THE PEACE CORPS WELCOMES YOU TO

Belize

A PEACE CORPS PUBLICATION FOR NEW VOLUNTEERS

September 2009

Belize MAP

A WELCOME LETTER
On behalf of my staff at Peace Corps/Belize, congratulations. Your invitation to serve in Belize comes after several months of hard work, seemingly interminable waits, and a good deal of uncertainty. We are pleased that you will be joining us for pre-service Training (PST). PST will be challenging—physically, emotionally, and intellectually. If the past is any indication, you will have experiences and make friends that will affect you for the rest of your life. It will open to you a path to a rewarding two years of service, which will change you and the way you view the world. Trainees and Volunteers receive high quality medical care, training, and administrative and logistical support. The first 10 weeks will involve intensive training that will emphasize local language skills, build your technical abilities, and prepare you to adapt culturally, which is essential for an engaging Peace Corps experience. You will learn how to stay healthy in Belize, how to be safe and secure in your home and community, and how to continue to learn during your service. Most Belize Volunteers live and work in small towns and villages. They usually adapt well to, and come to appreciate deeply, a simple rural lifestyle, such as the ones lived by the majority of the people with whom they work. This process requires patience, good humor, maturity, hard work, and on occasion, help from others, including staff, Volunteers and community members, both Belizean and American. The quality of your Peace Corps experience is largely in your hands and in your head, in your willingness to work hard and be resilient and positive. Learning about Belize and its people is wise and will benefit you greatly. Start with the information in this Welcome Book, a first installment of the great deal of information that you will master in the coming months. Finally, please recognize that Belize is a wonderful country in which to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Belizeans are warm, welcoming, open and very friendly to Americans. It is an amazingly diverse country in terms of its people, topography, natural environment, and ways to enjoy them. We have an experienced, supportive, and very well trained staff at Peace Corps/Belize. I urge you to know them well and look to them for leadership. And remember, this adventure should be satisfying and fun. Steve Miller Country Director

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CONTENTS
A WELCOME LETTER .......................................................................................................................... 1 CONTENTS ............................................................................................................................................. 2 CORE EXPECTATIONS FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS.......................................................... 4 PEACE CORPS/BELIZE HISTORY AND PROGRAMS ..................................................................... 4 History of the Peace Corps in Belize.................................................................................................... 4 History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Belize................................................................. 4 COUNTRY OVERVIEW: BELIZE AT A GLANCE ............................................................................ 6 History .................................................................................................................................................. 6 Government .......................................................................................................................................... 6 Economy ............................................................................................................................................... 7 People and Culture................................................................................................................................ 7 Environment ......................................................................................................................................... 8 RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION .................................................................................. 9 General Information About Belize ....................................................................................................... 9 Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees ....................................................................... 9 Recommended Books ......................................................................................................................... 10 LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE................................................................ 11 Communications ................................................................................................................................. 11 Housing and Site Location.................................................................................................................. 11 Living Allowance and Money Management ...................................................................................... 12 Food and Diet ..................................................................................................................................... 12 Transportation..................................................................................................................................... 12 Geography and Climate ...................................................................................................................... 13 Social Activities.................................................................................................................................. 13 Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ................................................................................................ 13 Personal Safety ................................................................................................................................... 14 Rewards and Frustrations ................................................................................................................... 14 PEACE CORPS TRAINING.................................................................................................................. 15 Pre-Service Training........................................................................................................................... 15 YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN BELIZE........................................................................... 18 Health Issues in Belize........................................................................................................................ 18 Helping You Stay Healthy.................................................................................................................. 18 Maintaining Your Health.................................................................................................................... 19 Women’s Health Information ............................................................................................................. 19 Your Peace Corps Medical Kit ........................................................................................................... 19 Medical Kit Contents.......................................................................................................................... 19 Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist............................................................................................ 20 Safety and Security—Our Partnership................................................................................................ 22 Support from Staff .............................................................................................................................. 23 Crime Data for Belize......................................................................................................................... 24 Volunteer Safety Support in Belize .................................................................................................... 24 DIVERSITY AND CROSS-CULTURAL ISSUES.............................................................................. 25 Overview of Diversity in Belize ......................................................................................................... 26 What Might a Volunteer Face?........................................................................................................... 26 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS................................................................................................. 31 WELCOME LETTERS FROM BELIZE VOLUNTEERS.................................................................... 33
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PACKING LIST ..................................................................................................................................... 37 PRE-DEPARTURE CHECKLIST ......................................................................................................... 40 Family ................................................................................................................................................. 40 Passport/Travel ................................................................................................................................... 40 Medical/Health ................................................................................................................................... 40 Insurance............................................................................................................................................. 40 Personal Papers................................................................................................................................... 40 Voting ................................................................................................................................................. 40 Personal Effects .................................................................................................................................. 41 Financial Management........................................................................................................................ 41 CONTACTING PEACE CORPS HEADQUARTERS.......................................................................... 42

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CORE EXPECTATIONS FOR PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
In working toward fulfilling the Peace Corps Mission of promoting world peace and friendship, as a trainee and Volunteer, you are expected to: 1. Prepare your personal and professional life to make a commitment to serve abroad for a full term of 27 months 2. Commit to improving the quality of life of the people with whom you live and work; and, in doing so, share your skills, adapt them, and learn new skills as needed 3. Serve where the Peace Corps asks you to go, under conditions of hardship, if necessary, and with the flexibility needed for effective service 4. Recognize that your successful and sustainable development work is based on the local trust and confidence you build by living in, and respectfully integrating yourself into, your host community and culture 5. Recognize that you are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your personal conduct and professional performance 6. Engage with host country partners in a spirit of cooperation, mutual learning, and respect 7. Work within the rules and regulations of the Peace Corps and the local and national laws of the country where you serve 8. Exercise judgment and personal responsibility to protect your health, safety, and well-being and that of others 9. Recognize that you will be perceived, in your host country and community, as a representative of the people, cultures, values, and traditions of the United States of America 10. Represent responsively the people, cultures, values, and traditions of your host country and community to people in the United States both during and following your service

PEACE CORPS/BELIZE HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Belize

Since the first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Belize in 1962, more than 1,700 have served in the country. They have worked in education, agriculture, health, environmental conservation, and small business development. For many of the early years of Peace Corps/Belize, most Volunteers worked with the Ministry of Education to expand and diversify the secondary school system in rural areas. Since the early 1990s, Volunteers have focused their educational efforts on teacher training, curriculum development, HIV/AIDS awareness, and at-risk youth. In recent years, Peace Corps programs have focused on small businesses development, ecotourism, alternative agriculture, environmental education, and organizational strengthening.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Belize

Currently, Peace Corps Volunteers serve in Belize in four key areas, or "Projects." The four projects are: Education (Teacher Training) Youth Development Business and Organization Management Healthy Communities

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Education/Teacher Training One key education issue in Belize is the falling literacy rate. Volunteers work to increase literacy rates through building the capacity of Belize’s primary school teachers. The education project’s purpose is to help Belizean youth to lead healthy, happy, and successful lives through high-quality education. Volunteers work toward this purpose by training teachers and administrators to use research-based education methodologies in their schools to promote student achievement at or above their grade level. Volunteers provide innovative leadership and training for teachers to strengthen reading instruction and to increase the reading skills of targeted students in the first four years of primary school. Volunteers also assist schools in setting up school and community libraries. Special education Volunteers are providing training for teachers in methodologies used to teach learning challenged children. These teachers learn about materials development and classroom-management as well as methods for teaching students who are hearing-impaired or have vision problems. Youth Development Belize’s population is young; nearly 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30 and more than a quarter is between the ages of 15-29. An abundance of youth can be a blessing for the future development of a country, but drawing on young people as a resource requires that they receive sufficient opportunities to develop intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The youth development project’s purpose is to help Belizean youth to lead safe, healthy, and productive lives through increased access to high-quality youth programs. Volunteers work with youth directly to engage them in activities that enhance their life skills and reinforce a positive transition to adulthood. Volunteers also work with organizations and communities to build their capacity to strengthen and create safe, healthy, and fun programs and spaces to engage youth in positive social and peer interactions. Youth Volunteers focus on a holistic approach to youth development, paying particular attention to life-skills education, youth employment and entrepreneurship, and youth health, including the prevention of sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. Business and Organizational Management The business and organizational management project’s purpose is to help Belizeans to achieve a decent standard of living through improved community leadership and sustainable business practices. Volunteers work toward this purpose in two ways. They help community groups to effectively manage the needs of their communities through enhanced leadership and organizational practices. They also help entrepreneurs and microenterprise groups to implement locally appropriate, efficient and profitable business practices. Healthy Communities The healthy communities project’s purpose is to help rural families in Belize to lead healthy lives by increasing health awareness and improving environmental health conditions. Volunteers work toward this purpose in several ways. They encourage rural families to adopt improved sanitation and health practices through training, education and outreach opportunities. They also help rural communities to establish locally appropriate sanitation projects (latrines and waste disposal). Volunteers also actively involve the youth of their communities in curriculums focused on life skills and sexual and reproductive health. In all of the project areas, Volunteers use participatory techniques that allow community and host agency members to assess their needs and strengths. These techniques strengthen the capacity of community groups and develop their planning skills. Volunteers work with a wide range of groups, such as teachers, health workers, parents, women’s groups, village councils, and youth.

