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  2. 2. Congratulations on your invitation to become a Peace Corps Volunteer inAlbania. Serving as a Volunteer will be one of the most challengingexperiences of your life and will be as rewarding as you make it. PeaceCorps arrived in Albania in March 2003 to re-open Peace Corps/Albania,and the first group of Volunteers arrived in September 2003 to begintraining. Yours is still among the initial groups of Volunteers that arehelping to rebuild a quality Peace Corps program in a country struggling tothrow off the legacy of an authoritarian and isolationist regime and toreconcile old and strong cultural traditions with modern Europe. Neither ofthose struggles is easy and you will be challenged by the consequencesevery day in Albania. If you come with an open mind, a warm heart, lots ofpatience and flexibility, and a good sense of humor, you will do well.The Peace Corps assigns all Volunteers to locations outside of the capitalcity of Tirana. The country’s greatest needs are in rural areas, and the PeaceCorps works in towns and villages throughout most of the districts. Beingplaced outside of Tirana means that your ability to learn and use theAlbanian language and adapt to local cultures and lifestyles will be criticalto your success and satisfaction. You will have to make major adjustments inyour lifestyle to be accepted and be effective in Albania since the socialcustoms are quite conservative by American standards. Women, especially,must be very circumspect in their behavior; their adjustments andrestrictions are very challenging.Housing is scarce in Albania and your continual safety and security isparamount. To integrate these realities into a site that combines meaningfulwork opportunities and risk mitigation, you will live with an Albanianfamily throughout pre-service training. After training, while you may liveindependently, you also have the option to be hosted by one or moreAlbanian families at your permanent work site. Peace Corps/Albania makessite assignments by matching your skills and knowledge with the needs of aparticular organization and community, not on the basis of your personalpreferences. Therefore, you may be placed anywhere in Albania.In order to help to ensure your safety and security and as well as to maintaina collaborative Peace Corps team effort, you must inform the out of sitecontact at the Peace Corps Albania office here whenever you leave your site. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 1
  3. 3. While you will have the opportunity to help Albanians stretch scarceresources to make differences in their lives, your own living and workingsituations may be very challenging. Your role as a good representative forthe Peace Corps and the American people means that you will always be onduty in Albania.Please think about all of these things carefully before you accept ourinvitation to Albania. You should be sure that being a Volunteer in a countryof stark contrasts and tremendous challenges is right for you at this point inyour life.When you arrive in Albania, you will begin 10 weeks of intensive training infive areas: language, community/cross cultural skills, technical skills, health,and safety and security. You will spend most of the training period as part ofa small group of trainees who live in the same small town. Your group willget together with the other groups of trainees at a central site for one or twodays a week. We believe that pre-service training provides a strongfoundation for service and require your full participation in the program.The entire Peace Corps Albania team looks forward to working with you infurther developing a high quality, safe and secure Peace Corps program inthis historically-rich part of the world. The Albanian people are eager tohave you come and share in this vision to build a better future with the threegoals of Peace Corps that have stood the test of time for the past 48 years.Let’s continue to build upon that history by renewing our commitment to thePeace Corps in promoting friendship, peace, progress and a brighter futurefor Albania and the global community.Hill Denham, Country DirectorMay 2009 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 2
  4. 4. CONTENTSContents ......................................................................................... 3Core Expectations for Peace Corps Volunteers ......................... 5Peace Corps/Albania History and Programs ............................ 6 History of the Peace Corps in Albania........................................ 6 Peace Corps Programming in Albania........................................ 6Country Overview: Albania at a Glance ................................. 10 History....................................................................................... 10 Government............................................................................... 11 Economy ................................................................................... 12 People and Culture.................................................................... 12 Environment.............................................................................. 13Resources for Further Information........................................... 14 General Information About Albania ......................................... 14 Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees ........... 15 Online Articles/Current News Sites About Albania ................. 16 International Development Sites About Albania ...................... 17 Recommended Books ............................................................... 18Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle............................... 21 Communications ....................................................................... 21 Housing and Site Location........................................................ 23 Living Allowance and Money Management............................. 24 Food and Diet............................................................................ 24 Transportation ........................................................................... 25 Geography and Climate ............................................................ 25 Social Activities ........................................................................ 26 Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior ...................................... 26 Personal Safety.......................................................................... 27 Rewards and Frustrations.......................................................... 28Peace Corps Training ................................................................. 29Your Health and Safety in Albania ........................................... 33 Health Issues in Albania ........................................................... 33 Helping You Stay Healthy ........................................................ 33 Maintaining Your Health .......................................................... 34 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 3
  5. 5. Women’s Health Information ................................................... 35 Your Peace Corps Medical Kit ................................................. 35 Medical Kit Contents ................................................................ 35 Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist.................................. 36 Safety and Security—Our Partnership...................................... 38 Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk ................................ 39 Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime .............................. 40 Support from Staff .................................................................... 41 Crime Data for Albania............................................................. 42 Volunteer Safety Support in Albania........................................ 43Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues.......................................... 44 Overview of Diversity in Albania............................................. 45 What Might a Volunteer Face? ................................................. 46 Volunteer Comments ................................................................ 46Frequently Asked Questions ...................................................... 55Welcome Letters from Albania Volunteers.............................. 61Packing List ................................................................................. 72Pre Departure Checklist............................................................. 76 Family ....................................................................................... 76 Passport/Travel ......................................................................... 76 Medical/Health.......................................................................... 76 Insurance ................................................................................... 77 Personal Papers ......................................................................... 77 Voting ....................................................................................... 77 Personal Effects ........................................................................ 77 Financial Management.............................................................. 77Contacting Peace Corps Headquarters..................................... 79 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 4
  6. 6. CORE EXPECTATIONS FOR PEACE CORPSVOLUNTEERSIn working toward fulfilling the Peace Corps Mission of promotingworld peace and friendship, as a trainee and Volunteer, you are expectedto: 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 | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 5
