In an effort to cut down on the number of volunteers leaving before their two-year contract is fulfilled, or "early terminating", Peace Corps Micronesia is, as current Country Director David Reside puts it, beginning a process of "re-tooling" their operations in the FSM and Palau. Part of this refurbishment will include temporarily decreasing the number of volunteer work sites in the region in an effort to facilitate more specialized volunteer placement and hopefully improve volunteer retention rates.
Starting in late September and October of this year, Peace Corps assignments in Chuuk for instance were isolated to the Mortlocks only, where 2-3 volunteers will teach English and do youth and community development work. Chuuk, along with the other islands of Micronesia, according to Reside, have had problems with retention rates in recent years, and the Peace Corps has scaled back its volunteer presence in Weno and some other areas presently.
"Our early termination rates over the past few years have been higher than we would want them to be and we felt that we needed to rmake significant changes in our training and in our site development processes," said Reside of the program modifications. Despite the impending decrease in volunteer numbers in the region, Peace Corps Micronesia insists that it is really just a part of a longer term plan to actually increase volunteer numbers here in the future.
In late September, an assessment team from Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C. arrived in the FSM to assess the overall program, internal operations, and meet with governmental and nongovernmental partners in an effort to provide recommendations for improving management structure and program delivery capacity.
"Our plans are to demonstrate a significant improvement in our operations over the next two years, to increase our volunteer retention rates and to look at providing a solid foundation for expanding the Peace Corps presence in the FSM. We hope to expand our placements in all States at that time, including in Chuuk State which would be our first priority area for placements, " explains Reside.