I spent the last two weeks in Porto Novo as a Volunteer-Trainer for this year’s training (Stage) of incoming volunteers, endearing known as Stagaires until September’s swearing in. September also happens to be the Peace Corps Benin Program’s 40th Anniversary.
Stage consists of 9 weeks of intensive classroom and self-directed learning geared towards producing skilled, resourceful, and productive volunteers once they begin living and working at their assigned posts. This includes the development of sector-specific technical skills, cultural knowledge, French language competency, and certain “survival skills” (safety and health issues, bike maintenance, even cooking lessons).
One of the best parts of stage is meeting the new trainees. This year’s group is no less interesting than other years. Aside from the many recent college grads, there’s an architect who has worked on an amusement park in Dubai, a former accountant with one of the big 3 firms, an experienced nurse, quite a few from the non-profit fields, and many others from interesting backgrounds and geographies.