  7. 7. PEACE CORPS/ALBANIAHISTORY AND PROGRAMSHistory of the Peace Corps in AlbaniaAlbania began the transition to a democratic, open-market nation later thanthe other Balkan states did. Former Communist leader Enver Hoxha headedan isolationist and authoritarian regime from 1944 until his death in 1985,and it was not until March 1991 that Albania and the United Statesreestablished diplomatic relations (after a 35-year break). The Albaniangovernment invited the Peace Corps into Albania, and the first group of 21Volunteers arrived in June 1992 to begin teaching English at secondaryschools and universities. The Peace Corps program was expanded with asmall business development project, whose first group of 12 Volunteersarrived in April 1993. The program was expanded again in 1995 with theaddition of 15 Volunteers for an agro-forestry project. A group of newVolunteers was scheduled to arrive in February 1997, but a breakdown incivil order and public safety precipitated by the collapse of fraudulentpyramid savings schemes led to the evacuation of all Peace CorpsVolunteers and U.S. staff in March 1997 and the closure of the post. At thetime of the evacuation, 73 Volunteers were serving in the three Peace Corpsprojects.In March 2003, Peace Corps returned to Albania after a six-year absence.Thirty-two Volunteers arrived in Albania in September 2003 to train for acommunity development project and another 29 arrived in March 2004 totrain for English education and health education projects. Those first twogroups established the three projects that are now operating. The largestgroup ever of 40 Volunteers arrived in March 2006.Peace Corps Programming in AlbaniaDuring the Peace Corps’ first five years in Albania (1992—1997), staff andVolunteers regularly assessed conditions to identify challenges andsuccesses and made adjustments in the overall program to better meetAlbania’s needs. The program was still in its formative stage when the postclosed in 1997. The TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) projecthad added a teacher-training component, and Volunteers also developed PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 6
  8. 8. materials, helped establish school and community libraries, and served aslinguistic and cultural resources for teachers and students. In addition,Volunteers introduced their students to a variety of social and environmentalissues and helped enhance their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.The first small business Volunteers were assigned to regional businessassociations, where they provided assistance in business development,planning, and credit. The second group of small business Volunteers beganworking with branch offices of the Rural Commercial Bank to advise andtrain branch credit departments and support a World Bank restructuringeffort. The project diversified again in 1995 when Volunteers were assignedto a savings bank, a business school, and a business association to helpdevelop the institutional capability of organizations providing assistance tosmall businesses. In response to emerging needs of the fledgling Albanianeconomy, the project diversified once again to move into chambers ofcommerce, organizational development centers, and micro-creditinstitutions. Additionally, the project provided basic financial and businessservices and training to small-scale entrepreneurs and farmers, and educatedthe Albanian public about market economies.Volunteers helped initiate the first on-the-ground forestry developmentprogram as part of the village-based agro-forestry project. The project was acooperative effort between the Albanian government and the U.S. Agencyfor International Development. Volunteers worked with the GeneralDirectorate of Forestry staff to help Albanian farmers manage forest andgrassland resources. Though the goal was to provide farm forestry extensionservices, many farmers saw the directorate staff as forestry police. When thepost closed in 1997, the Peace Corps was reexamining the project’s initialassumptions and making adjustments to focus more on the development offorestry communities.In April 2002, the Peace Corps conducted an assessment for reopening itsprogram in Albania. The assessment team identified continuing needs forsupport in English education, small business development, communitydevelopment, and natural resource management. In addition, the assessmentteam identified pressing needs in municipal development and healtheducation. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 7
  9. 9. Public confidence in politics and most public institutions is very low.Exceptions include a few communities whose mayors believe thatpragmatism in addressing local issues should take precedence over politicalaffiliation. In this way, local government and community development arefocal points for the development of responsible civil society in Albania.The assessment team recommended that the Peace Corps return to Albaniawith a municipal development project to help improve the organizationaland management capacities of municipal government staff and villageleaders. The project would facilitate the development of collaborativeactivities with community organizations, businesses, and citizens groups,and provide assistance to all segments of a community in project design andmanagement.Albania also needs substantial support in public health and health education.Public services and the health infrastructure are in very poor condition, anddoctors and nurses are cut off from new developments in medicine.Albania’s infant mortality rate is the highest in Europe, and the country hashad to tackle new problems for which it has little experience, including drugabuse and sexually-transmitted infections (STI’s). The assessment teamidentified opportunities for Volunteers to work with local clinics, schools,and community groups to provide education on maternal and child health,water and sanitation, drug awareness, and other local health issues. The teamrecommended that Volunteers help to develop health education programsand materials and to deliver those programs primarily at the communitylevel.The Volunteers who arrived in September 2003 to initiate the municipaldevelopment project worked with local governments, business developmentorganizations and civil society development organizations. The Peace Corpssoon broadened the municipal development project into a community andorganizational development project. Current Volunteers work with localgovernments and other organizations to strengthen their internal capacity tomeet their responsibilities and to address such issues as tourismdevelopment, strategic planning, and communication among localgovernments and community members. Other Volunteers work to strengthennongovernmental organizations (NGOs), support the develoment of PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 8
  10. 10. community-based organizations in rural communities and promote businessdevelopment through training, technical assistance, and networking.Volunteers currently serving in the English education project teach primarilyin high schools in towns throughout Albania. They bring native-speakingability into the classroom to enhance the language skills of both teachers andstudents. In high schools they peer-teach with existing English teachers and,when appropriate, teach on their own. Volunteers also work in theircommunities to identify and implement projects that address the needs andissues faced by youth and children. The group that arrived in March 2006included the first English educators to be placed at the university level and atsecondary schools for foreign languages, since the Peace Corps reopened in2003. We have some placements in the Directorates of Education and have arenewed focus on teacher training.The current health education project is linked to the Albanian health systemthrough the district level (there are 36 districts in Albania), directorates ofPublic Health, and at the rural health center level. With Albaniancounterparts from Health Education and Promotion Units, schools andlocally-based organizations, Volunteers work with their colleagues toidentify priority health education issues. They help to design and to delivercampaigns and training to address those issues often using a calendar ofhealth education priorities released by the Institute of Public Health.Volunteers foster links with schools and formal and informal communitygroups to implement campaigns and training, and identify other appropriatevenues for promoting health education activities.To respond to changes in the institutional environment and in localcommunities, Peace Corps/Albania continues to refine project structures andVolunteer roles based partly on the experiences of current Volunteers and onlinkages and interactions with project partners. Projects strive to moveVolunteers into smaller towns and villages to serve the communities thatreceive less outside attention, and where Volunteers can have the greatestimpact. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 9
  11. 11. COUNTRY OVERVIEW:ALBANIA AT A GLANCEHistoryAlbanians are descendants of the ancient Illyrians, and their history can betraced back to the Bronze Age in about 2000 B.C. Their name comes fromthe Albanoi tribe of Illyrians, and their language forms its own branch of theIndo-European language phylum, a group also containing the Slavic, Celtic,Germanic and Romance languages. The history of Albania is one ofoccupation, including periods of administration or rule by Alexander theGreat, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire—the latter beginning in the 14th century and continuing until 1912. Themodern borders of Albania were drawn by the European powers during theFirst Balkan War in 1912, and excluded about half the former Albanianlands and 3 million Albanians. Albania had a brief period of independencefrom 1912 until 1939, after which it was occupied by the Italians. It wasduring this period that Ahmet Bey Zogu declared himself King Zog I.During World War II, the Germans replaced the Italians and a resistancemovement began in the south under the leadership of Enver Hoxha. Hoxhaand his supporters took over the country in the aftermath of the war andestablished a socialist republic. Foreigners were expelled and their assetsnationalized, churches and mosques were closed, and agriculture andindustry were collectivized. Hoxha was a doctrinaire Stalinist who brokeaway from Marshal Tito and Yugoslavia in 1948; from the Soviet Union in1960, when Nikita Khrushchev abandoned Stalinism; and from China in1978, when China established diplomatic relations with the United States.All outside economic assistance ended in 1978. From that time until hisdeath in 1985, Hoxha made Albania one of the most isolated and repressedcountries in the world. At one point, Hoxha had 700,000 reinforced-concretebunkers built throughout the country to defend against a multifront attack,each equal in cost to a two-bedroom apartment. Albania was the last countryin Central and Eastern Europe to be caught up in the collapse ofcommunism, introducing its first cautious reforms in 1990. Even after his PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 10