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Because Belize has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Central America, all Volunteers participate in projects and/or activities to strengthen HIV/AIDS education and prevention in their communities. Other important areas that all Volunteers work to strengthen are environmental education and conservation.

COUNTRY OVERVIEW: BELIZE AT A GLANCE
History

A thousand years before the first Europeans set foot in Central America, the Maya people had established an empire that extended throughout parts of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. Their agriculturally based society was distinguished by a high level of scientific and cultural achievements. The Maya built roads, devised an accurate calendar, developed a system of mathematics based on the concept of zero, and created a form of hieroglyphic writing. Their impressive art and architecture are still in evidence throughout Belize. By the beginning of the 10th century, however, the great temples of the Maya civilization were covered by jungle, a downfall that is shrouded in mystery. The first European contact with Belize was in 1501, when Christopher Columbus sailed along its coast. While Belize lay out of the way of the great Spanish silver routes, sailors landed there in search of water and shelter. Spanish ships were constantly harassed by French, Dutch, and English buccaneers in the scramble for New World colonial possessions. A growing market for dye-producing logwood encouraged the English to settle in the area in the late 1600s. The trade in logwood was gradually surpassed by the trade in mahogany. England sent its first official representative to Belize in the late 18th century. Belize, however, did not formally become the colony of British Honduras until 1840. It became a crown colony in 1862, with a governor and a council appointed by British authorities. Full self-government under a ministerial system was granted in 1962. An interesting footnote in the history of Belize is neighboring Guatemala’s claim over the country. When Guatemala gained independence from Spain in 1821, it asserted that it inherited Spain’s sovereignty over part of Belize. This soon-forgotten issue was brought up again in 1859 when Guatemala and Great Britain attempted to set the boundaries of Belize. The issue of Guatemala’s “lost province” was then put aside again until the 1940s when Guatemala included in its constitution a provision for recovering the territory. The provision failed because of international tribunals declaring the issue moot. Since then, boundary disputes between the two countries have periodically resurfaced. British Honduras was renamed Belize in 1972, and on September 21, 1981, Great Britain granted Belize full independence. The country moved quickly to become a member of the United Nations and applied for membership in the Organization of American States. Belize opted to remain a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Government

Belize’s executive branch consists of a prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party; 15 ministers; and two deputy ministers, who are selected from members of the National Assembly by the prime minister. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. She is represented by a governor general nominated by the Belize government. Each ministry is structured along the traditional British model. Day-to-day administrative and directive functions are exercised by chief executive officers (CEOs), normally career civil service officers, but selected by the party in government. Under the CEOs are career civil service officers who serve as heads of various departments and subdivisions of the ministries.

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The central government is located in the capital of Belize: Belmopan. The ministries carry out their activities through separate offices located in Belmopan and in the principal towns of the six administrative districts (Corozal, Belize, Cayo, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, and Toledo).
Economy

Two things stand out about Belize’s economy: its precarious dependence on external resources and its small size. As a British colony, the country became accustomed to importing virtually everything it consumed. Although Belize now has its own small industrial sector and food production system, it still relies heavily on imports and, as a result, has an annual trade deficit of about $50 million. The agricultural economy was first dominated by logwood, then mahogany, and finally sugar. In the 1970s, sugar became the undisputed king in Belize, accounting for 60 percent of the country’s exports. Today, tourism is a key driver of Belize’s economy and of foreign exchange earnings. Belize’s export economy is primarily agriculturally based. Agriculture still employs over one-third of the labor force primarily in sugarcane, citrus, fisheries and bananas. Belize is the home to a small number of private manufacturing enterprises, but it depends on imports for most manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, and beverages. Belize’s GDP had a growth rate of 3.5 percent, with an inflation rate of 3 percent.
People and Culture

The population of Belize is nearing 300,000, which makes it the least densely populated country in Central America. Belize is characterized by a remarkably diverse society: Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous ancestry) constitute about 53 percent of the population, Creoles 25 percent, Mayas 10 percent, Garifuna 7 percent, and others, 4 percent, including Chinese, Taiwanese, East Indian, and Mennonite populations. The country has seen a large and significant population shift in the last 20 years. In 1980, Creoles (who primarily speak an English-based language) made up 40 percent of the population. Now, the largest ethnic group is Mestizo (who tend to speak Spanish as a first language). English remains the official language. Spanish is becoming more widely spoken as the Mestizo population increases. The Garifuna and several Maya communities speak their own languages and Mennonite settlements in Cayo and Orange Walk speak Low German. Creole is fast becoming the language common to all.

Belize Population Shifts
1980 – 2002
100%
10% 8% 9% 6% 4% 7%

75%

10%

11%

10%

28%

25%

50%

40%

25%
33%

47%

53%

0%

Mestizo

Creole

Maya

Garifuna

Other

Source: 1980, 1995, 2002 Census

Belizean Creoles are, for the most part, descendants of slaves bought or captured in Africa and the West Indies. Twothirds of them live in Belize City. The Mestizo population is largely concentrated in the north and west. The Garifuna, runaway slaves who mixed with the native islanders of St. Vincent in the 17th and 18th centuries, live in all parts of Belize, but several coastal communities are primarily Garifuna settlements. Maya communities are found in northern, west-central, and southern Belize.

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Environment

Belize is one of the world's most biologically diverse nations and the integrity of many of its natural resources is still very much intact. Ninety three percent of its land is under forest cover. It has the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere, the largest cave system in Central America, over 500 species of birds, thousands of Maya archaeological temples, and the only jaguar reserve in the world. With only 8,867 square miles and less than 300,000 people, the population density is the lowest in the Central American region and one of the lowest in the world. Environmental issues facing Belize include water pollution, waste disposal, deforestation, and mainstream tourism, which have slowly been encroaching upon and/or negatively affecting Belize’s coast, marine life, cayes, forests, and mountains.

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RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and Belize and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it. If you do not have access to the Internet, visit your local library. Libraries offer free Internet usage and often let you print information to take home. A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experience, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About Belize www.countrywatch.com/ On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in the capital of Belize to how to convert from the dollar to the Belize currency. Just click on Belize and go from there. www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world. www.state.gov The State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find Belize and learn more about its social and political history. www.psr.keele.ac.uk/official.htm This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide. www.geography.about.com/library/maps/blindex.htm This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background. www.cyberschoolbus.un.org/infonation/info.asp This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N www.worldinformation.com This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world. Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees www.rpcv.org This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities. Or go straight to the Friends of Belize site: http://www.friendsofbelize.org/

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http://www.rpcvwebring.org This site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring. Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about their service. www.peacecorpswriters.org This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service. Recommended Books Books About the History of the Peace Corps 1. Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.

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Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985. Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.

3.

Books on the Volunteer Experience 1. Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.

2.

Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003. Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, N.Y.: Perennial, 2001. Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991. Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).

3.

4. 5.

6.

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LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Communications Mail Peace Corps/Belize recommends sending letters via airmail, which generally arrive within two weeks. Surface mail can take months. We ask that during training, you do not have boxes mailed to you. You will be traveling often and will receive a fair amount of gear from PC/Belize: mosquito nets, medical kits, books and other resource materials. Therefore, it is best to wait until you are in your site of assignment to begin receiving boxes.

When you become a Volunteer and are assigned to a site, you will be responsible for sending your new mailing address to family and friends. During your first six months in Belize, any packages you receive will be exempt from duty fees. After this period, you will be responsible for paying any duty on packages. There are other options for having items such as airline tickets or small items sent to you. Small, padded envelopes are best for items weighing less than 2 pounds, as they are less likely than boxes to be opened and taxed. In addition, people can ship you packages using express mail services such as FedEx and DHL. The Peace Corps office accepts international express mail for Volunteers.
Telephones International telephone service in Belize is good and covers most of the country. However, it is expensive, so Volunteers typically call the United States collect. Most Volunteers purchase a cellphone once they reach their site and know which service is most reliable in that area. Volunteers are not permitted to use telephones at the Peace Corps office to call family and friends unless the call pertains to an emergency and is approved in advance by the country director. Computer, Internet, and Email Access

Many Volunteers bring laptop computers to Belize and find them extremely useful. Before determining whether to bring your laptop, you should consider that maintenance and repair services may not be available, and that tropical climates can be detrimental to computers. Moreover, if you are assigned to a rural site, there may not be electricity. If a Belizean agency you work with owns a computer, you may be able to arrange access for work-related or personal use. The Peace Corps office in Belmopan has two computers, one in its resource center and another in the Volunteer lounge, both with Internet access and both are available for Volunteer use. In addition, district towns have Internet cafes. In general, Internet service is available wherever there is telephone service.
Housing and Site Location

Once you have been assigned to a site, you will spend two weeks visiting the site and living with a host family before being sworn in as a Volunteer. This will provide a safe, welcoming environment to begin learning about your site and assignment. After swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer you will return to live with your homestay family for at least one month. Volunteers assigned to urban areas will be required to stay with their homestay families for up to three months. Afterwards, you may decide to stay with your host family or you may decide to move into a place of your own. The Peace Corps and your agency counterparts will have identified at least one housing option other than your host family. If you opt to live on your own and have identified safe and adequate housing you can afford with the Peace Corps’ living allowance, Peace Corps staff will check your housing to ensure that it fulfills the Peace Corps’ housing criteria (see the chapter on Health Care and Safety for further information). Volunteer housing ranges from apartments and one-room houses to small bungalows with bath and latrine facilities. Houses in rural areas may not have electricity, running water or inside toilets. You will have to be very flexible in your housing expectations as housing varies greatly, depending on your site assignment.

