The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love...Kenya

The contents of this website are my own PERSONAL opinion. They do not reflect the opinions, policies, actions, feelings, or eating habits of the Peace Corps, the U.S. Government, any government, shadow governments, or anyone else, for that matter, but ME.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Family Letter -- PC Kenya

OK Gang...

I'll be giving out a hard copy of this before I jet, but this will be here as a reference copy. Now, not hearing from me for months on end is nothing new to you (my beloved friends and famly), but here are the official instructions for staying in touch. Now, you know you should check here first, as I might be more likely to post as to send a mass email. So, without further adu...


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

March 2005

Dear Families,

Greetings from the Kenya Desk in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that we welcome your family member to Peace Corps. During the past year we have received many requests from Volunteers and family members alike 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 they be handled.

Irregular Communication
The mail service in Kenya is not as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service. Thus, it is important to be patient. It can take three to four weeks for mail coming from Kenya to arrive in the United States via the Kenyan postal system. From a Volunteer's post, mail might take 1-2 months to reach the United States. Sometimes mail is hand carried to the States by a traveler and then mailed through the US 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 for him/her to receive your letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other. We would also like to suggest that you consider the use of "aerograms," generally a blue sheet of paper which folds into an envelope. These are available in most stationary stores or at post offices. Volunteers have had good success in receiving their mail in this form. Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows if 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. Please do not assume that if your family member has been ill that he or she has been unattended. Peace Corps has a doctor and two physician's assistants on staff in Nairobi. Through regular contact, they monitor the health of the Volunteers. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer comes to Nairobi and is cared for by our medical staff. If the Volunteer requires medical care that is not available in Kenya, he/she will be medically evacuated to South Africa or the United States, depending on the medical care required. Fortunately, these are rare circumstances.

If, for some reason, your communication pattern is broken and you do not hear from your family member for three months, you should contact the Office of Special Services (OSS) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-800-424-8580, extension 1470. OSS will then contact the Peace Corps Director and ask her/him to check up on the Volunteer. Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), please do not hesitate to call OSS or our weekend and off hours Duty Officer (202) 638-2574 immediately so that the Volunteer will be informed as soon as possible.

Telephone Calls
The telephone system in Kenya is relatively good. Service to the United States is somewhat reliable, phones exist in most larger towns and Volunteers can often plan to be at a phone on a certain date to receive calls from home. This usually works, but there are also innumerable factors that can make the best-laid plans fall apart.

The Kenya Desk communicates the Peace Corps office in Nairobi daily. However, these calls are reserved for business only and we cannot relay personal messages over the phone. All communication between family members and the Volunteer must be done via international mail.

Sending mail during Pre Service Training (PST)

Your name, Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 30518
Nairobi, Kenya

Sending packages
Both 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 possible 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 Volunteers choose to get local post office boxes, you may use the following address to send letters to your family member at any time during his or her service:

John Doe, PCV
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 30518
Village Market, 00621
Nairobi, Kenya

We recommend that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more frequently. Custom fees can be quite expensive. For lightweight but important items (e.g. airline tickets), several services, such as DHL, FedEx, TNT, and UPS operate in Kenya. These services however, are very expensive, and can cost as much as $70 for a letter. If you do choose to send items through them, you must address the package to the Country Director, c/o Peace Corps, Nairobi, Kenya. (The street address of the Peace Corps office in Nairobi is: Grivellia Groove, Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya). If you send the item to the Country Director, no liability can be assumed.

Sending airplane tickets and/or cash is not recommended. Certain airlines will allow you to buy a pre-paid ticket in the States; they will telex their Nairobi office to have the ticket ready. Unfortunately, this system is not always reliable. Several European carriers fly to Kenya. Please call the airline of your choice for more information. You could also send tickets via mail services as mentioned previously. However, Peace Corps will assume no liability in the event of a lost/stolen airline ticket.

Trying to send cash or checks is very risky and is discouraged. If your Volunteer family member requests money from you, it is his/her responsibility to arrange for its receipt. There is Western Union service available in Nairobi, although there are many charges involved in the sending and exchange of money. Bear in mind that Volunteers will be aware of people visiting the States and can request that they call the Volunteers' families when they arrive in the States should airline tickets or cash need to be sent back to Kenya.

We hope this information is helpful to you during the time your family member is serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. We understand how frustrating communication difficulties can be when your family member is overseas. and we appreciate your using this information as a guide. Please feel free to contact us at the Kenya Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions. Our phone number is 1-800-424-8580, ext. 2324/2323 or locally, 202-692-2324/202-692-2302.


  • At 1:21 PM, Blogger Justina said…

    Hey there Misty - It's me, Justina, from the yahoo group. Thanks for the letter to family - was this sent to you by PC or did you compile it yourself? I'm asking because *I* didn't get one from PC, hmphh.

  • At 2:00 PM, Blogger Me said…

    PC Kenya desk email this to me. I am sure it will be coming to you
    soon! Welcome. How is everything going? How long was your process
    from application to invitation?


  • At 5:22 PM, Blogger Justina said…

    Aarrrghhh! It felt like 5 years, but it was only about 10 months. I applied in April and got my invite in Feb. I called DC when I got the letter and asked if I could be assigned to a French-speaking country instead. They did not take well to that idea. I was accused of not being committed to the Peace Corps mission and asked to reassess my true motivations for applying. I will just assume that that is an aberration and not PC modus operandus.


Post a Comment

<< Home