  12. 12. death in 1985, Hoxha’s successors in the Communist Party continued togovern the country until elections in March 1992.The period from an election victory by the opposition Democratic Party in1992 to the current day has been challenging and often tumultuous. TheDemocratic Party’s Sali Berisha governed the country from April 1992 untilmid-July 1997, when the Socialist Party’s Fatos Nano formed a newgovernment. Manic investment in a number of pyramid schemes marked theperiod from February 1996 to February 1997. When the pyramid schemesbegan to fail in late 1996, demonstrations erupted and soon turned violent.With increasing concerns about safety and security, the Peace Corpsevacuated its 73 Volunteers in March 1997 and closed the post shortlythereafter. With the help of Greek and Italian peacekeeping forces, thegovernment reestablished order and eventually led a successful effort to passa new constitution in 1998. During the spring and summer of 1999, Albaniasheltered more than 450,000 Kosovar Albanians who had fled Kosovo toavoid the actions of the Milosevic regime and the dangers of the NATOaction against it. With Kosovo declaring its independence in 2008 there isrenewed hope that the northern areas will be safer for travel and a PeaceCorps presence.Local elections in October 2000 and October 2003 and parliamentaryelections in June 2001 and July 2005 were conducted in a peacefulatmosphere and were judged to represent some progress toward meetingdemocratic standards. The elections of 2007 saw more democraticparticiaption. National elections will take place in June of 2009 and there ishope for a smooth process. Albania was accepted into NATO in 2009 andhas her eye on joining the European Union in the next several years. Both ofthese actions will bring recognition and stability to Albania.GovernmentUnder the 1998 constitution, Albania became a republic with a multipartyparliament, the unicameral Kuvendi Popullore. The parliament has 140members; 100 are elected by majority voting and 40 by proportional results.The Kuvendi Popullore elects the president, a largely ceremonial office withlimited executive powers. The majority party in the national elections PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 11
  13. 13. chooses the prime minister. There is universal suffrage for citizens 18 yearsof age and older. The first local governments in Albania were formed in1992. Though they had political autonomy, these local governments did nothave substantial administrative and fiscal authority. Though a 2000 law ondecentralization transferred many responsibilities from national governmentto local governments and these entities have slowly become responsible forproviding most public services to their citizens.EconomyRecent efforts to stabilize the Albanian economy are showing some successat the macroeconomic level. The gross domestic product (GDP) beganincreasing in 1998, and inflation and the budget deficit showed little increaseafter 1999. The local currency, the lek, has stabilized. Foreign aid providesthe largest share of financing for public investment, but continued deep andpervasive corruption retards direct foreign as well as domestic investment.Approximately 50 percent of Albania’s GDP and employment derives fromagriculture, but limited access to key supplies and limited links to othereconomic sectors preclude a productive agriculture sector. Urban migrationhas continued at an accelerated rate, particularly among the young.While economic growth is visible in some areas, it has not had a substantialimpact on the life of most Albanians. Albanian families, particularly insmaller towns and villages, remain poor, with low incomes and inadequateliving space. Funds sent from Albanians working abroad to their families arethe main source of income at the local level. With the downturn of the globaleconomic situation it is likely that these remittances will drop.Unemployment remains high because of a lack of large-scale investments, ashortage of skilled labor, a large informal market, a lack of coordinated statepolicies on employment, inefficient market institutions, and a low level ofcredit. Tirana has seen a rapid growth in supermarkets, shopping malls andimported goods.People and CultureThe population of Albania is estimated at 3.5 million, with as many as800,000 living in Tirana, the capital. There are only a few cities withpopulations greater than 75,000, and most people continue to live in smalltowns and rural villages. The population for the most part is ethnically PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 12
  14. 14. homogenous. Southern Albania has a small ethnic Greek minority. Othersmall ethnic groups include Macedonians, Roma, Montenegrins, and Vlachs.More than 2 million ethnic Albanians live in Kosovo and the western portionof Macedonia.From 1967 to 1990, Albania banned all religious practices and was the onlyofficially atheist state in the world. Traditionally, Albania has been about 70percent Muslim, 20 percent Albanian Orthodox (predominantly in thesouth), and 10 percent Catholic (predominantly in the north), although thelabels are more cultural than religious. A small percentage of Albanianevangelical Christians live in larger towns and regional centers.Albania has preserved many of its cultural traditions and customs.Traditional dress can seen in many rural areas, especially among the oldergeneration. Younger Albanians have adopted Western fashions for the mostpart. Indigenous Albanian music in the north recounts heroic epics andballads on the themes of honor and vengeance. Polyphony is a southernAlbanian tradition that dates from Illyrian times. Outside of the largest cities,Albania is socially conservative and women live under many restrictions.In Albania, the family has a significance not often seen in Western cultures.It includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Families, usually led bya patriarch, rely on the active participation of all members to help supplybasic commodities and foodstuffs. Albanians identify with and support theirfamilies, first and foremost.EnvironmentAlbania has a narrow coastal plain and a mostly mountainous interior that isabout 36 percent forested. The country generally has hot, dry summers andcool, wet winters, with some variation resulting from its broken mountainrelief. Summers along the coast are moderated by sea breezes. About 40percent of the rain falls during the winter months, when the higher elevationsare very cold with deep snow. A few large lakes stretch along the country’sborders with Montenegro in the north and Macedonia and Greece in thesoutheast. The Ionian coast from Vlore to Saranda offers some of the mostbeautiful scenery in the country. Albania has six national forests, 24 naturereserves, and 2,000 natural monuments, which receive protection mainly on PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 13
  15. 15. paper. All parks are under threat from human activities such as hunting andwoodcutting. Nearly all raw sewage flows into rivers untreated and there isvery poor management of solid wastes, so environmental pollution is amajor concern.RESOURCES FOR FURTHER INFORMATIONFollowing is a list of websites for additional information about the PeaceCorps and Albania and to connect you to returned Volunteers and otherinvitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all theselinks are active and current, we cannot guarantee it. If you do not haveaccess to the Internet, visit your local library. Libraries offer free Internetusage and often let you print information to take home.A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may findbulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinionsabout the Peace Corps based on their own experience, including commentsby 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, andwe hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service inthe same way.General Information About Albania this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Tirana to how toconvert from the dollar to the lek Just click on Albania and go from there. this site for general travel advice about almost any country in theworld. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically aboutcountries around the world. Find Albania and learn more about its social PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 14
  16. 16. and political history. You can also check on conditions that may affect yoursafety in the site’s international travel section. site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide. online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, andeach country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library ofCongress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and politicalbackground. United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information formember states of the U.N site provides an additional source of current and historical informationabout countries around the world.Connect With Returned Volunteersand Other Invitees is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returnedVolunteers. 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 formerVolunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groupswho frequently get together for social events and local volunteer activities. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 15
  17. 17. site is known as the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Web Ring.Browse the Web ring and see what former Volunteers are saying about theirservice. site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthlyonline publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corpsservice.Online Articles/Current News Sites About Albaniahttp://www.president.alThis news site is about the Albanian President in both English and Albanian(Shqip).http://www.balkanweb.comThis site covers different countries in the Balkan region, including Albania,in both English and website provides links to online newspapers covering Albania.www.oneworld.netThis link provides links to news about Albania and the region. is the site of the Center for Russian, East European and EurasianStudies at the University of Texas-Austin and contains a great deal of ofinformation about Albania and links. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 16