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Volunteers live in many types of sites, including Belize City (population 70,000), district towns (population 4,00020,000), and rural villages (population 100–1,000 people). Wherever you live, Peace Corps staff will visit you on occasion to provide personal, medical, and professional support.
Living Allowance and Money Management

As a Volunteer in Belize, you will receive four types of allowances: a living allowance, a one-time settling-in allowance (for setting up your household when you move to your site), a travel allowance, and a leave allowance. The country director reviews the allowances at least once a year through a Volunteer survey to ensure that they reasonably cover Volunteers’ expenses. Most Volunteers find that they can live comfortably in Belize with these allowances. The Peace Corps strongly discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with money from home because Volunteers are expected to live at the same economic level as their Belizean neighbors and colleagues. However, many Volunteers bring money (in U.S. dollars or traveler’s checks) for out-of-country travel. Belizeans increasingly are using credit cards, so they are useful for vacations, especially if there is a reliable person back home who can make payments for you.
Food and Diet

The diet in Belize is composed mainly of carbohydrates (i.e., rice) and protein (i.e., beans and chicken). Belize also produces a variety of fruits and vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cabbages, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bananas, and oranges are inexpensive and readily available year-round. Imported produce, such as cauliflower, broccoli, beets, brussel sprouts, nectarines, and peaches, are typically more expensive and less available. You will find a wider variety of vegetables in cities. The main meats in Belize are chicken, beef, and pork. Many Belizeans also eat fish, which can be purchased at local markets and supermarkets. Lobster and shrimp are also available but are expensive. Canned meats, crab, salmon, and sardines are sold at local grocery stores. Depending on the size of your community, you should be able to purchase basic foods such as butter, eggs, cheese, vegetable oil, and milk locally. Imported cheeses, yogurt, and other perishable items may not be available and are expensive. Most Belizeans bake their own Creole bread, a tasty and rich white bread that is often served with tea. Breads, biscuits, and pastries are also available in supermarkets. Because many Belizeans are just now becoming aware of the nutritional value of whole-wheat baked goods, these products are becoming more available. Vegetarians will have to be creative to maintain a balanced diet due to the limited number of fruits and vegetables available year-round. They will also face limited choices in local homes and restaurants. Belizeans tend to incorporate meat into their dishes, and, as a result, may find catering to a vegetarian challenging. We encourage vegetarians to bring a cookbook with their favorite recipes and to be flexible with host families.
Transportation

Many Volunteers use bicycles to get around in their communities. You will receive funds to purchase a bicycle and will be provided with a helmet as part of the settling-in allowance. Volunteers must wear helmets whenever they ride on bicycles. The Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from driving or riding on two- or three-wheeled motorized vehicles and from owning or driving private cars. Violation of these policies can result in the termination of your Volunteer service. Most Volunteers travel around the country on buses.

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Geography and Climate

Belize’s typical weather report is “hot, humid, and a chance of thunderstorms,” but Volunteers generally adjust to the climate quickly. Since Belize is a small country—at 8,866 square miles, it is about the size of New Hampshire—there is little variation in temperature or humidity. The rainy season usually occurs from June to January, while the dry season lasts from February to May. Belize remains largely undeveloped and unspoiled. More than 50 percent of its land is designated as nature reserves. While much of the wildlife population in neighboring countries has long since been lost, the dense forest of Belize remains a refuge for jaguars, tapirs, crocodiles, and birds. The land is mostly flat, with the exception of Maya Mountains, which rise to 3,630 feet at their highest point in the southcentral region along the Guatemalan border.
Social Activities

Social activities will vary depending on where you are located. They might include taking part in local festivities, storytelling, and dances. Some Volunteers visit nearby Volunteers on weekends or make an occasional trip to Belize City. In addition to the snorkeling and diving opportunities at nearby islands and at the world’s second largest barrier reef, the country offers Mayan ruins and wildlife reserves to explore. In spite of these attractions, Peace Corps/Belize encourages Volunteers to spend as much time as they can at their sites to accomplish the Peace Corps’ second goal of cultural exchange.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

The people of Belize take pride in their personal appearance and tend to place great importance on the way they dress. Dressing neatly and professionally is an important way to gain credibility and respect in your site and in your work. Inappropriate dress, like inappropriate behavior, is something that sets a Volunteer unnecessarily apart from his or her community. In general, most Volunteers wear "business casual" clothing when working. For example, women wear modest skirts, nice pants or dresses, and blouses, but not tank tops or other shirts that display undergarments. Men wear slacks or nice jeans. Belizean men and women would not generally be seen in the workplace with shorts or flipflops (with the exception of coastal communities in casual settings, or during sports events/heavy labor). Belize is a diverse country and you will find that some communities are highly conservative, and others less so. How modestly dressed you can expect to be will vary greatly on your community. Several Volunteers have contributed to a "suggested packing list" that covers dress in more detail, which you will find in the section on Welcome Letters from Volunteers. In addition to this dress guidance, Peace Corps/Belize asks that you not arrive with dreadlocks. While dreads are common in coastal communities, in other areas they are rarely seen and some people associate it with a marijuana culture. Belize is a conservative country. Visible body piercing, including lip, tongue, or multiple ear piercing (i.e., more than three) are also rarely seen and can have a negative impact on your ability to gain credibility here, and so we ask you to remove them before arrival. We ask that Volunteers not grow beards during training and their first six months at their site. Thereafter, if a Volunteer has a beard it should be kept neatly trimmed. The Peace Corps expects you to behave in a way that will foster respect for you in your community and reflect well on the Peace Corps and on the citizens of the United States. As a Volunteer, you have the status of an invited guest and must be sensitive to the habits, tastes, and taboos of your hosts. You need to be aware that behavior that jeopardizes the Peace Corps’ mission in Belize or your personal safety cannot be tolerated by the Peace Corps and may result in the termination of your service. Pre-service training will include an orientation to appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity.

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Personal Safety

More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Belize Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in Belize. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being. Each staff member at the Peace Corps is committed to providing Volunteers with the support they need to successfully meet the challenges they will face to have a safe, healthy, and productive service. We encourage Volunteers and families to look at our safety and security information on the Peace Corps website at www.peacecorps.gov/safety. Information on these pages gives messages on Volunteer health and Volunteer safety. A video message from the Director is on this page, as well as a section titled “Safety and Security in Depth.” This page lists topics ranging from the risks of serving as a Volunteer to posts’ safety support systems to emergency planning and communications.
Rewards and Frustrations

Although the potential for job satisfaction in Belize is quite high, like most Volunteers, you may encounter frustrations. Because of the challenges faced by community-based organizations, collaborating agencies are not always able to provide the support a Volunteer might expect. These agencies are often understaffed and under resourced and in a constant state of flux. This is the reality of development work. In addition, the pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to and some people you work with may be hesitant to change their practices and traditions. For these reasons, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys. You will be given a high degree of responsibility and independence in your work. You will often find yourself in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and your co-workers with little guidance from supervisors. Development is a slow process. Positive progress most often comes only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, humility, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results. To overcome these difficulties, you will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness. Belizeans are warm, friendly, and hospitable, and the Peace Corps staff, your co-workers, and fellow Volunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as in moments of success. Judging by the experience of former Volunteers, the peaks are well worth the difficult times and most Volunteers leave Belize feeling they have gained much more than they gave during their service. If you are able to make the commitment to integrate into your community and work hard, you will be a successful Volunteer.

