A Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Zambia

In my last post I gave a short overview of the Peace Corps, and the Peace Corps today, and then I talked a bit about Peace Corps’s development model, and followed it up with the definition of a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader from the Global Peace Corps Manual. I promised that today I’d talk a little bit more about what being a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) was like in Zambia.

As a brief recap:

Before a Volunteer may be enrolled as a Volunteer Leader, the Country Director must determine
that each of the following criteria is satisfied:
(a) A continuing need exists for a Volunteer Leader to perform appropriate supervisory or other
special duties or responsibilities above and beyond the normal assignment and responsibilities
of a Volunteer;
(b) In addition to the assigned Volunteer Leader duties, the Volunteer Leader must also be
involved in at least one substantive Volunteer program/activity with an assigned counterpart;
(c) Volunteer Leaders are not permitted to fill staff positions, but they may assist staff as long as
they work under staff supervision;
(d) Volunteer Leaders are not permitted to perform inherently governmental functions (see
Attachment A); and
(e) A Volunteer shall have had sufficient service overseas as a Volunteer to demonstrate both the
knowledge and ability to work successfully with other Volunteers and to perform the duties of
a Volunteer Leader.

In each of their assignments, Volunteer Leaders contribute their own unique Volunteer perspective
and expertise. Volunteer Leaders are generally expected to provide on-the-job supervision (that is,
provide direction or guidance), handle administrative tasks related to logistical support for Volunteer
projects, provide counsel and guidance to Volunteers, and be on the lookout for difficulties in job
relations or personal adjustment. Specific examples of appropriate Volunteer Leader assignments
(a) Acting as liaison among Volunteers, host country supervisors, and Peace Corps staff;
(b) Assisting Peace Corps staff in site selection and placement of new Volunteers;
(c) Assisting Peace Corps staff in the design and implementation of Volunteer training;
(d) Assisting Peace Corps staff in the design and evaluation of Volunteer projects;
(e) Assisting Peace Corps staff in the provision of logistical and administrative support to
Volunteers and Trainees; and
(f) Providing Imprest fund services if designated as an Imprest fund Class B cashier or sub-cashier
within the provisions of MS 760, after having received the same training, directives, materials,
guidance, and supervision as cashiers who are U.S. government employees.

In June of 2013, I was selected to replace the PCVL of Southern Province, based at the Provincial Resource Center in Choma. Having met the criteria outlined in section 4.0 of the manual we set about determining my job responsibilities. Although I was never presented with a specialized job description, my duties in Zambia included the following:

The management of one of six provincial Peace Corps offices as a Volunteer Leader to provide counseling, logistical, programmatic support, and technical guidance to 30+ Health, Forestry, Fisheries, and Education sector Volunteers. Working with local staff, the Provincial Peace Corps Programs Coordinator (PPC) and the Peace Corps Provincial General Services Assistant (PGSA) to develop a safe, positive living-learning environment for all serving PCVs. In addition I was asked to serve as a liaison between Peace Corps Headquarters, provincial ministries (Ministry of Health, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Education, Forestry Department) and Volunteers. This included giving feedback on Peace Corps trainers and training curricula for the new intakes, and participating in the design of Peace Corps Trainee training, and Volunteer training held throughout their service. In support of the PPC, I worked and served as integral part of site identification and development for incoming volunteer community placements.

So far all within the regular listed duties of a PCVL.

Outside of Volunteer support, Site Development, and liaison between Volunteers, host country supervisors, Ministry and NGO partners and PC staff, PCVL’s in Zambia were tasked with the management of the provincial resource center budget and accounts – including management of $2000 rolling Imprest fund and maintenance of the facilities, which served as libraries, resource depots, and respite for Volunteers. This is where things become a bit more unique for PC Zambia, as the Peace Corps Resource Centers serve as transit houses as well as provincial offices. This meant the management of food, provision of bedding and necessary equipment for the furnishing of 30 beds, a fully equipped kitchen, two gardens, meeting and conference space, and office space.

Under the provision of 5.C and 5.E, PCVLs were also called to Lusaka to assist in the welcoming and first week of training for the newest Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs). After assisting with answering questions, helping to clarify cultural miscommunications, and safety and security, we departed with random selections of PCTs for First site visit. Around eight weeks later, we returned to the PCT training sites and brought out volunteers to their sites for a Second Site Visit (SSV), where each PCT has a chance visit their new hut, and meet their community for a few days before returning to finish training.

By the end of their 11 weeks, the PCTs take their oath, and become Volunteers. We then pick them up, advise them in shopping and preparation, and then bring them down to the Peace Corps Resource Centers to prepare them for their next two years. Meeting with Government officials, NGOs, and then finishing their shopping, each trainee is then taken out and dropped off at the community for a three month community entry period. During this time PCVLs are integral in the settling and support of the new Peace Corps Volunteers.

PCVLs are also an integral part of the Volunteer Advocacy process – serving as members of the Volunteer Advisory Committee, standing up for their volunteers and for the issues we see and how to solve them. We also help present PC rules and regulation changes and updates to our provinces.

As you can imagine, it’s quite the posting. Although I’ve only touched on a few of the biggest general duties that PCVLs in Zambia encounter, you can tell that it is a fantastic opportunity, but also an amazing insight into the administration and support mechanisms Peace Corps is continuing to develop for the provision of service to their volunteers.

I hope that this short note helps clarify what a PCVL does, and what being a PCVL in Zambia was like.


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