  18. 18. www.shqiperia.comThis site contains information on Albanian culture, art, current events, news,history, trading, food, and an extensive photo album with pictures from allover Albania. This site is in Albanian. site contains information about Albania and useful links. site has links to other sites, both in and out of Albania. site is primarily for travelers, but some interesting information in the“Albanian Forums” section.International Development Sites About about the work of the U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment in United Nations Development Programme in Albania.www.ebrd.comEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Developmentwww.rec.orgRegional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 17
  19. 19. www.soros.orgThe Open Society Institute is a private operating and grantmakingfoundation that serves as the hub of the Soros Foundation’s network, a groupof autonomous foundations and organizations in more than 50 countries.www.unesco.orgUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizationwww.iom.intInternational Organization for Migrationwww.worldbank.orgWorld BankRecommended Books 1. Biberaj, Elez. Albania in Transition: the Rocky Road to Democracy (Nations of the World Series). Boulder. Colorado: Westwood Press, 1998 (hardback), 1999 (paperback). 2. Biberaj, Elez. Albania: A Socialist Maverick. Boulder: Westwood Press, 1990. 3. Carver, Robert. The Accursed Mountains. London: Harper Collins Publishers, Ltd., 2000 (paperback). 4. Durham, Edith. High Albania: A Victorian Traveller’s Balkan Odyssey. London: Phoenix Press, 2000 (paperback). 5. Fonesca, Isabel, Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey. New York: Vintage Books, 1996 (paperback). 6. Glenny, Misha. The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999. New York: Penguin, 2000 (paperback). PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 18
  20. 20. 7. Gloyer, Gillian. Albania, 2nd: The Bradt Travel Guide, 2006.8. Jones, Lloyd. Biografi: An Albanian Quest. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994.9. Kadare, Ismail. Albanian Spring. London: Saqi Books, 2001 (paperback).10. Kaplan, Robert. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey through History. New York: Vintage Books, 1994 (paperback).11. Karklins, Rasma. The System Made Me Do It: Corruption in Post- Communist Societies. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2005.12. Olsen, Neil and Rhodri Jones. Albania. (Oxfam Country Profile Series). London: Oxfam Publishing, 2000 (paperback).13. Pettifer, James. Blue Guide: Albania and Kosovo. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001 (paperback).14. Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie.and Bernd Jurgen Fischer. Albanian Identities: Myth and History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002 (paperback).15. Vickers, Miranda. The Albanians: A Modern History (revised edition). London: I. B. Tauris, 2001 (paperback).16. Vickers, Miranda, and Pettifer, James. Albania: From Anarchy to Balkan Identity. New York: New York University Press, 2000 (paperback).17. West, Rebecca. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia. New York: Penguin Books, 1995 (paperback)18. Wilkes, John. The Illyrians (People of Europe Series). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995 (paperback).Books About the History of the Peace Corps1. Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corpsand the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UniversityPress, 2000. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 19
  21. 21. 2. Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. NotreDame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.3. Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver.Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.Books on the Volunteer Experience1. Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place.Santa Barbara, Calif.: McSeas Books, 2004.2. Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace CorpsExperience. Gig Harbor, Wash.: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.3. Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heartof an African Village. New York, N.Y.: Picador, 2003.4. Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York,N.Y.: Perennial, 2001.5. Kennedy, Geraldine ed. From the Center of the Earth: Stories out ofthe Peace Corps. Santa Monica, Calif.: Clover Park Press, 1991.6. Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle,Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint). PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 20
  22. 22. LIVING CONDITIONS ANDVOLUNTEER LIFESTYLEAs a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania, you will have to adapt to conditionsthat may be dramatically different than you have ever experienced andmodify lifestyle practices that you now take for granted. Even the most basicpractices—talking, eating, using the bathroom, and sleeping—may takesignificantly different forms in the Albanian context. You will need to learnto live on far less money than you are now used to, give up most of yourprivacy, and adapt to different ways of socializing. You may not be able togo out of your house much after dark or have an opportunity for datingwithin your community. Women will have many more restrictions than men.You will come to Albania to assist people in their efforts to improve theirlives, which will be difficult. It will be up to you to adjust to Albanianlifestyle and work practices—Albania is what it is and it won’t adjust to you.If you successfully adapt and integrate, you will in return be rewarded with adeep understanding of a new culture, the establishment of new andpotentially lifelong relationships, and a profound sense of humanity.CommunicationsMailInternational mail to and from Albania is generally reliable. Both letters andpackages have been opened in transit and valuable items taken; if they arecarefully secured, however, this isn’t an issue. Packages are usually held bypost office officials until you pay a small customs fee. Letters and packagesfrom the United States can take two to three weeks to arrive, while packagescan take anywhere from 2 weeks to 1.5 months. Despite these issues, it isimportant to keep in touch with family and friends and share yourexperiences.Before you leave for Albania, the Peace Corps will send you a mailingaddress that you can use for letter mail during your first 2.5 months in thecountry—the period of pre-service training. Once you have been sworn in asa Volunteer and move to your site, you will have your own address for mail. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 21
  23. 23. Packages cannot be received at the Peace Corps/Albania office address atany time during your service.TelephonesLocal telephone service is generally poor, and the installation of new phonesand repairs can be extremely slow and expensive. Telephone linessometimes disconnect in mid-conversation. Although it is expensive andoften time-consuming to place international calls, direct dialing is availablein many sites and from all cell phones. Cellular phone service is widelyavailable, and most of the country is now covered by various providers.Many Albanians make sacrifices in order to have cellular phones, which arerather expensive. Do not expect to use phones in Albania like you do inAmerica: conversations are short and texts used as a substitute. Calls fromfamily and friends to a cellular phone in Albania may be the best way foryou to keep in contact. Additionally, using the internet to call is often thebest alternative. Albania uses the standard European GSM cellular system,so most U.S. cellular phones will not work in the country. If, however, youhave a SIM card phone in America, it is worth it to have it unlocked by yourcarrier for international use.Currently as part of Peace Corps/Albania’s overall safety and securityprogram, Peace Corps gives each trainee a cellular phone within a few daysof arriving in the country, as well as a monthly allowance for phone time foremergency calls for health or safety and security. Trainees keep the phonesafter they become Volunteers and use them throughout their service. Thesephones can receive international calls at no charge to the trainee orVolunteer. You will need to keep your cell phone charged, on and with youat all times.Computer, Internet, and E-mail AccessInternet access in Albania is growing rapidly. Smaller towns got hooked upin 2009. There is also no guarantee that the Internet will be available in yourassigned town or agency. If you already own a laptop, we advise you tobring it for personal and professional use and to insure it. Volunteers alsofind that a USB flash drive and/or an external hard drive are very usefultools for managing email and sharing documents. Make sure that you have PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 22