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PEACE CORPS TRAINING
Pre-Service Training

Pre-service training is the first event within a competency-based training program that continues throughout your 27 months of service in Belize. Pre-service training ensures that Volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively perform their jobs. On average, nine of 10 trainees are sworn in as Volunteers. Pre-service training is conducted in Belize and directed by the Peace Corps with participation from representatives of Belize organizations, former Volunteers, and/or training contractors. The length of pre-service training varies, usually ranging from 8-12 weeks, depending on the competencies required for the assignment. Belize measures achievement of learning and determines if trainees have successfully achieved competencies, including language standards, for swearing in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Throughout service, Volunteers strive to achieve performance competencies. Initially, pre-service training affords the opportunity for trainees to develop and test their own resources. As a trainee, you will play an active role in selfeducation. You will be asked to decide how best to set and meet objectives and to find alternative solutions. You will be asked to prepare for an experience in which you will often have to take the initiative and accept responsibility for decisions. The success of your learning will be enhanced by your own effort to take responsibility for your learning and through sharing experiences with others. Peace Corps training is founded on adult learning methods and often includes experiential “hands-on” applications such as conducting a participatory community needs assessment and facilitating groups. Successful training results in competence in various technical, linguistic, cross-cultural, health, and safety and security areas. Integrating into the community is usually one of the core competencies Volunteers strive to achieve both in pre-service training and during the first several months of service. Successful sustainable development work is based on the local trust and confidence Volunteers build by living in, and respectfully integrating into, the Belize community and culture. Trainees are prepared for this through a “home-stay” experience, which often requires trainees to live with host families during pre-service training. Integration into the community not only facilitates good working relationships, but it fosters language learning and cross-cultural acceptance and trust, which help ensure your health, safety, and security. Woven into the competencies, the ability to communicate in the host country language is critical to being an effective Peace Corps Volunteer. So basic is this precept that it is spelled out in the Peace Corps Act: No person shall be assigned to duty as a Volunteer under this act in any foreign country or area unless at the time of such assignment he (or she) possesses such reasonable proficiency as his (or her) assignment requires in speaking the language of the country or area to which he (or she) is assigned.
Qualifying for Service The pre-service training experience provides an opportunity not only for the Peace Corps to assess a trainee’s competence, but for trainees to re-evaluate their commitment to serve for 27 months to improve the quality of life of the people with whom Volunteers live and work and, in doing so, develop new knowledge, skills, and attitudes while adapting existing ones.

Peace Corps Belize’s competencies are designed to be accomplished throughout the Volunteer’s 27 months of learning. A trainee may not be able to complete all learning objectives for a competency during pre-service training; however, he or she must show adequate progress toward achieving the competencies in order to become a Volunteer 1 .

1

Peace Corps manual section 201.305.4.
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Belize’s Core Competencies include the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Integrating into your community Having and being a part of a PCV support network Working as a Volunteer Forming, planning and working with groups Training using non-formal education techniques Living happy, healthy and safely as a Volunteer

Belize’s Business and Organizational Management Project Competencies are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Planning and implementing workshops/trainings Transferring business skills Planning projects Understanding & training communities in the Village Councils Act Fundraising and networking in your community Planning and working with groups

Belize’s Education Project Competencies are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Coaching and mentoring Training teachers and principals in technology Training teachers in lesson planning Training administrators in school management techniques Training teachers in classroom management Using and training teachers to use diagnostic reading tests Training teachers in research-based literacy instruction Understanding and integrating into the school community Training mainstream teachers in inclusion strategies for special needs students

Belize’s Healthy Communities Project Competencies are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Knowledge of outreach methods, resources, and local health issues Knowledge of information-gathering techniques Working with water boards Knowledge of sanitation projects Working with groups Living and working as a PCV

Belize’s Youth Development Project Competencies are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Understanding Belizean youth and youth resources Training “trainers,” planning and implementing training events Teaching interpersonal, health, and life skills to youth Teaching job readiness life skills to youth Starting and working with a youth group Promoting and creating youth friendly spaces Coaching and mentoring youth

Evaluation of your performance throughout service is a continual process, as Volunteers are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for personal conduct and professional performance. Successful completion of pre-service training is characterized by achievement of a set of learning objectives to determine competence. Failure to meet any of the selection standards by the completion of training may be grounds for a withdrawal of selection and disqualification from Peace Corps service.

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Progress in one’s own learning is a dialogue between you and the training staff. All of the training staff—including the training manager, and the language, technical, medical, safety and security, and cross-cultural trainers—will work with you toward the highest possible competencies by providing you with feedback on learning objective performance throughout training. After reviewing and observing your performance, the country director is responsible for making the final decision on whether you have qualified to serve as a Volunteer in the host country. Upon successful completion of training, trainees who qualify for Peace Corps service are required by law to swear or affirm an oath of loyalty to the United States; it cannot be waived under any circumstances. The text of the oath is provided below. If you have any questions about the wording or meaning of the oath, consult a staff member during training. I, (your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely, and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps (so help me God).
Ongoing Learning You are expected to improve your knowledge and skills in the areas of technical, language, cross-cultural, diversity, health, and safety throughout your service as a Volunteer. Training staff provide learning objectives during the 27month continuum to help guide Volunteers throughout service. The manner in which you do this may be formal, through tutoring or workshops organized by the host government or in-country staff, or informally, through conversations and reading. Your learning will continue after you become a Volunteer, formally and through inservice training opportunities, specialized language or technical workshops, and a close-of-service workshop to help you evaluate your service and prepare for your return to the United States.

Formal opportunities for ongoing learning in Belize include the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. The 1st-year Volunteer In-Service Training (IST) with Counterparts The annual All Volunteer Conference (AVC) Multiple Project Design and Management (PDM) Workshops with Counterparts Language ISTs for Maya Mopan, Maya K’ekchi, and Spanish The Peace Corps Belize Volunteer/Staff Development Reading List Peace Corps Belize resources via the Internet portal “SharePoint.” Peace Corps Belize resources via the Integrated Resource Center (IRC) in Belmopan Additional formal and informal opportunities through the Peace Corps and Belizean institutions.

The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the Peace Corps training system is that learning events are competency-based, designed, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the Peace Corps staff and Volunteers.

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YOUR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY IN BELIZE
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Belize maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Belize at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Health Issues in Belize

Volunteers generally enjoy good health while serving in Belize. This is a product of Belize's steadily improving health services and the ability of the post to effectively respond to the health concerns of Peace Corps Volunteers in a timely manner. While the Peace Corps generally manages Volunteer health issues with significant success, there are health problems that remain common among Volunteers. The most common health problems are diarrhea, skin infections, dental problems, headaches, respiratory infections, minor injuries, and STIs. These health matters are generally preventable and Volunteers can exercise significant control to keep these in check. Health problems also can result from local environmental factors such as dust, humidity, insects, and diseaseproducing microorganisms. Another source of health concern is alcohol consumption, and its abuse often leads to an increase in health risks. Serving in Belize has its own medical considerations and Peace Corps is committed to helping Volunteers live and work in a healthy manner. Since malaria is endemic in Belize, you are required to take anti-malarial pills. You will also be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B; tetanus and diphtheria; typhoid; rabies; and measles, mumps, and rubella.
Helping You Stay Healthy

The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Belize, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter. During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive. You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in Belize will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Belize, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.

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Maintaining Your Health

As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Belize is to take the following preventive measures: Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in Belize during pre-service training. Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue. Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer. It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met. If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on the local market, the Peace Corps medical officer in Belize will provide them. If you require a specific product, please bring a three-month supply with you.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
Medical Kit Contents

Ace bandages Adhesive tape American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook Antacid tablets (Tums) Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B) Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens) Band-Aids Butterfly closures Calamine lotion Cepacol lozenges

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Condoms Dental floss Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl) Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s) Iodine tablets (for water purification) Lip balm (Chapstick) Oral rehydration salts Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit) Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed) Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough) Scissors Sterile gauze pads Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine) Tinactin (antifungal cream) Tweezers
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist

If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve. If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services. If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office to obtain a copy of your immunization record and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Belize. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure. Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-the-counter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements. You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs. If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.

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If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in health care plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary health care from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health care benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.

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Safety and Security—Our Partnership

Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property theft and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. Beyond knowing that Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you, it might be helpful to see how this partnership works. The Peace Corps has policies, procedures, and training in place to promote your safety. We depend on you to follow those policies and to put into practice what you have learned. An example of how this works in practice—in this case to help manage the risk of burglary—is:

Peace Corps assesses the security environment where you will live and work Peace Corps inspects the house where you will live according to established security criteria Peace Corp provides you with resources to take measures such as installing new locks Peace Corps ensures you are welcomed by host country authorities in your new community Peace Corps responds to security concerns that you raise You lock your doors and windows You adopt a lifestyle appropriate to the community where you live You get to know neighbors You decide if purchasing personal articles insurance is appropriate for you You don’t change residences before being authorized by Peace Corps You communicate concerns that you have to Peace Corps staff.

This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety that all include important safety and security information to help you understand this partnership. The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify, reduce, and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control. By far the most common crime that Volunteers experience are thefts. Thefts often occur when volunteers are away from their sites, in crowded locations (such as markets or on public transportation), and when leaving items unattended.

Before you depart for Belize there are several measures you can take to recuce your risk: • • • • Leave valuable obbjects in the U.S. Leave copies of important documents and account numbers in the U.S. with someone you trust. Purchase a hidden money pouch or "dummy" wallet as a decoy Purchase personal articles insurance

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After you arrive in Belize, you will receive more detailed information about common crimes, factors that contribute to Volunteer risk, and local strategies to reduce that risk. For example, Volunteers in Belize learn to: • • • • • • Choose safe routes and times for travel, and travel with someone trusted by the community whenever possible Make sure one’s personal appearance is respectful of local customs Avoid high-crime areas Know the local language to get help in an emergency Make friends with local people who are respected in the community Limit alcohol consumption

As you can see from this list, you have to be willing to work hard and adapt your lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target for crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Belize. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that place you at risk and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in large cities; people know each other and generally are less likely to steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite worksites for pickpockets. The following are other security concerns in Belize of which you should be aware: Volunteers tend to attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are more likely to receive negative attention in highly populated centers, and away from their support network —friends and colleagues—who look out for them. While whistles and exclamations may be fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, abide by local cultural norms, and respond according to the training you will receive.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. You can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your home is secure, and develop relationships in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. While the factors that contribute to your risk in Belize may be different, in many ways you can better assure your safety by doing what you would do if you moved to a new city anywhere: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Belize will require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle. Support from Staff

If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff members provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s worksite and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.

