Saturday, January 29, 2011

Letter to Family & Friends

 Here is a letter the Peace Corps gave us to distribute:

January 2011
Dear Families and Friends,

Greetings from the Zambia Desk at the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to the Peace Corps circle of friendship. We receive many questions from family members and friends about life in Zambia over the course of the Volunteer’s two years of service, so we would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance.

1. Irregular Communication. (Please see #3 for the mailing address to Peace Corps' office in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia) Mail in Zambia is fairly reliable. Volunteers find they generally receive mail and packages from the United States two to four weeks after it has been sent. The same is true in sending mail from Zambia. Of course, there are exceptional cases in which a letter or a package might arrive within a shorter period or be substantially delayed. Some mail may simply not arrive. We suggest that in your first letters you ask the Volunteer to give an estimate of how long it takes for him/her 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 if he/she has missed one.

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is a rewarding experience; however, there will also be times that Volunteers will feel frustrated and they may write home telling of their "war" stories. Letters might describe recent illnesses, frustration with work, lack of resources, information, and infrastructure, etc. While the subject matter may be good reading material, it can often be misinterpreted on the home front. Volunteers have a support network in country, which includes other Peace Corps Volunteers, counterparts and community members at their site, as well as Peace Corps/Zambia staff. The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps/Zambia maintains a medical unit with full-time medical officers, who provide for the Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatments, are available in Zambia and in South Africa. If the Volunteer is seriously ill, they will be transported to South Africa or to the United States.

If for some reason your communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member, you may want to contact the Zambia Desk or 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 a message can be sent to the Volunteer. Use the above number during regular business hours (9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday). After hours, or during weekends, the Peace Corps Duty Officer may be reached at (202) 692-1470. Tell the operator your name, telephone number, and the nature of the emergency and the Duty Officer will
call you back.

2. Telephone Calls. Telephone lines in Zambia are fairly reliable. During the pre-service training though, opportunities for the trainees to call the United States will be limited. Most Volunteers purchase cell phones. Volunteers may or may not have residential phones; however, some Volunteers, use public phones, or find that a neighbor or the organization they work with has a phone they are able to use to make and receive calls. They will be able to inform you of telephone numbers where you might reach them once they arrive at their permanent sites.

The Zambia Desk maintains regular contact with the Peace Corps office in Lusaka through phone calls and e-mail. 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, personal phone calls, or e-mail. Volunteers may have access to e-mail at Internet cafes on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on their location.

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 occasional thefts and customs taxes. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. Even though many Volunteers choose to get local post office boxes, you may also use the following address to send letters and/or packages:

Name of Volunteer, PCV
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 50707

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 Lusaka. If you choose to send items through DHL, you must address the package to the Country Director, c/o U. S. Peace Corps/Zambia, 71A Kabulonga Road, Kabulonga, Lusaka, Zambia (the phone number for the Peace Corps office in Zambia is 260-21-1260377, as DHL will need this information). If you send the item to the Country Director, no liability can be assumed. For more information about DHL, please call their toll free number, 1-800-CALL-DHL, or visit their web site at . Other courier services do operate in Lusaka - DHL is only one possibility.

I hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member or friend is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. I 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 me at the Zambia Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. My phone number is 1-800-424- 8580, ext. 2329, or locally, 202-692-2329/2307.

Jolie Carey
Zambia Desk Officer
Ext: 2329


  1. I hope I get a letter similar to this! Very useful to send out. My family's concern is how they will find out that we arrived safely! Any idea?

  2. Ummm in a separate document, it told us "You will not have regular access to email during PST. However, you will have limited time during orientation to send an email home letting family and friends know you have arrived."
    So, basically sounds like "your one phone call" from jail....they give us each a quick turn to email home lol....