Once I decided to move to Madagascar, the HOW became the next item on the list. I was fine to just branch out on my own, and I looked online for I.T. jobs there, trying to figure out if I’d need a work permit, visa requirements, etc., and it was all a bit confusing. Their Web site has almost too much information, and their focus is clearly on younger, college kids, since they make up the majority of PCVs, Peace Corps Volunteers.
I knew I was going to move to Madagascar, but I didn’t know exactly how. I went on some Malagasy job boards to see if there were any I.T. jobs I thought I could handle, but there was always gonna be a language issue unless I remained around the capital city, Antananarivo (ann-tana-na-REE-vo). I tried to research what kind of citizenship status I’d need, work permit, etc., but found there were several “job brokers” online who could help me with this, but they all sounded like rip-off artists. So, I decided to try to move to Madagascar as a volunteer with some NGO (non-governmental organization, a non-profit group that is independent from the country’s government), and when I did a search for “volunteer in Madagascar,” I found dozens of groups operating there, and in most cases you have to pay to volunteer with them, providing your own travel expenses and paying for your room and board plus a donation to the group. It’s easy enough to find out which ones were legit and which ones were not, but the problem I found was that most wanted to keep me just a matter of weeks (between 2-12 weeks), while I wanted to be there for several years. And the only one that provided me the length of time I wanted to spend there was the Peace Corps.
Applying for the Peace Corps is a multi-month process. You first need to find a position you can reasonably fill (in my case, Health Education Worker), then a location where you want to work (or vice-versa). Once you find a good “fit,” you have to apply for it based on the departure date and length of stay. When I started looking in May 2016, the deadline for my application was May 31, with a departure date of January 2017, eight months later. BEFORE I submitted my application, I reached out and found a PCV mentor to help me with the process. I’d devised a unique resumé that would not only get their attention but would show how and why I’m uniquely qualified for that position in Madagascar.
However, my mentor wasn’t impressed and she strongly suggested I just convert it to a plain ol’, normal (boring) resumé… which I did (but I wasn’t happy about it).
Once my application had been submitted, I began to receive invitations for local Peace Corps events, and I attended as many as I could. It quickly became obvious that these events were geared for college students, and I was always the oldest person in the room. Many of the presentations included information useless for me (student loan deferrals, college credit, etc.), and there was never anyone of color at the events, but I was undeterred because Madagascar has been calling me and my acceptance into the Peace Corps was already true, in my mind – I just had to wait for the world to catch up.
There were several phone interviews and one Skype, and one PCV had given me great suggestions about how to handle tough questions (which, as it turns out, I never needed to use), and in fact, the Peace Corps employees with whom I worked were practically falling over themselves to make this happen because they truly value mature PCVs and PCVs of color. I received my official invitation from the Peace Corps in August, at which point the volcano of documentation began to erupt. Working for the Peace Corps is a U.S. government job, which requires all sorts of clearances (background check, fingerprints, and a bevy of medical tests and exams), you have to apply for a second passport (this one is free, and is valid only as long as you’re working for the Peace Corps) by sending in your current one, while you wait… and wait… and wait for them to return both passports to you.