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Crime Data for Belize

The country-specific data chart below shows the average annual rates of major types of crimes reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees in Belize compared to all other Region programs as a whole. It can be understood as an approximation of the number of reported incidents per 100 Volunteers in a year 2 .

Incidence Rates and Average Number of Reported Incidents in PC/BELIZE and IAP Region, 2003-2007³
Events by Number and Rate²
14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 6.0 4.0 2.0
0.0 (<1) (29) (<1)(23) (0) (9) 1.2 0.6 0.9 0.5 1.6 (0) (14) 0.0 0.6 (2) (94) (1) (59) 3.6 3.9 2.1 2.4 5.2 (3) (235) 9.7

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Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of serious crimes and crimes that do occur overseas are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities through the local courts system. If you are the victim of a crime, you will decide if you wish to pursue prosecution. If you decide to prosecute, Peace Corps will be there to assist you. One of our tasks is to ensure you are fully informed of your options and understand how the local legal process works. Peace Corps will help you ensure your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. If you are the victim of a serious crime, you will learn how to get to a safe location as quickly as possible and contact your Peace Corps office. It’s important that you notify Peace Corps as soon as you can so Peace Corps can provide you with the help you need.
Volunteer Safety Support in Belize

The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. Belize’s in-country safety program is outlined below. The Peace Corps/Belize office will keep you informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, you will be contacted through the emergency communication network. An important component of the capacity of the Peace Corps to keep you informed is your buy-in to the partnership concept with the Peace Corps staff. It is expected that you will do your part in ensuring that Peace Corps staff members are kept apprised of your movements in-country so that they are capable of informing you.
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries.
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Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in Belize. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout service and is integrated into the language, crosscultural aspects, health, and other components of training. You will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas, including safety and security, as a condition of service. Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and worksites. Site selection is based, in part, on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs. You will also learn about Peace Corps/Belize’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, you will gather with other Volunteers in Belize at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate. Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps office. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.

DIVERSITY AND CROSS-CULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences. Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In Belize, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in Belize. Outside of Belize’s capital, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The people of Belize are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.

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To ease the transition and adapt to life in Belize, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in Belize

The Peace Corps staff in Belize recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations, and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
What Might a Volunteer Face? Possible Issues for Female Volunteers Women in Belize generally have traditional roles, though the situation is changing. For example, women in Maya and Mestizo communities are primarily responsible for the maintenance of the household, and many are expected to be subservient and obedient. In larger towns, however, women’s roles are shifting. More Mestizo women are attending universities than ever before, and as the entire country moves from being less dependent on farming and fishing to being more dependent on tourism and business, women are gaining new opportunities.

Female Volunteers in Belize should be careful in their actions. Behavior that you consider perfectly friendly and innocent, such as going out for a drink with, or accepting a ride home from, a man, may be interpreted as a sexual advance or invitation. Many American television shows, which Belizeans watch, depict loose American women, and Belizean men may have had past experiences with American tourists that lead them to generalize about American women's sexual behavior. You should to be diligent in maintaining professional relationships with male co-workers. If you develop a bad reputation, it will stay with you for the duration of your service. One of the hardest things for female Volunteers to accept is that Belize is a society that has been, and is likely to continue to be, male dominated. Volunteer Comments “Being an American woman in Belize presents many unique challenges. It is not uncommon to be at a project meeting where you are the only woman. Because of this, you may find that your ideas and opinions are dismissed, discarded, or taken lightly. Women in Belize have not had a history of being considered equal, as in the United States. Women are just now taking leadership roles in government and business. There are no laws protecting women from sexual harassment in Belize and Volunteers often express concerns regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. However unacceptable such treatment is, it is critical to maintain the highest standards of professionalism in the workplace. You must make it painstakingly clear that you are there to work as an equal, to share your knowledge and skills. It may take a long time for you to feel you are being taken seriously in your office or placement. Be patient. Work hard. You are not at home; you will not be treated as an equal right away. You must work for it.”

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“Living in Belize was an awesome experience of personal and professional growth. However, the fact that I am a woman made it more challenging. Being a woman in Belize has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, all my neighbors were always looking out for me and making sure that thieves did not get into my house. People tend to be friendly and extremely helpful—so helpful that they would offer to carry my groceries, fix my bike’s flat tire, and even try to find me a boyfriend. On a negative note, sometimes I was afraid to walk alone at night, since being a woman automatically makes you a victim of hissing and verbal harassment. This type of attention never failed to occur, even when I least expected it. It was especially uncomfortable when the perpetrator’s language was outrageously rude and offensive. Usually, my coping mechanism was to ignore such behavior. Overall, I think that the men are harmless when you simply continue walking.”
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color Volunteers of color may face challenges both inside and outside the Peace Corps community. Among Volunteers, you may be the only minority trainee or Volunteer in a particular project. You may not receive necessary personal support from other Volunteers, and you may not find minority role models among the Peace Corps’ country staff.

African-American Volunteers have expressed frustration and disappointment at being asked where they are from instead of being recognized as Americans. They are often mistaken for being Creole and, therefore, are presumed to know the language. In addition, Belizeans sometimes judge them, at least initially, as less professionally competent than Caucasian Volunteers. After a settling-in period, however, most African Americans say they are well-accepted by their communities. Hispanic-American Volunteers sometimes find that they are initially perceived as Mexican or Central American rather than North American and are expected to speak Spanish fluently. Similarly, Asian-American Volunteers find that they are often identified by their cultural heritage instead of their American citizenship. Asian-American Volunteers may encounter Belizeans with stereotyped perceptions of Asians based on behavior they have observed in martial arts films. The presence of immigrants from China and Taiwan in Belize has, at times, created hostility among some Belizeans toward people of Chinese descent. In spite of these issues, most Belizeans will graciously welcome you into their homes and communities. Volunteer Comments “Sometimes as an African American, I have been addressed as if I were Belizean. People assume that I am from the ‘Carib Sea,’ but I am not offended by this assumption. Belize is among the countries that define the African diaspora. Therefore, I am a black man from America now living among black people in Belize. “In Belize, my project is to instruct primary school teachers in basic computer skills. I have been encouraged by the teachers to learn Creole, and they are quite sure that I will acquire this dialect from being immersed in their culture for two years. “Sometimes when I speak to Belizeans, they drop their own dialect and talk to me in American English, as if to say, ‘We can talk both ways, you know.’ Belizeans who have been abroad can usually shift from Creole to American English during the same conversation. This altering back and forth reminds me of ‘kicking it’ with my buddies back in the States, talking slang and then suddenly transforming our vernacular to please the ears of our mothers, teachers, and employers. “I cannot escape the use of the cliché ‘home away from home,’ the phrase that best describes my experience in Belize. The spirit of my community in the United States is alive and well within the black people by the ‘Carib Sea.’”

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“As a Hispanic-American Volunteer, I must say that I had the best experience serving in Belize. I think that both my communication skills and my background made it easier to adjust to the culture. Belizeans not only welcomed me, they embraced and accepted me. This encouraged me to learn more about them and share more about myself. At work, my boss expressed an interest in learning Spanish and used me to help translate when necessary. I offered an English language class to Spanish-speaking students who had migrated to Belize from neighboring Central American countries. My willingness to work with them had a positive impact. They, too, had a special impact on me. I made wonderful ties and everlasting friendships. If it were up to me, I would do it all over again.” “My experience as a minority in Belize has been no different from any of my other experiences abroad. I’m Filipino, and not a whole lot of people can figure that out. That’s true in the States, too. The difference here is that people like to guess and then call to you on the streets. When people want my attention they often say ‘Coolie gyal!’ That’s East Indian, and it’s not meant to be derogatory. It’s just their way of identifying me. They also call all the blond girls ‘Blondie.’ so if you are sensitive to that kind of stuff, you might want to work on desensitizing yourself. My favorite so far is ‘Chine-coolie gyal.’ Nobody can figure it out. Also, I’ve been told that I look Mayan. And if I braid my hair and sit quietly on the bus, I don’t think anyone knows that I’m American. I find that being a minority more often helps me than not. People take to you more quickly. Maybe it has nothing to do with me being Filipino, but I’m not treated as a tourist as often as Caucasians are.”
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers Age garners respect in Belize. Younger Volunteers often have to work harder than their older colleagues to be accepted as professionals. Older Volunteers sometimes feel isolated when there are no other Volunteers of the same age or suitable role models among the Peace Corps staff. It can also be challenging to get support from younger Volunteers. Senior Volunteers may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support. Some find this enjoyable, while others choose not to fill this role. Volunteer Comments