  24. 24. recently-updated anti-virus software on your computer before departure, asmost computers in Albania are infected with viruses that can be very hard toremove. The Peace Corps does not provide computer support (software,hardware, Internet access, repairs), nor will it replace damaged or stolencomputers. Insurance is readily available through a homeowner’s policy orthrough personal property insurance, and the Peace Corps will provide youwith an application for such insurance before you leave for Albania. Internetaccess in Albania has reached most larger towns and some Internet cafeshave sprung up in unexpected places. But you may have to walk across townor ride a bus for an hour or more to find an Internet cafe where you can readand send e-mail messages. In addition, while connection speeds and servicesvary in Internet cafes, it will most likely be much slower than you are usedto, service may go out unexpectedly, and the internet is usually not availablewhen there is no electricity. You won’t have the access to the Internet thatyou may be used to and Internet use can be expensive, so you will have toaccept this and adjust. Internet access during PST is limited.Housing and Site LocationBefore you complete pre-service training, you will be assigned to a site inAlbania where a workable match can be made between your skills andknowledge and the needs of a local organization and the community. Sitesmay be located anywhere in Albania outside of Tirana, and many are insmaller towns in the more rural areas—which are the areas of greatest need.The Peace Corps is striving to serve more of the northern areas of Albania.Due to the potential isolation in winter, the agency will consider assigningmarried couples or multiple Volunteers from different projects to thesenorthern towns and villages. Housing can be scarce in Albania, especially inrural areas, and you may need to live with an Albanian family for your entiretime in the country, though this is unlikely. For sure, you will live with afamily as part of language and cross-cultural training during pre-servicetraining. The Peace Corps will assign you to a training family, and yourassigned organization will help find housing at your site. This housing willhave to meet a set of Peace Corps standards. You may choose to live with asecond host family after training and the staff will work with that family toensure that the family understands its role and can meet your basic needs forfood and lodging. Independent housing must meet Peace Corps’ safety and PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 23
  25. 25. security criteria as well as cost limitations. A Peace Corps staff membermust check and approve any new housing situation before you move.Living Allowance and Money ManagementThe Peace Corps will provide you with a monthly living allowance inAlbanian lek, the local currency. The living allowance amount is based onreviews of local statistics about living costs, as well as surveys of Volunteersalready in Albania. It is to be used to pay your host family for room andboard (if you choose that option), for food, for recreation and entertainment,for a very limited amount of replacement clothing, for local transportation,and for reading materials and other incidentals. In general, the Peace Corpsexpects you to live within the modest standards that most Albanians do.In some cases, you will find that your living allowance is less than theincome on which your Albanian colleagues live. Many Albanians receivemoney from family members living and working abroad, helping them toafford extra luxuries. It can be challenging to explain to colleagues that youare a Volunteer and are in Albania to serve while living on limited means,but this is part of the essence of the Volunteer experience. We discourageyou from using personal money to supplement your living allowance.Albania is mainly a cash economy; there are no personal checks written forpayment and limited use of credit cards and traveler’s checks. There are anincreasing number of ATM machines in Albania that enable access to localbanks, as well as certain accounts in U.S. banks. There will be an ATM inor near the town you are placed in. It is advisable to bring some cash inEuros or dollars for vacation travel. Traveler’s checks and credit cards arealso an option for vacation travel outside of Albania.Food and DietThe availability of some vegetables and fruits in Albania is seasonal, butprices for locally-grown produce are low. Imported produce is usuallyavailable year-round at higher prices. Local produce in summer is wonderfulin Albania. Salt, sugar, rice, flour, eggs, cooking oil, pasta, long-life milk,and other basic items are readily available and are of good quality. Freshmeat presents a problem, as inspections and refrigeration are minimal.During pre-service training you will learn how to find and cook local foods.In the winter in some areas, only potatoes, cabbages, leeks, onions, oranges, PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 24
  26. 26. carrots, apples, bananas and rice or pasta may be readily available.Vegetarians will have to be tactful, as many Albanian families will not knowwhat it means to be a vegetarian and will want to serve you meat as anhonored guest. Albanians do not use many spices in their cooking, so youmay want to bring a supply of your favorite spices and recipes as well ascollect them throughout your travels to neighboring cities and othercountries.TransportationTravel in Albania is an adventure, often a very slow one. Buses may becrowded and unreliable, and roads in poor condition are made moredangerous by the chaotic mix of vehicular, pedestrian, and animal traffic.Train service is limited to a few areas and is very poor. Most travel is by busand mini-bus, but some private cars and vans operate as taxi services amongtowns and villages. There were virtually no private cars in Albania prior to1992, and Albanian drivers are learning as they go. You will have to takedelays and detours into account when planning your trips and travel with atrusted companion when possible to help ensure your safety. The difficultiesof travel are a good incentive for you to stay at your site and become part ofthe local community. Traffic accidents are one of the highest probable riskshere. To mitigate that risk, Peace Corps/Albania has a transportation policythat you will need to learn and follow.Geography and ClimateAlbania is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, acrossthe Adriatic and Ionian seas from Italy. It is bordered by Montenegro andKosovo to the north, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the southeast andsouth. It is a small, mountainous country with a narrow coastal plain. Theclimate is Mediterranean in much of Albania, with four distinct seasons,though the rugged and broken mountains help to create microclimates.Summers tend to be quite hot and dry; and winters, very damp and cold inall parts of the country, including coastal areas. Winters can be very severein the higher elevations, with snow on the ground throughout the winter.Layering your clothing is the best way to deal with the variable weather. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 25
  27. 27. Social ActivitiesIn the summer, the major source of entertainment in most towns is a dailypromenade of both men and women up and down the main street where theysocialize with friends and acquaintances. In winter, entertainment comesprimarily from visiting the homes of friends and acquaintances and you willrarely find people outside once the sun goes down. Most other socialactivities revolve around the family. The first modern movie theaters did notappear in Tirana until late 1999. While Tirana has several interestingmuseums, many provincial museums were damaged during the civil unrestin 1997. There are interesting historical and archaeological sites throughoutAlbania. You will most likely depend on your Albanian family and friendsand your own creativity for most of your social activities.Public socialization between the sexes is uncommon in Albania outside ofTirana and a few of the larger cities. When men and women are seensocializing together, the assumption is that they are married, engaged, or partof the same family. Male Volunteers will be freer to socialize in pubs andcafes than female Volunteers, particularly after dark. In many smaller towns,female Volunteers may patronize cafes only during the day or only withwomen friends. Female Volunteers who smoke or consume alcohol in publicmay compromise their reputations and those of their host families, as well astheir own safety. Ultimately, how you interact with your community is achoice; many female Volunteers do not feel confined by these conventionswhile others still do.All Volunteers should expect that opportunities for dating are limited, andthat any dating that they do will be publicly scrutinized. All actions ofindividuals—Albanians and Volunteers alike—reflect on that individual’sfamily. Just as Volunteers are embraced and protected by host families asfamily members, their actions and public behaviors are also considered toreflect on the honor and respect of the family, as would those of any familymember. Volunteers must accept and conform to this reality to successfullyintegrate into the local culture.Professionalism, Dress, and BehaviorOne of the difficulties of finding your place as a Peace Corps Volunteer isfitting into the local culture while maintaining your own cultural identity and PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 26
  28. 28. acting as a professional, all at the same time. It is not an easy thing to do.You will be working in a professional capacity and will be expected to dressand behave accordingly. Stylish business casual is acceptable in mostsituations. Albanian fashion is influenced by Italian television programmingand Spanish soap operas, and looking good matters. Albanians dress in theirfashionable best in public even if the clothes are worn. A foreigner whowears ragged or unkempt clothing is likely to be considered an affront.Although you must dress professionally for work, away from the office youcan wear shorts and t-shirts or casual clothing at your home. There isusually no air conditioning or central heating at your place of business or inyour own house so it important to layer even when dressing.Body piercings and tattoos are not common in professional settings. PeaceCorps/Albania requires Volunteers to remove facial piercings (with theexception of earrings in women) through pre-service training and during thefirst four months of service. We also ask that you cover tattoos as much aspossible during PST and when you get to your site. These practices allowVolunteers to establish a professional rapport with colleagues andcounterparts. We also ask that facial piercings be removed and tattoos becovered during official Peace Corps trainings (including Staging in the U.S.)and other events where host country speakers, officials and counterparts arepresent.Personal SafetyMore detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety iscontained in the “Health Care and Safety” chapter, but it is an importantissue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook,becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living andtraveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limitedunderstanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-offare some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteersexperience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Pettythefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical andsexual assault do occur, although most Albania Volunteers complete theirtwo years of service without incident. The Peace Corps has establishedprocedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhanceyour safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 27
