Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Information from the Peace Corps to Pass on to Family & Friends

Gracey asked me to pass on the following letter from the Peace Corps to all family & friends.....

Dear Prospective Volunteer: Please give this letter to your family & friends and ask them to hold on to it for as long as you are in Mozambique.


September 2008

Dear Families & Friends,

Greetings from the Mozambique Desk in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that we welcome your family member to the 2008 Mozambique training program. During the past year we have received many questions from Volunteers and family members regarding travel plans, sending money, relaying messages and mail, etc. As we are unable to involve ourselves in the personal arrangements of Volunteers, we would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance by providing specific examples of situations and how we suggest you handle them.

1. Irregular Communication. (Please see #3 for the mailing address to Peace Corps' office in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique) The mail service in Mozambique is not as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service; thus, it is important to be patient. It can take two to four weeks for mail coming from Maputo to arrive in the United States via the Mozambican postal system. From a Volunteer's site, mail might take 1-2 months to reach the United States. Sometimes mail is hand carried to the United States by a traveler and mailed through the U.S. postal system. This leg of the trip can take another several weeks as it is also dependent on the frequency of travelers to the U.S.

We suggest that in your first letters, you ask your Volunteer family member to give an estimate of how long it takes to receive your letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other. Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows he/she has missed one. Postcards should be sent in envelopes--otherwise they may be found on the wall of the local post office!

Volunteers often enjoy telling their “war” stories when they write home. Letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, etc. While the subject matter is good reading material, it is often misinterpreted on the home front. There is a Peace Corps medical officer at the Peace Corps office in Maputo. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer is sent to Maputo and is cared for by our medical staff. If the Volunteer requires medical care that is not available in Mozambique he/she will be medically evacuated to Pretoria, South Africa, or the United States. Fortunately, these are rare circumstances.

If for some reason your normal communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member for an abnormal amount of time, you may want to contact the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, extension 1470. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), please do not hesitate to call OSS immediately, so that we can inform the Peace Corps office in Maputo. Tell the operator your name, telephone number, and the nature of the emergency and the Duty Officer will return your call.

2. Telephone Calls. The telephone system in Mozambique is relatively good and service in and out of Maputo to the United States is mostly reliable. In the interior of the country, where most of the Volunteers are located, phones are fewer in number and of decreased reliability. Volunteers do not have residential phones; however, they have the opportunity to make and receive international calls through public phones or personal cell phones that can be purchased locally. They will be able to inform you of the actual telephone numbers once they arrive at their permanent sites in the country.

The Mozambique Desk maintains regular contact with the Peace Corps office in Maputo through phone calls and email. However, these communications are reserved for business only and cannot be used to relay personal messages. All communication between family members and the Volunteer should be done via international mail or personal phone calls.

3. Sending packages. Parents and Volunteers like to send and receive care packages through the mail. Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to the high incidence of theft and heavy customs taxes. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. We do not recommend, however, that costly items be sent through the mail. Even though many Volunteers choose to get local post office boxes, you may always use the following address to send letters and/or packages to your family member:

John Doe, PCV
Corpo da Paz/U. S. Peace Corps
C.P. 4398
Maputo
Mozambique


It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more frequently. For lightweight but important items (e.g. airline tickets), DHL (an express mail service) does operate in Maputo.

If you choose to send items through DHL, you must address the package to:

John Doe, PCV
c/o U. S. Peace Corps Mozambique
Avenida Zimbabwe 345
Maputo
Mozambique

(The phone number for the Peace Corps office in Mozambique is 258-21-49-9082, as DHL will need this information).


For more information about DHL, please call their toll free number, 1-800-CALL-DHL, or visit their web site at www.dhl.com. Other courier services may operate in Maputo; DHL is only one possibility. Shop around to find the best prices and service options.

We hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique. We understand how frustrating it is to communicate with your family member overseas and we appreciate your using this information as a guideline. Please feel free to contact us at the Mozambique Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. Our phone number is 1-800-424-8580, ext. 2331 or 2332, or locally, 202-692-2331 or 202-692-2332.


Sincerely,

Julie Appelhagen, Country Desk Officer
Seana Lammers, Country Desk Assistant

Mozambique Country Desk
Peace Corps
Phone: (800) 424-8580 ext. 2331 or ext. 2332 or (202) 692-2331, 2332
Fax (202) 692-2301

Monday, September 22, 2008

How To Reach Me

Please use the address below if you would like to send letters or packages.

Gracey Uffman, PCT
U.S. Peace Corps
C.P. 4398
Maputo
Mozambique

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pre-Departure



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I have been spending the past couple of months with family and close friends. The hardest part of being in Africa will being so far away from ya'll, but it can be done! Please send me updates on your lives while I'm away.