Ask a Volunteer
Q: Students in the U.S. are looking forward to summer vacation. When do students in your country of service have an extended school vacation? What are some typical vacation activities?
A: The children of Bulgaria enjoy a summer break spanning from June 15 to September 15. During the three-month “po-chief-ka,” children do all the things urban dwellers do in America, only a little different. While we ride our bikes down the paved roads of suburbia, these kids are taking their bikes into the mountains. When we have picnics on the open lot next door, these kids are hiking an hour into the forest for the feast. While we are worrying about mosquitoes and roaches, they are watching for snakes.
And then there are the chores. We need to help mom with folding the laundry, and baking that cherry pie for dinner. When Bulgarian children are finished with the cherry picking, they are hand-washing and hanging the laundry. While brother in America is helping dad change the oil, Bulgarian brother is chopping wood for winter, and tending to the horse that carried it. The children of a Bulgarian village live an agriculture life to its fullest. The connection to nature is something any child could appreciate.
Stephanie Dunnam, Elementary Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Bulgaria
A: April is the hottest month in Cambodia and also has an official two week holiday, which turns into the entire month. During the April vacation, students stay at home and do chores, play with their friends, and go to the local wat (temple) to pray or join the community celebrations there. Students of more affluent families often travel to the seaside or to Angkor Wat, visit family members in other villages, and engage in what PC Cambodia Volunteers have termed "wat hopping" (where they check out the activities at various wats or visit famous monks). We are often invited to have meals or join in parties with our students and their families.
Nicole Canady, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Cambodia
A: Students got an extended “school vacation” when swine flu kicked in and the government shut the schools down for weeks. During that time, and in the summer, students go to the Mongolian countryside, perhaps the least densely populated place in the world, to be with their families.
Tom Speaker, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Mongolia
A: Summer vacation is a time of great displacement for students here in Benin. The break generally lasts from mid-June to mid-October. Some secondary school students spend at least a month away from their villages with relatives elsewhere, often in bigger towns or the economic capital of Cotonou. When I arrived at my village in early September, I was shocked and saddened a few weeks later when some of my best new friends started heading home for the school year to start. But this practice gives them the opportunity to know their extended families and see their own country when otherwise they would rarely have an occasion to do so. No matter where they are, a majority of secondary school students try to find some sort of work to make extra money for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, there isn't much at all in the way of organized summer camps or clubs, which is why so many Peace Corps Volunteers put their time and energy into planning overnight and day camps for students all around the country.
Kristin Sulewski, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Benin
A: In June, learners will be getting ready for the soccer World Cup, which will be hosted in South Africa until the middle of July. Those who can't go to the stadiums will go to fan parks, even in the rural areas. Every Friday we wear jerseys of our favorite teams, so we are all hyped!
Jessica Wright, Secondary Science Teacher Peace Corps Volunteer, South Africa
A: Students in Niger take a summer vacation roughly the same time as American students do. They often start vacation in late June and end around the beginning of October. The primary activity for students during this period is farming. Boys often help their fathers in the millet or sorghum fields while girls help grow beans and peanuts while cooking and other household activities performed year-round. While some students travel, this is typically reserved for college students—a small minority of the student population.
Thomas Leonard, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Niger
A: Kids in Guatemala have a similar type of school schedule except it’s on a different cycle. For example when most schools in the U.S. are getting out for summer break we are in the middle of the school year which begins in mid January and finishes at the middle or end of October. The reason for this, I have been told, is so that the kids can help their families during the harvest time. While there is school it is generally the rainy season. We also have breaks in the springtime during Easter week as well as a break in June and other national holiday days.
Valerie Walker, Elementary Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Guatemala
A: Students in Botswana don't have one extended school vacation like in the U.S. Rather, the school calendar is divided into 3 terms, and following each term the students have a 3-5 week vacation. The longest break, of 5 weeks, is from December to the beginning of January. Many children in my village go to the "lands" (farms) or cattle-posts during the vacation to take care of their family’s crops and livestock. There are many that also just stay in the village with nothing to do. Hence, I am trying to work with a local non-governmental organization to set up recreational activities for youth, specifically during the breaks, but also throughout the year. This is all in an effort to prevent the youth from engaging in risky behaviors that can contribute to the spread of HIV in the country.
Sonia Desai, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Botswana
A: As a volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and teacher at a small village middle school, I get a first-hand view of the stark differences between students from Burkina Faso and the United States: summer break is one example. My students get their summer, and longest, break from the end of May until October 1. Summer vacation is a U.S. concept that my Burkinabé students will likely never be lucky enough to experience. In the States people go on trips, hang out with friends and family, and generally relax during the summer. Here it is quite the opposite. The majority of my students start working in the fields as soon as school ends. If lucky, my students will get the month of June, or just a few weeks, to themselves. Then they will go to the fields to cultivate three to four days a week during July. Once August hits, the students will be in the fields all day, every day. Additionally, a majority of them do not have cars or motos (motorbikes), so they have to walk several kilometers or ride on donkey carts to get to and from the fields. A precious few are fortunate enough to have a bike.
During the school break, girls fall back into doing much of the housework including preparing and serving meals. Some may be lucky enough to take a weekend or a week to visit family elsewhere.
Stephanie Czajkowski, Secondary Science Teacher Peace Corps Volunteer, Burkina Faso
A: Students in Azerbaijan have The Last Bell (graduation) on Saturday, May 29. Then the summer vacation begins. School does not resume here in Azerbaijan until September 15. During the summer months my students travel to visit their relatives. Very few students have ever stayed in a hotel; they only go to visit areas where they have relatives so they can stay in their homes. Because travel can be difficult here in Azerbaijan, when students and their families do go on a trip they may stay several weeks before returning home.
I have a few students who have gone with a large family group to a resort area to enjoy warm spring-water baths, mountain walks, beautiful scenery and time together. Families are very close-knit here in Azerbaijan. A few students will go to visit relatives in a big city.
There are many youth who get bored in the summer because there is not much to do. The boys will be outside playing basketball or football (soccer) most every day. Girls may get to play a little volleyball but girls are discouraged from participating in sports. Girls often have to help with summer cleaning, gardening and preserving food.
There are very few camps and sports for youth in Azerbaijan. Peace Corps Azerbaijan has a camp for girls and a camp for boys that are well attended. Each camp is for one week. This may be the first time a student has ever spent the night away from home or away from family.
When it is time for school to start, the students are anxious to come to school to see friends and have more to do.
Linda Rives, English Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Azerbaijan
A: Students in Guatemala typically have vacations from October through January, which corresponds to the beginning of the rainy season here. Most kids in the rural areas I work in help their families with agricultural activities such planting corn and other chores to support the family. Some also go to live and work with family members in other parts of the country, typically cities. Of course kids also take advantage of free time to play with friends. Last year I organized a mini summer camp for kids in my community, where I taught songs such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and games such as kickball and capture the flag.
Travis Snow, Elementary Education Peace Corps Volunteer, Guatemala