  29. 29. training, will be provided once you arrive in Albania. Using these tools, youare expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.Each staff member at the Peace Corps is committed to providing Volunteerswith the support they need to successfully meet the challenges they will faceto have a safe, healthy, and productive service. We encourage Volunteersand families to look at our safety and security information on the PeaceCorps website at on these pages gives messages on Volunteer health andVolunteer safety. A video message from the Director is on this page, as wellas a section titled “Safety and Security in Depth.” This page lists topicsranging from the risks of serving as a Volunteer to posts’ safety supportsystems to emergency planning and communications.Rewards and FrustrationsThe Peace Corps experience is sometimes described as a series of emotionalpeaks and valleys that occur as you adapt to a new culture and environment.The potential for being productive and satisfied with your service is high,but so is the probability of being frustrated. Your organization may notalways provide the support you want, or it may not be sure about what itwants you to do. Living with a family in close quarters may be quitechallenging. The pace of life and work may be different from what youexpect, and many people will be hesitant about changing age-old practices.You will not be able to leave your site without informing Peace Corps inadvance.In addition, you will have a high degree of responsibility andindependence—perhaps more than in any other job you have had. You willbe in situations that require an ability to motivate yourself and yourcolleagues with little support or guidance from supervisors. You may workfor lengthy periods without seeing any visible impact and without receivingany supportive feedback. Development is a slow process, and you mustpossess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working towardlong-term goals without seeing immediate results. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 28
  30. 30. You will need maturity, flexibility, open-mindedness, and resourcefulness toapproach and overcome these difficulties. Albanians are a hospitable,friendly, and warm people, and Peace Corps staff members, your Albanianfamily, your co-workers, members of your community, and fellowVolunteers will support you during times of challenge as well as moments ofsuccess. The peaks are well worth the difficult valleys and you are likely toleave Albania feeling that you have gained much more than you gave duringyour service. If you make the commitment to integrate into your communityand work hard, you will be a successful and satisfied Volunteer. You willalso have contributed to the overall mission of the Peace Corps to promoteworld peace and friendship.PEACE CORPS TRAININGPre-Service TrainingPre-service training is the first event within a competency-based trainingprogram that continues throughout your 27 months of service in Albania.Pre-service training ensures that Volunteers are equipped with theknowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively perform their jobs. Onaverage, nine of 10 trainees are sworn in as Volunteers.Pre-service training is conducted in Albania and directed by the Peace Corpswith participation from representatives of Albanian organizations, formerVolunteers, and/or training contractors. The length of pre-service trainingvaries, usually ranging from 8-12 weeks, depending on the competenciesrequired for the assignment. Albanian measures achievement of learning anddetermines if trainees have successfully achieved competencies, includinglanguage 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 developand test their own resources. As a trainee, you will play an active role inself-education. You will be asked to decide how best to set and meetobjectives and to find alternative solutions. You will be asked to prepare foran experience in which you will often have to take the initiative and acceptresponsibility for decisions. The success of your learning will be enhanced PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 29
  31. 31. by your own effort to take responsibility for your learning and throughsharing experiences with others.Peace Corps training is founded on adult learning methods and oftenincludes experiential “hands-on” applications such as conducting aparticipatory 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 thecommunity is usually one of the core competencies Volunteers strive toachieve both in pre-service training and during the first several months ofservice. Successful sustainable development work is based on the local trustand confidence Volunteers build by living in, and respectfully integratinginto, the Albanian community and culture. Trainees are prepared for thisthrough a “home-stay” experience, which often requires trainees to live withhost families during pre-service training. Integration into the community notonly facilitates good working relationships, but it fosters language learningand cross-cultural acceptance and trust, which help ensure your health,safety, and security.Woven into the competencies, the ability to communicate in the host countrylanguage is critical to being an effective Peace Corps Volunteer. So basic isthis precept that it is spelled out in the Peace Corps Act: No person shall beassigned to duty as a Volunteer under this act in any foreign country or areaunless at the time of such assignment he (or she) possesses such reasonableproficiency as his (or her) assignment requires in speaking the language ofthe country or area to which he (or she) is assigned.Qualifying for ServiceThe pre-service training experience provides an opportunity not only for thePeace Corps to assess a trainee’s competence, but for trainees to re-evaluatetheir commitment to serve for 27 months to improve the quality of life of thepeople with whom Volunteers live and work and, in doing so, develop newknowledge, skills, and attitudes while adapting existing ones.Peace Corps Albania’s competencies are designed to be accomplishedthroughout the Volunteer’s 27 months of learning. A trainee may not be able PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 30
  32. 32. to complete all learning objectives for a competency during pre-servicetraining; however, he or she must show adequate progress toward achievingthe competencies in order to become a Volunteer 1 .Albania’s competencies include the following: 1. Thrive as a member of an Albanian Community 2. Apply Peace Corps Approach to Development 1. Work effectively as a Volunteer and empower others 2. Keep Healthy and Safe 3. (TEFL Volunteer core competency) Transfer English language teaching skills and knowledge to local teachers and students 4. (CD Volunteer core competency) Develop host organization’s capacity to address local needs. 5. (Health Education Volunteer core competency) Transfer health related skills and information to local teachers, students and community membersEvaluation of your performance throughout service is a continual process, asVolunteers are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for personalconduct and professional performance. Successful completion of pre-servicetraining is characterized by achievement of a set of learning objectives todetermine competence. Failure to meet any of the selection standards by thecompletion of training may be grounds for a withdrawal of selection anddisqualification from Peace Corps service.Progress in one’s own learning is a dialogue between you and the trainingstaff. All of the training staff—including the training manager, and thelanguage, technical, medical, safety and security, and cross-culturaltrainers—will work with you toward the highest possible competencies byproviding you with feedback on learning objective performance throughouttraining. After reviewing and observing your performance, the countrydirector is responsible for making the final decision on whether you havequalified to serve as a Volunteer in the host country.1 Peace Corps manual section 201.305.4. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 31
  33. 33. Upon successful completion of training, trainees who qualify for PeaceCorps service are required by law to swear or affirm an oath of loyalty to theUnited States; it cannot be waived under any circumstances. The text of theoath is provided below. If you have any questions about the wording ormeaning of the oath, consult a staff member during training.I, (your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defendthe Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies,domestic or foreign, that I take this obligation freely, and without any mentalreservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfullydischarge my duties in the Peace Corps (so help me God).Ongoing LearningYou are expected to improve your knowledge and skills in the areas oftechnical, language, cross-cultural, diversity, health, and safety throughoutyour service as a Volunteer. Training staff provide learning objectivesduring the 27-month continuum to help guide Volunteers throughout service.The manner in which you do this may be formal, through tutoring orworkshops organized by the host government or in-country staff, orinformally, through conversations and reading. Your learning will continueafter you become a Volunteer, formally and through in-service trainingopportunities, specialized language or technical workshops, and a close-of-service workshop to help you evaluate your service and prepare for yourreturn to the United States.Formal opportunities for ongoing learning in Albania include the following: 1. Language Refresher training 2. Project Design and Management workshops 3. Technical in-service training events 4. Mid-service conferences 5. Close of Service conferenceThe number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the Peace Corps training system isthat learning events are competency-based, designed, implemented, andevaluated cooperatively by the Peace Corps staff and Volunteers. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 32
