary PST project involved working with the local community association to identify and prioritize needs, with an emphasis on transferring project management skills to the association’s leadership. The final products of this work included the design and implementation of a community survey and a formal Project Plan for the launch of a vocational training program (tailoring/sewing). His secondary PST project was working with two other volunteers to organize and lead a series of aerobics classes at the local soccer court.
The Pre-Service Training program included:
- 145 hours of Technical Training in SED disciplines, including project management, meeting facilitation, and micro-finance;
- 123 hours of formal instruction in Cape Verdean Creole ("Southern" dialect);
- 28 hours of Stand Alone Cross-Cultural Training ;
- 15 hours of Medical Training;
- 12 hours of Safety & Security Training;
- 7 hours of Administrative Training.
On September 17th, 2011, Mr. Williams completed training and was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He was assigned to Mindelo, a port city of 70,000 on the northern island of São Vicente. “Northern” Creole is predominantly spoken there, although classrooms, formal meetings and professional communication are conducted in Portuguese. Mr. Williams served as the Warden for the São Vicente region and its seven volunteers, acting as the point person for communication with the Peace Corps national Safety and Security Coordinator.
The Centro de Juventude – São Vicente (CEJ-SV) is one of a network of centers throughout the country, operated by the Ministério de Juventude (Ministry of Youth). The CEJ serves Cape Verdeans aged 18-35, offering professional training classes, enrichment programs, academic support, counseling, and outreach activities to the surrounding communities of São Vicente. Mr. Williams’s primary responsibility was to teach and co-facilitate classes with the goal of increasing the students’ ability to earn a living.
In addition to teaching formal classes, Mr. Williams worked in a one-on-one setting with individual aspiring entrepreneurs to help them develop business/project plans. These projects included artisan furniture, graphic design, and fish exporting businesses, as well as a non-profit youth center. Specific activities in these one-on-one sessions emphasized goal setting, SWOT analyses, basic accounting, proposal writing, and document translation.
Mr. Williams also participated in the general activities of the CEJ. These projects included:
- the design and implementation of a comprehensive survey of the members associations of the São Vicente League of Youth Associations (LIGA-JUV);
- a Volunteer Fair, showcasing the member organizations of the Network of Mobilized Volunteer Organizations (REDE);
- outreach workshops on various topics, including sexual health and crime prevention.
Mr. Williams worked in direct partnership with the CEJ Psychologist (his counterpart), and the regional coordinator of the National Volunteer Program (PNV/UN Volunteers). He reported directly to the Coordinator of the CEJ, Manuel Lopes Fortes. Most importantly, Mr. Williams worked as part of a large team of CEJ Volunteers, including host country nationals and another Peace Corps Volunteer.
Mr. Williams achieved an advanced competency level in Southern and Northern Cape Verdean Creole during his service and effectively used Creole to communicate in his work at the CEJ, and in his community in general. In addition, Mr. Williams relied on previously acquired Portuguese competency to teach classes and to participate in planning meetings, workshops and professional/government-sponsored conferences. In his Language Proficiency Interviews (LPI) in April 2012 Mr. Williams scored “Advanced High” in Creole (Lang Code 411) and “Intermediate Mid” in Portuguese (Lang Code 116).
Mr. Williams’s experience and training as a soccer coach and player led him to get involved with several clubs in Cape Verde. He was primarily affiliated with Gremio Desportivo Amarante, one of the First Division/Professional clubs in Mindelo. At G.D. Amarante he served as the head coach of the under-17 development team, and as an assistant coach for the under-15 and under-19 teams. His primary responsibilities included planning and leading training sessions, with the goal of developing players for the Senior Team. He also engaged in skills-transfers with the other coaches, including sharing and translating training materials from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and other resources. Additionally, Mr. Williams had the opportunity to work with Falcões do Norte (Mindelo), Corinthians (Mindelo), and Pedro Badejo (on the island of Santiago).
This is to certify in accordance with Executive Order No. 11103 of 10 April 1963, that Andrew F. Williams served satisfactorily as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His service in Cape Verde ended on June 8, 2012. He is therefore eligible to be appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service on a non-competitive basis. This benefit under the Executive Order entitlement extends for a period of one year after termination of the Volunteer’s service, except that the employing agency may extend that period for up to three years for a former Volunteer who enters military service, pursues studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or engages in other activities that, in the view of the appointing authority, warrant extension of the period.
Signed June 8, 2012:
Peace Corps/Cape Verde
Andrew F. Williams
Peace Corps Volunteer
Cape Verde (2011-2012)
*The other first-year volunteers will be transferring to their new posts over the course of the next few months.