“Being a senior Volunteer presents many challenges but offers many advantages as well. I reached my 55th year during service in Belize, and the physical challenges were the most difficult. Always physically active at work (mail carrier, photographer, construction) and at play (kayaking, hiking, dancing), I lived in Florida, which has a climate similar to Belize’s. But toting a backpack with everything (water, sunscreen, food) in unrelenting heat, walking on rough terrain in shoes suitable for rain or shine, waiting under a blazing sun beside a highway for hours, and bouncing in a pickup truck or bus on dusty roads took a toll. Yet, I proudly completed my service in spite of intestinal distress, sore feet, and backaches. “During training, I was assigned to a village with other Volunteers and a facilitator—all younger than my son. At times I was lost in the terminology popular with their generation. Other times I contributed a perspective that only experience can provide. Overall, we balanced each other quite well. Peace Corps Volunteers have more in common than not, despite generational differences. Learning a language is more challenging with compromised hearing, but I accommodated that with extra writing. “Inclusion and acceptance are where being a senior Volunteer is a real advantage. Younger Volunteers are believed to be inexperienced, regardless of their education, and instances of sexual harassment, discrimination, or mere resentment are not uncommon. I experienced none of those at my agency. The years of experience I brought were appreciated, and my opinion was sought. “Most curious to Belizeans was my independence. A young woman who is not yet married is acceptable. An older woman willing to give up familiarity and travel to another country is new and different. The few unkind comments I received were from men, strangers passing in the street, who didn’t know me from a tourist.”

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Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers It is wise to use discretion and caution in revealing your sexual orientation to Belizeans you do not know well in order to avoid jeopardizing your relationships with people in your community and at work. Although Belize may seem laid back and easygoing in regard to sexuality, this is not the case. People generally hold conservative attitudes toward homosexuality. With the availability of American cable television, many Belizeans are becoming more aware of homosexuality, but most see it as an import from the United States. Belize is primarily a Christian country, and many people feel that homosexuality is a sin. Since most Belizeans do not “come out,” the population at large has rarely met an “out” lesbian, gay, or bisexual person. Rumors and misinformation about homosexuality abound. As a result, homophobia is rampant and many Belizean lesbians, gays, and bisexuals move to the United States.

Although rarely prosecuted, male homosexual acts are against the law in Belize (lesbians are not included in the statute), and there are no laws protecting the rights of lesbians or gays in Belize. There are no openly gay bars or support groups, so the only place for people to meet is at private parties. If you become involved in an intimate relationship with a Belizean, it is advisable to avoid public displays of affection. If you encounter discrimination based on your sexual orientation from Peace Corps staff in Belize, bring it to the attention of your country director. If you have other concerns, the Peace Corps medical officer in Belize is available to provide support and information on this issue. Volunteer Comments “When considering ‘coming out’ to other Volunteers, it is important to use discretion. It is important to know people well regardless of whether they are Belizeans or Volunteers. Although the culture in the United States has become more liberal and tolerant toward lesbians and gay men, that is not always true with individual Americans. It would seem natural to come out to other Volunteers as means of support, but not everyone will be accepting. It is best to use the same caution one would use in the United States.” “Living and working in Belize as a lesbian, gay, or bisexual Volunteer can be as fulfilling as it is for a heterosexual Volunteer. Being comfortable with yourself and your sexuality is important—sometimes that may be all the support you get.”
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers Volunteers in Belize are frequently asked about their religious affiliations and may be invited to attend a community church. Volunteers who do not attend church may be challenged to explain their reluctance, but it is usually possible to politely decline if the church or religious practice is not one of your choice. Most Volunteers find effective ways to cope with these situations and come to feel quite at home in Belize. Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities As part of the medical clearance process, the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, to perform a full tour of Volunteer service in Belize without unreasonable risk of harm to yourself or interruption of service. The Peace Corps/ Belize staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations for them in training, housing, job sites, or other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.

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Possible Issues for Married Volunteers Being a married couple in the Peace Corps has its advantages and its challenges. It helps to have someone by your side with whom you can share your experience, but there are also cultural expectations that can cause stress in a marriage. It is important to remember that you are in a foreign country with new rules and need to be open-minded about cultural differences. A couple may have to take on some new roles. A married man may be encouraged by Belizeans to be the more dominant member in the relationship, be encouraged to make decisions independently of his spouse, or be ridiculed when he performs domestic tasks. A married woman may find herself in a less independent role than she is accustomed to or may be expected to perform “traditional” domestic chores such as cooking or cleaning. Other issues may also arise: One spouse may be more enthusiastic about Peace Corps service, better able to adapt to the new environment, or less homesick than the other. Competition may arise if one spouse learns the language or other skills faster than the other.

A couple who is serving in different program sectors will be assigned to different training sites for a portion of preservice training. Each sector's training takes place in its own community-based training site, therefore necessitating a division of trainees according to sector. This enables each spouse to give undivided attention to acquiring the language and technical skills needed for the assignment and to spend more time in cross-cultural interactions with members of the host community. Couples who live in separate training sites will have opportunities to see each other as the training schedule permits. Volunteer Comments “Peace Corps/Belize is a wonderful and unique experience for couples that creates a lot of bonding and understanding of each other that you would not otherwise experience. No matter what your assignment is, as a couple, expect to spend a lot of time together. Communication, planning, and trust take on whole new dimensions as you immerse yourselves in a foreign country and culture.” “The biggest adjustment and adaptation for us as a couple has been related to gender. In Belize, there are clearly defined, traditional gender roles that differ significantly from the norms of United States life. The gender expectations were challenging at first since women in rural Belize have multiple children by their early 20s and are limited to mostly domestic roles, while men generally have more freedom and opportunities outside of the home. Being married is something that Belizeans relate to and it often gives us common ground with other families. When people see us and ask ‘How is your wife?’ or ‘How is your husband?’ it indicates respect and is a way to open up about daily life. Being Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize as a couple has truly been the experience of a lifetime.”

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Belize? Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds [or 100 for countries with cold weather] total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds for any one bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in Belize? Although 220-volt electricity is available for large appliances, all homes and offices have 110-volt outlets. How much money should I bring? Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. You will be given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover your expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. When can I take vacation and have people visit me? Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, medical, or travel assistance. Will my belongings be covered by insurance? The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects; Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available. Do I need an international driver’s license? Volunteers in Belize do not need an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating privately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this can occur only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. A U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

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What should I bring as gifts for Belize friends and my host family? This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away. Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be? Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 10-to-12-hour drive from the capital. There is at least one Volunteer based in each of the regional capitals and about five to eight Volunteers in the capital city. How can my family contact me in an emergency? The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580; select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at the above number. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580. Can I call home from Belize? It is relatively easy to call the United States. Phones are available in almost all parts of the country, and the connections are good. However, international calls are expensive. Should I bring a cellular phone with me? Most Volunteers elect not to bring a cellphone with them to Belize, although most of the country has cell coverage and service (though it is expensive compared to U.S. rates). If you choose to bring a cellphone, bring one that uses a SIM card. The chip in your phone will need to be replaced by the local service provider (It costs BZ$50.00). Will there be email and Internet access? Should I bring my computer? Internet and email access is available through Belize Telecommunications Limited—the only Internet service provider in Belize—wherever there is telephone service. But it is expensive. The Peace Corps office in Belmopan has two computers with Internet access that are available for Volunteer use.

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WELCOME LETTERS FROM BELIZE VOLUNTEERS
Greetings Peace Corps Volunteers: You have made an important and life changing decision by joining the Peace Corps and I am pleased to welcome you to Belize! My name is Betty Fahey, and my husband, Tom, and I are into our seventh month here in Belize. I am looking forward to what the next 1 ½ years have in store for me. I remember the emotions that raced through my mind as our plane landed, taxied the runway and I walked across the tarmac to the Belize airport terminal to begin my service as a Peace Corps Volunteer! Belize is a special country and has much to offer so keep an open mind and heart. Some Volunteers live in rural areas where their housing is a thatched roof structure and others live in an urban area that provides them with wood or cement structures. The most unique thing about Belize is the people! There are seven different languages spoken in Belize. The opportunities to learn a new language and experience life in a different way await you! I am an organizational strengthening/small business development Volunteer and I work with a District Association of Village Councils (DAVCO). I live in a moderately-sized district town and my project provides me with opportunities to visit rural villages in Belize. DAVCO is an organization made up of 24 villages and strives to strengthen local level governance to enhance the village councils. I work with village council members Monday through Friday and no two days are the same. I am currently working on workshops that will provide village council members with the tools they need to become sustainable and transparent as they strive to improve conditions in the village. Examples of workshop materials are: Recording monthly financial reports Set-up and maintenance of office files Grant writing do’s and don’ts There is a saying “Patience is a virtue” and this holds true as I am daily reminded to go slow and be patient. The people of Belize “don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care”! Peace Corps/Belize offers Volunteers a variety of opportunities to work and utilize their skills: Organizational strengthening/small business Healthy communities Youth outreach Teacher trainers Although you may be assigned to one sector, you will definitely touch on all the program sectors at some point during your Peace Corps service. Even though my primary project focus is in the business sector, I work as a teacher in the special education classroom, co-teach a yoga class that meets four nights a week and will facilitate an American Sign Language workshop for the Belize District Librarians. I have assisted with a literacy reading program at the local library, provided games and activities for children who were evacuated during flooding in the fall, coordinated a Children’s Fun Day Fair in a local village, and tutor a 4-year-old boy daily.