  34. 34. YOUR HEALTH CARE ANDSAFETY IN ALBANIAThe Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safetyof each Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive,rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Albaniamaintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer, who takes care ofVolunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such astesting and basic treatment, are also available in Albania at local hospitals. Ifyou 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 AlbaniaGood health results from good health maintenance. Major health problemsamong Volunteers in Albania are rare and often the result of Volunteers nottaking preventive measures to stay healthy. Health problems in Albania aresimilar to those that exist in the United States: colds, flu, diarrhea, skininfections, headaches, minor injuries, dental problems, STIs, adjustmentproblems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent orcompounded by life in Albania because of exposure to unfamiliar stresses.Helping You Stay HealthyThe Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations,medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Albania,you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receivea 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 suppliesthrough the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your ownsupply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies yourequire, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Pleasebring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since theymay not be available here and it may take several months for shipments toarrive. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 33
  35. 35. You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If youdevelop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officerin Albania will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington,D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Albania, youmay be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.Maintaining Your HealthAs a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your ownhealth. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of seriousillness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremelyimportant in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to thestandards of the United States.Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable ifproper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include foodpoisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, Guinea worms,tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specificstandards for water and food preparation in Albania during pre-servicetraining.Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV andother sexually transmitted diseases. You are taking risks if you choose to besexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex.Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyoneelse, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You willreceive more information from the medical officer about this importantissue.Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control toprevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decideon the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptivemethods are available without charge from the medical officer.It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office orother designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let themedical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 34
  36. 36. Women’s Health InformationPregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer healthconditions that require medical attention but also have programmaticramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medicalrisk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remainsin-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and workin Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical andprogrammatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on thelocal market, the Peace Corps medical officer in Albania will provide them.If you require a specific product, please bring a three-month supply withyou.Your Peace Corps Medical KitThe Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a kit that containsbasic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur duringservice. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.Medical Kit ContentsAce bandagesAdhesive tapeAmerican Red Cross First Aid & Safety HandbookAntacid tablets (Tums)Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)Band-AidsButterfly closuresCalamine lotionCepacol lozengesCondomsDental flossDiphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s) PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 35
  37. 37. Iodine tablets (for water purification)Lip balm (Chapstick)Oral rehydration saltsOral thermometer (Fahrenheit)Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)ScissorsSterile gauze padsTetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)Tinactin (antifungal cream)TweezersBefore You Leave: A Medical ChecklistIf there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you mustimmediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose newillnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and mayjeopardize your eligibility to serve.If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical examis more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to findout whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corpsdental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment orrepair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sendsrequested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’soffice to obtain a copy of your immunization record and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corpsservice, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corpswill provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment,either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in Albania.You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 36
  38. 38. Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-the-countermedication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Althoughthe Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it willorder refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can takeseveral months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. ThePeace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such asSt. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by yourphysician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if youare questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescriptiondrugs.If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If apair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information yourdoctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during yourexamination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lensesduring your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection orother eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate waterand sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The PeaceCorps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unlessan ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medicalcondition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has givenapproval.If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a healthcondition that may restrict your future participation in health care plans, youmay wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needsbefore your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until youcomplete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health care benefits described in the Peace Corps VolunteerHandbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan ineffect during your service if you think age or pre-existing conditions mightprevent you from re-enrolling in your current plan when you return home. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 37
  39. 39. Safety and Security—Our PartnershipServing as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks.Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understandingof the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthyAmerican are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Propertytheft and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexualassault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years ofservice without serious personal safety problems.Beyond knowing that Peace Corps approaches safety and security as apartnership with you, it might be helpful to see how this partnership works.The Peace Corps has policies, procedures, and training in place to promoteyour safety. We depend on you to follow those policies and to put intopractice 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. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 38
  40. 40. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and VolunteerLifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety that allinclude important safety and security information to help you understandthis partnership. The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers thetools they need to function in the safest way possible, because working tomaximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Notonly do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for theunexpected, but we teach you to identify, reduce, and manage the risks youmay encounter.Factors that Contribute to Volunteer RiskThere are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of whichare within the Volunteer’s control. By far the most common crime thatVolunteers experience is theft. Thefts often occur when Volunteers are awayfrom their sites, in crowded locations (such as markets or on publictransportation), and when leaving items unattended. Before you depart forAlbania there are several measures you can take to reduce 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 insuranceAfter you arrive in Albania, you will receive more detailed informationabout common crimes, factors that contribute to Volunteer risk, and localstrategies to reduce that risk. For example, Volunteers in Albania 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 PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 39
