Training for Tonga Group 64 was held principally in Tongatapu and the
Island Group of Ha'apai for ten weeks, beginning on October 5th when the
Trainees arrived in the Kingdom and ending today, the 12 of December with
16 Trainees. The project was managed and executed by a training staff
consisting of a Training Manager, two coordinators, one technical trainer,
four Language Cultural Technical Facilitators, known as LCTFs, a training
secretary, and one support staff.
The content was divided among four major subject areas: Language, Cross-Cultural,
Technical and Health/Safety/Security. These components were developed
throughout different phases of training with each phase designed to articulate
specific content and focus areas.
ONE: Bridge to Training
Beginning on October 5th and ending on October 15th, the primary focus
of this ten-day period was general orientation to the Peace Corps Tonga
Post, its projects and operations, the Kingdom of Tonga with regards to
Language and Culture, and to the goals, objectives and expectations of
this Pre-Service Training.
TWO: Homestay, Center and School Observations
This phase of training was held in Ha'apai for five and a half
weeks from October 16th to November 22nd . The main purpose was to provide
the Trainees with general community experiences by living and interacting
with Tongan families. In these families, the Trainees were exposed to
Tongan family life in the villages of Pangai, Ha'ato'u, and Hihifo. The
Homestay families helped the trainees in many ways: from sharing traditions,
legends, and culturally appropriate behaviors for a variety of settings
to blending them into daily routines and preparing local food for them.
During this time the four subject areas of this training were highlighted.
Language classes were held at least once a day to provide a sound basis
for understanding not only Tongan Language, but also the culture. Technical
Education, Cross-Cultural and Health/Safety/Security sessions were held
at the Ha'apai Youth Center once a week after an initial two-week half-day
schedule. The Trainees designed, organized and facilitated a Community
day in Pangai as an exercise in community involvement and activity. Trainees
also participated in six-day school observation periods at primary
and secondary schools throughout Ha'apai. At the conclusion of the Homestay
Phase of Training, the Trainees demonstrated and presented aspects of
Tongan Culture they had learned from their Homestay families for a celebration
called 'Aho Faka Tonga ("Day of Tongan Way").
PHASE THREE: Attachment
From November 22nd until December 5th the Trainees were matched with Volunteers
currently serving at sites in 'Eua, Tongatapu, Nomkua, Vava'u, Niuatoputapu
and Niuafo'ou. The main purpose for this phase was to provide Trainees
with an opportunity to experience Volunteer life firsthand. LCTFs traveled
to each Island group and continued to provide language instruction.
FOUR: Bridge to service
After Attachment, the Trainees moved back to Nuku'alofa for the final
phase of Pre-Service Training from December 6th to December 11th. These
days were designed to prepare the Trainees for the transition from training
to service. During this time, Trainees completed all training, administrative
and medical requirements. On the final day of Bridge to Service, Trainees
met with and facilitated a workshop with supervisors and counterparts
from their sites. This workshop provided a valuable first connection for
Volunteers and their supervisors or counterparts. Finally, they have made
the decision and commitment to take the Peace Corps Oath to serve as volunteers
overall goal of this training was TO PREPARE THE TRAINEES TO BECOME
SAFE, CULTURALLY-SENSITIVE, SELF-RELIANT AND PRODUCTIVE VOLUNTEERS.
The objectives that were set for the Trainees to be able to do by today
1) attain a comfortable level using survival and basic Tongan language
skills, technical and cross cultural skills, and health and safety maintenance
skills necessary to allow them to serve effectively,
2) model the following skills of proficient development workers-critical
thinking, creative problem solving, information gathering and analysis,
flexibility, patience and self-reliance,
3) describe Peace Corps/Tonga' development strategy,
4) acquire the skills and information to function effectively as a facilitator
assisting organizations and communities in defining problems, identifying
assets and finding solutions.
5) Establish a support network across borders and at all levels of Tongan
society-individual, professional, organizational, community, district,
6) identify strategies to build counterpart relationships,
7) effectively manage the communication process utilizing listening and
questioning skills, giving/receiving feedback, and interpreting non-verbal
8) manage loneliness, isolation and stress, utilizing an understanding
of basic nutrition, hygiene, and personal health and safety skills in
the context of the Tongan community,
9) familiarize themselves with their assignments and acquire the necessary
skills to complete assignments successfully,
10) clarify their understanding of what is expected of them as a Volunteer
in order to set professional and personal goals and to measure their progress,
11) incorporate their understanding of the PC's mission and the Post's
specific mission into activities and projects.
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Via email from Justin:
We have now been in Tonga for a week. General observations
of Nuku 'Alofa, the capital: There is a surprising amount of traffic
here. Many cars and vans driving on the wrong side of the street.
The capital is on Tongatapu, which is the largest island. You get
the sense in Nuku 'Alofa that there is a lot of western influence
compared to the rest of the country . Men wear pants and shorts
in the street (not while working or in school, where they wear tapenu
and ta'avala, which are skirts and a mat-like belt) and women wear
pants and sometimes tank tops. There are a lot of stray dogs, pigs
and roosters. There is a lot of trash in the streets.
Besides our training classes, which take place
in the Peace Corps office all day and are pretty intensive, we have
been to church twice, had a traditional Tongan feast and partaken
in kava. We also had a tour of the island, where we saw a couple
of beaches and some ancient ruins. We have been hitting some palangi
(westerner) bars, and this past weekend went to Pheonix, the biggest
local nightclub. It was very fun -- mostly Tongans dancing to Nelly
and Eminem, which is very popular here.
Tuesday we take off for Ha'apai for our family
stays. Ha'apai is another island group where things have not been
so influenced by western culture. It is supposedly like going back
in time, and all the training we have had will come into play about
culture. We were told to expect the family to feed us, while we
sit on the floor, and they stand and watch and only eat what we
don't finish. This could include fish heads and pig brains -- mmmm.
We are looking forward to the experience, but not the 13 hour boat
After that we have 2 week site visits, maybe separate
from each other, and then off to our placement site (which we don't
As far as what we wil be doing, we think that I
(Sasitini) will be teaching computers and Rebecca (Lepeka) will
be teaching primary English. We have visited schools last week,
and the whole education system seems a little depressing. We will
also have secondary projects we will develop while in site. Other
than that, we are having a great time. The rest of our group is
very interesting. We are not the "old married couple."
There are two other married couples out of 16 people, and we are
the youngest. There are a lot of recent college grads too, and they
happen to be the most fun (surprise surprise). Everyone gets along
great though, and we feel like we have known them all forever. The
current volunteers are very cool as well.
|For more information
see the excellent website of Peace Corps volunteer Paul
Neville, who served in Tonga 2001-3.
|Check out the
website of Peace Corps volunteer Mike
Lebson (Tonga 2001-03), who has dozens of observations about contemporary