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Tom and I have a one-bedroom apartment. We have hot water, electricity, a full-size refrigerator and a coffee maker. We welcome you to stop by and share a “cup of Joe” with us when you are in our fine town! We are about a 7minute walk to the bus stop, 5 minutes from a proper grocery store, and a 10-minute walk to the market, which provides an array of fruits and vegetables. My town caters to tourists and there is a great selection of restaurants, Internet cafes, shops, and places to go out. Belize is wonderful if you enjoy the outdoors; you can easily take a bus and in a few hours be hiking in the jungle, showering in a waterfall or out on the Cayes enjoying the sea. We are a part of the 50+ group of Peace Corps Volunteers and believe that age is just a number. Come and experience all Belize has to offer as you share your knowledge through projects, meet people, learn a language, and have fun! Remember to “be in the moment” and not make expectations ahead of time, because beautiful Belize awaits you as you fulfill your Peace Corps Volunteer service! Once again, welcome to Belize! Betty Fahey

Greetings future Volunteers! Congratulations on your decision to join the Peace Corps! My name is Elisha Holmes, and I am a first-year Volunteer here in Belize. I can recall very clearly the curiosity, nervousness, and excitement I felt as I awaited my journey to begin in Belize. Small yet extremely diverse, Belize stands apart from its Central American neighbors with its varied languages, ethnic groups, and cultures. You can expect to hear anything from Kriol, Spanish, English, or Mayan all on one bus ride! The living situations and site placements also differ among Volunteers. While some Volunteers live in remote areas that use the local river to wash and bathe, others live in urban areas and are able to join gyms. I live in a small village with a population of only 300, but I am 2 miles from a district town. With that said, I am able to have the best of both worlds: peace and quiet after sunset, and the convenience of having all amenities that a larger town provides with just a small bike ride. Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize work in four sectors. Although you may be assigned to one sector, almost all Volunteers find themselves working or assisting in other areas at some point throughout their service. I greatly appreciate the flexibility and uniqueness of each Volunteer’s assignment. I am an education Volunteer and am currently in the beginning stages of assisting my community to construct, develop, and establish a preschool for the upcoming school year. My goal is to provide direct assistance and early childhood education training to an appointed teacher for a school year so a sustainable basis of knowledge and practice will be in place when it is time for me to leave. When I am not busy writing letters asking for donations or stopping by the District Education Office to check for updates about the preschool proposal, you can find me at the primary school in my village. I conduct remedial reading classes three days a week and have also partnered with a teacher to assist in teaching weekly writing lessons to prepare students for their upcoming national writing exams. My village was fortunate to have a PCV here prior to me who started and ran the village library. I have carried on this task and work with a member of the community after school as co-librarians. Other tasks of education Volunteers include anything from conducting educational workshops, assisting new teachers in creating lesson plans and classroom rules, to working directly with the Ministry of Education in areas of special needs and adult education. My home is a two-bedroom cement house, which is more than I had imagined I would have as a Volunteer. I have water (unfortunately not hot!), electricity, indoor plumbing, a washing machine, and a cellphone. My primary school recently received a grant for free Internet and five new computers, so I am taking advantage of that access as much as possible! I am hoping to start a garden in my backyard with the help of some students from the primary school and a few helpful neighbors.
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I have a 5-month-old puppy named Samson who keeps me active on our nightly runs around the village and who loves chasing after anything and everything that comes his way. Great amounts of my Sunday afternoons are spent in my hammock, where I am able to read for pleasure and reflect on the slow-paced lifestyle Belize provides me. I find myself being invited over to families’ homes to share a meal at least once a week, which has been essential in my integration into the community. When it’s up to me to cook for myself (still a work in progress), I can find almost everything at a small, but efficient tienda here in the village. I stock up each week on my fruits, veggies, and an occasional Snickers candy bar from the market in town. Belize is filled with wonderful activities to enjoy outdoors. Take your pick from snorkeling, hiking, visiting a waterfall, or exploring Mayan ruins—all are available within just a few hours. I would like to give you one piece of advice before leaving home: be flexible! It is easy to become overwhelmed and anxious when arriving in-country. Allow yourself time to adjust your expectations and goals. There is plenty of work and pleasure waiting for you here in Belize! ¡Bueña Suerte! Elisha

Welcome! Where are you right now? Are you reading this letter from your couch? Are you sitting at the coffee shop with your information packet spread out around you? I write to you from my porch. I can hear birds chirping, roosters crowing, dogs barking, and reggae pounding from a neighbor’s speakers. In front of me is my neighbor Don Miguel’s yard, his hundreds of carefully-tended flowers set off the trees in the distance in a way that reminds me I live in the tropics. I remember the many months of suspense before my big blue packet finally arrived. Belize! I immediately went on an information gathering rampage, googling, Barnes & Nobleing. I think I even talked to a friend who works as a travel agent. (She was nice, but didn’t exactly give me the best idea of what my service would be like!) What made you decide to join the Peace Corps? For me it was the idea of living and working at the local level. I have always been a traveler, but I felt like my rush to see as much as I could was keeping me from seeing the world how I wanted. I also feel like I have been given many opportunities in my life and it was time for me to give back. Maybe you have some of the same reasons, maybe not. Each person’s experience is unique. I had no idea what to expect. You are probably overwhelmed by how much “general” information you are receiving, very little telling you what it’s actually going to be like. My experience will not be the same as yours, but maybe you can get an idea … So you ask, “What IS it like?” Well, let me tell you a little bit about my life in the Peace Corps. I live and work in a village. Most of my village is involved in the sugar cane industry in some way, either farming or processing. When I started my service I imagined that I would have a rather clear and outlined job. Call it a 9-to-5 or whatever. My primary assigned project has been to develop a youth group. The idea is to give teens and children positive outlets for energy while encouraging character development. In addition to working with youth, I have taken on a number of other projects. I have a garden in the school where 33 students in 4th form (about 12 years old) are learning organic gardening techniques. We are building a library in the village, attempting to get a paved road constructed, and working on writing a children’s reader that would describe the history of the village. (I must be honest; I think the last one is really cool!) Living in a slow-paced rural community, I have learned to appreciate and get excited about successes, both large and small. For Christmas I worked with the village council to organize a party (or Bram as they say in Kriol). We were able to raise the money to feed over 500 people, provide a toy for each child, a disc jockey, a volleyball tournament and … fireworks! These were serious “light up the sky-type” explosions, the first that many of the people in my village had ever experienced. Five months later I still hear people talking about it.

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So what about life outside of work? Well, let’s start with where I live, I have a tiny two-bedroom wood house on the outskirts of the village. When I found the house it was kind of a disaster, but after quite a few hours of work I think it looks great. My yard is filled with fruit trees—mango, plantain, lime, cashew, and papaya. I have a dog and a cat (actually both are laying on top of me as I sit on my couch and write this). I have indoor plumbing, a fridge to keep stuff cold, and a stove to boil water for the essentials: coffee and mac and cheese. I can’t cook to save myself. This has had a more positive outcome than I could have expected. People invite me over for lunch or dinner all the time. My village is primarily Kriol, and the people are warm, friendly, generous, and have no problem saying exactly what they think. I have lost a few pounds down here, and they like to tell me that I am far too skinny. It usually sounds something like this: “Bwai Jaycob! You meh get magah magah bwai! Mek you eat somethin!” Belize is a playground for nature lovers. We all know about the beaches and the mountains, but living up north, I have fallen in love with the bush. Hypnotizing by horseback, exhausting by foot, on my daily walks to the river I may see peccaries, deer, hundreds of species of birds, turtles, and even the occasional croc. There is something deeply satisfying about bushwhacking through the undergrowth, trying to make it to that marshy area you heard about for some great fishing. More often than not I am with a group of guys who, in-between cracking jokes (sometimes at my expense), are excited to teach me a new trick of the woods. It’s the people that keep me happy in my village. The late nights playing Dominoes, the overnight treks in the bush, the pickup that pulls up beside you as you’re walking home and invites you fishing, to go butcher a cow (that was a first), to help pick corn, or to pull a 10-wheel truck out of the mud using two tractors. I came to Belize having never picked up a machete. Now I can chop your coconut open and pour you a fresh glass in 10 seconds flat. If that isn’t a transferable skill, I don’t know what is. I can’t promise you paradise, but I can promise that Belize will surprise you, encourage you, frustrate you, and make you laugh out loud. You will feel the highest highs and some pretty low lows. Belize sneaks up on you. One day you won’t be able to understand Kriol, next thing you know your village has stopped seeing you as an outsider and you are speaking the language and sharing in their lives. I have made friends that will last a lifetime, bridged cultural and language gaps, and worked myself into a close-knit community. Congratulations and good luck! Jacob Hafkin

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PACKING LIST
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Belize and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in Belize.
General Packing The packing list in this Welcome Book is good for the general needs of Volunteers.

