Friends and Family

 Here is some of the information PC have given me for my friends and family to be less stressed about me being far away for two years. 

Communicating with your
Peace Corps Volunteer while overseas

February 5, 2013

Dear Family,

Greetings from the Caribbean Desk in Washington, DC.  It is with great pleasure that we welcome your family member to the Peace Corps Dominican Republic training program.  We receive 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 the following advice in advance

If it's written in red I erased the falsity in the original letter and wrote in the reality.

1.  Written Communication.   (Please see #3 for the mailing address to Peace Corps' office in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic)  The mail service in the Dominican Republic is neither as efficient nor as predictable as the U.S. Postal Service, thus it is important to be patient.  

It will take FOREVER for a letter in a small envelope to make it to the DR. I am pretty sure they sit it in a room and look at it for months. Packages and larger padded envelopes actually come a lot faster so if you are going to send me something send me a care package and put a letter inside it.) 

We suggest that you let your volunteer know the length of time it takes to receive his/her letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often the Volunteer will write. (Keep in mind that written correspondence sometimes wanes as the Volunteer’s service progresses and he or she becomes more occupied with work and community.)  Also, numbering your letters allows your Volunteer to know if one is missing.  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.  This is one of the exciting and adventurous elements of serving as a Volunteer. Anecdotes in letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, transportation challenges, etc.  While the subject matter is good reading material, it is often misinterpreted or exaggerated on the home front.  There are two Peace Corps medical officers assigned to the Peace Corps office in Santo Domingo to provide care to volunteers. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer is sent to the capital, and is cared for by our medical staff.  If Volunteers require medical care that is not available in the Dominican Republic, they are medically evacuated to Washington, DC.  Fortunately, these circumstances are rare. 

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 Counseling and Outreach Unit (COU) at Peace Corps Washington at 1-855-855-1961, press 3 for the staff directory, then ext. 1470.  Also, in the case of an emergency at home (death in the family, sudden illness, etc.), please call COU immediately so that we can inform the Volunteer. Use the above number at all times. After hours or during the weekends, tell the operator your name, telephone number, and the nature of the emergency; the Duty Officer will return your call.

2.  Telephone Calls.  The telephone service in Dominican Republic is relatively good, and service in and out of the DR to the United States is reliable throughout most of the country.  During training, your family member may have scarce access to email, but many of the host training families have phones. Your family member will communicate what that phone number is, if applicable. 

During their service, email accessibility should increase. A mobile phone will be assigned to each Peace Corps Volunteer within the first month in country.  Your family member will be able to use the Peace Corps/Dominican Republic-issued cell phone to call friends and family back home by purchasing phone cards/plans.  They will be able to inform you of the actual telephone numbers once they have been assigned a phone; many Volunteers live in serviceable areas, but some may have to travel a considerable distance for reliable cell coverage. I have coverage. 

The Caribbean Desk maintains regular contact with the Peace Corps office in Santo Domingo via phone 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, email, or personal phone calls; unless there is an emergency and you cannot reach your family member. 

This is mostly true, but I have a phone now and I have service and my number is 849-254-5694. That is an international number, so don't think it's not, because it is and you will regret calling if you don't get a calling card. Except I'll be on the other line, so maybe you won't.

3.  Sending packages.  Relatives often like to mail care packages.  Unfortunately, mailing packages can be a frustrating experience due to the high incidence of theft and expensive customs tax.  You may try mailing inexpensive items, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive.  We do not recommend mailing costly items.  Although 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:     

Send me a package using the regular USPS. Don't ask for a signature. Don't get fancy, just put it in the mail and wait like two weeks and I will have it. I am more likely to get a package than a letter. I think because of size they just get rid of the packages and set the letters in a stack until it reaches 17 feet. Really, I have no idea, but a simple letter takes FOREVER.        

Amanda (my last name), PCV
Cuerpo de Paz
APDO 1412
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic

If you want to get fancy, my mailbox is E-20. 

It is recommended that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed and opened more frequently. 

4.  Volunteer Travel.  The proximity of the Dominican Republic to the United States makes vacation travel to the United States very tempting.  Peace Corps encourages Volunteers to remain in their communities during major holidays as these are excellent opportunities to integrate into their communities.  We also hope that Volunteers will refrain from traveling back to the United States during the first year of their service. However, we view the close proximity to the Dominican Republic as an opportunity for you to visit the Dominican Republic to see firsthand what your family member is accomplishing.

Come visit! I have no idea when I will go back to the states, but I want you to come here and it will be fun. I haven't had my first visitor yet, but it is planned and I am here to guarantee fun! 

We hope this information is helpful to you—it is provided as a guideline. We understand that communication with a family member overseas can be challenging.  Please feel free to contact me at the Caribbean Desk in Washington, D.C. if you have any further questions.  My phone number is 1-855-855-1961, press 3 for the staff directory, then ext. 2512, or you can call me directly at (202) 692-2512.


Jennifer Mayo, Desk Officer      
And Amanda Cham          

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