  41. 41. • Make friends with local people who are respected in the community• Limit alcohol consumptionAs you can see from this list, you have to be willing to work hard and adaptyour lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target for crime. As withanywhere in the world, crime does exist in Albania. You can reduce yourrisk 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; peopleknow each other and generally are less likely to steal from their neighbors.Tourist attractions in large towns are favorite worksites for pickpockets.Volunteers tend to attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at theirsites, but they are more likely to receive negative attention in highlypopulated centers, and away from their support network —friends andcolleagues—who look out for them. While whistles and exclamations maybe fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dressconservatively, abide by local cultural norms, and respond according to thetraining you will receive.Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for CrimeYou must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for yourown safety. You can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your home issecure, and develop relationships in your community that will make you anunlikely victim of crime. While the factors that contribute to your risk inAlbania may be different, in many ways you can better assure your safety bydoing what you would do if you moved to a new city anywhere: Be cautious,check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know wherethe more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You canreduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community,learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corpspolicies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Albania willrequire that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.Volunteers always attract a lot of attention, but usually receive far morenegative attention in larger towns, where they are anonymous, than insmaller towns, where family, friends, and colleagues look out for them. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 40
  42. 42. While gestures and exclamations from strangers may be fairly common onthe street, these behaviors can be reduced if you dress appropriately, avoideye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Even if you do all ofthese things, however, you may receive unwanted attention and harassmentregularly throughout the duration of your service.Carry valuables close to your body or under your clothing. Undergarmentmoney pouches, the kind that hang around your neck and stay hidden, workwell. Do not keep money or valuables in outside pockets of backpacks, incoat pockets, or in fanny packs. Keep track of your belongings at all times.Be wary of overly friendly strangers, particularly near bus stations. Avoidplaces that make you uncomfortable and make inquiries before you wanderoff alone. Women need to take extra precautions; it is not advisable for themto walk alone after dark. Finally, be very careful in drinking alcohol. Themost common factors in injuries and security incidents involving Volunteersworldwide are alcohol consumption and being out late at night.Support from StaffIf a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staffis prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures inplace to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. Thefirst priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure theVolunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuringthe safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff members provide support byreassessing the Volunteer’s worksite and housing arrangements and makingany adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident maynecessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assistVolunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against theperpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers reportincidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also topreserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in theprocess that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, thisoption may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not beenpreserved at the time of the incident. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 41
  43. 43. Crime Data for AlbaniaThe country-specific data chart below shows the average annual rates of themajor types of crimes reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees inAlbania compared to all other Europe, Mediterranean and Asia programs asa whole. It can be understood as an approximation of the number of reportedincidents per 100 Volunteers in a year.The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime eventsrelative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as aratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is ameasure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically validway to compare crime data across countries. 1 2 Incidence Rates and Average Number of Reported Incidents in PC/Albania and EMA Region, 2003-2007³ (5)(149) 12.0 10.9 Events by Number and Rate² 10.0 (2) (37) 8.0 7.3 7.1 ALBANIA 6.0 EMA 4.0 3.3 (<1) (29) (<1) (32) (0)(19) (0) (5) (<1) (15) 1.6 1.5 2.0 1.2 1.4 0.9 (0) (2) 0.4 0.8 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 y lt lt lt ry e t m ef ar au au au ap be is Th gl ss ss ss R al ob ur nd .A .A A R B x. Va gg ys Se Ph A er er th th O OFew Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of serious crimes and crimes thatdo occur overseas are investigated and prosecuted by local authoritiesthrough the local courts system. If you are the victim of a crime, you willdecide if you wish to pursue prosecution. If you decide to prosecute, PeaceCorps will be there to assist you. One of our tasks is to ensure you are fullyinformed of your options and understand how the local legal process works. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 42
  44. 44. Peace Corps will help you ensure your rights are protected to the fullestextent possible under the laws of the country.If you are the victim of a serious crime, you will learn how to get to a safelocation as quickly as possible and contact your Peace Corps office. It’simportant that you notify Peace Corps as soon as you can so Peace Corpscan provide you with the help you need.Volunteer Safety Support in AlbaniaThe Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you staysafe 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. Albania’s in-country safety program is outlined below.The Peace Corps/Albania office will keep you informed of any issues thatmay impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updateswill be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from thecountry director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, you will becontacted through the emergency communication network. An importantcomponent of the capacity of the Peace Corps to keep you informed is yourbuy-in to the partnership concept with the Peace Corps staff. It is expectedthat you will do your part in ensuring that Peace Corps staff members arekept apprised of your movements in-country so that they are capable ofinforming you.Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and securityissues in Albania. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturallyappropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reducesrisk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offeredthroughout service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural aspects,health, and other components of training. You will be expected tosuccessfully 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 forVolunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 43
  45. 45. host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for aVolunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles insupporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’sarrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing andworksites. Site selection is based, in part, on any relevant site history; accessto medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability ofcommunications, transportation, and markets; different housing options andliving arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.You will also learn about Peace Corps/Albania’s detailed emergency actionplan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or anatural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submita site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to yourhouse. If there is a security threat, you will gather with other Volunteers inAlbania at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or thePeace Corps decides to evacuate.Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs ofVolunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any securityincident to the Peace Corps office. The Peace Corps has establishedprotocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely andappropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data totrack trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.DIVERSITY ANDCROSS-CULTURAL ISSUESIn fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, thePeace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness isreflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving intoday’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race,ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected andwelcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to helpdispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establishthat each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our manydifferences. PEACE CORPS | ALBANIA WELCOME BOOK 44