Lightweight clothing for work and recreation. Volunteers should bring clothes for work and clothes for recreation. Work appropriate clothes in Belize are typically khaki pants and a button-down, short-sleeved shirts for men and skirts or pants with blouses or dresses for women. Tank tops are NOT appropriate for work. You will need lightweight work clothes. Belize has a lot of great outdoor places to visit. Trainees should bring clothes they would normally want to wear at the beach, hiking, playing sports. or just going out with friends. It’s PL to wear shorts and tank tops when you are with friends, but be sure to bring plenty of work clothing for when you are at your project. Don’t forget to bring clothes to relax in at home (both while you live with a host family and when you move to your own home). And, don’t forget that Volunteers do occasionally go out in the evenings and you’ll want some fun clothes for those occasions. ● There will be a lot of walking, so Volunteers recommend one pair of flip-flops, one pair of durable sandals (Chacos or Tevas), one pair of tennis shoes, and one pair of dress shoes. An extremely breathable, lightweight rain jacket and an umbrella. Even when it rains, it is hot. The last thing you want is for your rain jacket to act as a plastic tarp over your body. Underwear, a lot of it. The washing/drying process is really hard on underwear. Cotton or quick drying fabric is probably the best idea. Women should bring a cotton slip for work. It is not appropriate for skirts to be see-through in Belize. Many Volunteers recommend bringing two years worth of underwear and saving them for the second year. A sweater or sweatshirt. When you first get here, it’s so hard to believe that you are ever going to want something to keep you warm, but there are a few months that get very cool in the evenings. Bring a lightweight fleece or one or two long-sleeve shirts. Toiletries and other hygiene products. In Belize, you can buy the basic things you need and want and some of it is even name brand. If you’re not picky about your toiletries, then just bring a month’s worth of stuff and you can restock in Belize. Once you are here you can see what is available in your district town and then ask folks to send products you need from home. Women should consider that the cost of tampons and sanitary pads are expensive and the selection is limited in Belize. Most women have brought their own, had family send a supply, or purchased more while visiting the states. For those who wear contacts, the Peace Corps does not provide contacts or solution. If you decide to bring your contacts, it is helpful to know that the multipurpose solution is sometimes available in Belize City, but is approximately five times more expensive than in the U.S. Consider bringing a few bottles to start you off and then have someone send or bring bottles.

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Work Related Creating a packing list for work-related things is difficult because most of you will not know where or how you will be living until weeks after you arrive. Even so, here are some ideas: • Work appropriate clothes: It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is for Volunteers to dress nicely while at work. Please bring lightweight business casual clothing. You will also wear these clothes during your training sessions at the Peace Corps office. o Many teacher trainers have skirts made in their school uniform colors. Most teachers in Belize wear uniforms. You can buy that fabric in Belize. If you think you will want to make a school uniform, you may want to bring some white blouses to wear with your school pants or skirts. If you decide not to wear a uniform, just make sure you bring enough business casual clothing. It should be noted that seamstresses in Belize can make almost anything from a picture or example. You can buy fabric in Belize. o For other Volunteers working in office environments, bring business causal clothing. Short-sleeve blouses are acceptable for women as long as they are professional. Men typically wear lightweight khaki pants and short-sleeved button-up shirts. Work appropriate shoes. Bring at least one pair of nice shoes to wear to work. Closed-toe shoes are probably best, but a very nice pair of sandals is acceptable too. For teacher trainers, teachers in Belize wear closed-toe black or brown shoes. Laptop. A lot of Volunteers have laptops in Belize. Many Volunteers use the laptops. Some Volunteers don’t have electricity, but for those who do and have their laptop they are usually glad they brought them. o If you bring a laptop, bring a case or bag to guard against moisture and a surge protector. Planner. Many Volunteers have to have weekly/monthly day planners sent from the states because there is a limited selection in Belize. Camera. Most Volunteers have digital cameras and have an opportunity to use a computer every month or two to upload their photos.

• • • •

Rural Volunteers Before being told your site placement it is really hard to know whether you should pack as a rural Volunteer or not. Volunteers live in diverse living conditions. Regardless of where you live, you may travel to rural locations and want to have these items for those occasions. Here are some things you will need if you are a rural Volunteer: • • • Lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts to protect against bugs and sun Outdoor work clothes. Many Volunteers have projects that involve a lot of outdoor work. You can bring clothes for this, but also, you can go to a secondhand shop in Belize and buy old T-shirts and pants to work in for relatively cheap. Hiking boots. Many Volunteers also use rubber boots, but you can buy those in Belize to save yourself the packing space. Hiking boots are generally more comfortable. Many current Volunteers purchased their rubber boots in Belize, but if you wear a men’s size 12 or larger you will have a difficult time finding shoes your size. Durable sandals (such as Tevas or Chacos) Clothes for bathing in the river (Example: some women PCVs use a one-piece bathing suit and a pair of mesh shorts. Men wear old trunks.) Headlamp and/or flashlight Hat for sun protection Books Materials to start that hobby you’ve always wanted to begin.

• • • • • •

Miscellaneous Sheets. The sheets that are affordable for Volunteers in Belize are not high quality.

Towels. You should consider bringing one or two thin bath towels that dry quickly. Also, most Volunteers have a pack towel or swimmers towel for traveling. Sunglasses and hats. Bring two pairs of sunglasses.

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Backpack or day bag. Volunteers travel regularly for fun and for work. You will want a small bag to use on short trips. Sleeping sack Books, journals, stuff for your hobby. People should bring a few good books they want to read or enjoy re-reading. Volunteers have a general book exchange that has a variety of books. Knife or multipurpose tool Hiking boots for recreation. Belize has a lot of great places to hike. This might be something you ask someone to send you later in your service to save space in your luggage. Guide books for traveling in Belize and central America Travel alarm clock and water resistant wrist watch Don’t bring pots and pans. You can buy kitchen utensils in Belize City. Don’t worry about sunscreen or bug spray. The Peace Corps medical officer gives you all of this, but if you want DEET-free bug spray, you should bring your own supply. Mailing things to yourself in your first six months: Many Volunteers packed small boxes and asked someone to mail them once they are in their site. If you’re fretting about whether or not to bring something, just pack it in a box to be sent to you later. Once here, you may find that you don’t need it. Things to consider sending to yourself for the end of training: Items for your house (extra sheets and towels) Professional resources (Some Volunteers have useful books or manuals for their projects that they had sent from home.) Extra clothes or toiletries Books, journals, or materials for a hobby for when you move to your site Mailing items to Belize is generally reliable, but do not mail yourself anything extremely valuable (e.g., laptop, MP3 player, or important documents). Padded envelopes seem to get through customs with fewer checks than boxes.

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PRE-DEPARTURE CHECKLIST
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
Family

Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (24-hour telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470). Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.

Passport/Travel

• • •

Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas. Verify that your luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel. Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)

Medical/Health

• • •

Complete any needed dental and medical work. If you wear glasses, bring two pairs. Arrange to bring a three-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking.

Insurance

• •

Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.) Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.

Personal Papers

Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.

Voting

Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas. Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.

• •

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Personal Effects

Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.

Financial Management

• • • •

Keep a bank account in your name in the U.S. Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service. Execute a Power of Attorney for the management of your property and business. Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770. Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.

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CONTACTING PEACE CORPS HEADQUARTERS
This list of numbers will help connect you with the appropriate office at Peace Corps headquarters to answer various questions. You can use the toll-free number and extension or dial directly using the local numbers provided. Be sure to leave the toll-free number and extensions with your family so they can contact you in the event of an emergency.

Peace Corps Headquarters Toll-free Number: 800-424-8580, Press 2, and then Ext. # (see below) Peace Corps’ Mailing Address: Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters 1111 20th Street, NW Washington, DC 20526 Placement Office/Responding to an Invitation: 202-692-1840 / or ext 1840 Country Information: Cicely Wolters, Country Desk Assistant, 202-692-2512, cwolters@peacecorps.gov, ext 2512 Abby Kardel, Country Desk Assistant 202-692-5209, akardel@peacecorps.gov, ext 5209 Country Desk Officer: Dawn Hodge, 202-692-2517, dhodge@peacecorps.gov , ext 2517 SATO Travel (questions about plate tickets, passports, travel matters, etc): 202-692-1170 / or ext 1170 *Legal Clearance Office of Placement: 202-692-1845 / ext 1845 *Medical Clearance Screening Nurse: 202-692-1500 / ext 1500

*Dental Clearance Questions: 202-692-1507 / ext 1507 Medical Reimbursements, handled by Subcontractor: 800-818-8772 Loan Deferments, Taxes, Readjustment Allowance, Power of Attorney, etc: 202-692-1770 / ext 1770 *If you have had any recent medical, dental, or legal changes then please contact the proper office(s).

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