The Peace Corps Life Skills Manual is a comprehensive behavior change approach that concentrates on developing the skills needed for life, such as communication, decision-making, and critical thinking. It also helps learners understand the importance of assertiveness, self-esteem, resisting peer pressure, and creating healthy relationships. Additionally, it addresses the important related issues of empowering girls and guiding boys toward new values. The program moves beyond providing information. It addresses the development of the whole individual, including their health—so that a person will have the skills to make use of all types of information, whether it be related to reproductive and sexual health, safe motherhood, and other communication and decision-making situations. While the focus is on health, the life skills are relevant to those found in work readiness curricula and could be adapted for other purposes.
This manual consists of more than 50 different interactive lesson ideas, using role plays, games, puzzles, group discussions, and a variety of other innovative teaching techniques to keep the participant fully involved in the sessions. Lessons include HIV/AIDS training sessions that are particularly useful in working with youth and other vulnerable groups. The manual is meant to be adapted to different situations and recommends that a community assessment be done first to determine the needs of the community.
The intended audience is Peace Corps Volunteers (e.g., health workers or teachers) and their local partners who work with male and female youth or adults (teachers, health workers, parents, community volunteers, youth leaders, peer educators, etc.). The focus is on health. sexuality, communication, and decision-making skills. The targeted participants or beneficiaries are youth 13–28, with little to no schooling, in-school youth, or members of out-of-school or afterschool organizations such as anti-AIDS clubs, girls clubs, boys clubs, youth organizations, women's groups, etc.
The manual includes an introduction, tips on conducting a community needs assessment, a Training of Trainers sample five-day schedule, and lesson plans, including objectives, activities, and evaluations for 50 sessions (activities). An appendix includes specific activities for ice breakers and breaks and some assessment instruments.Sections include the following:
A typical use of the manual in a Life Skills Training of Trainers model is for 5 full days, although this depends on the purpose and audience. The curriculum includes suggestions on how to tailor this to audiences such as Peace Corps Volunteers in pre-service training; community leaders; peer educators; and for a basic introduction or briefing on what a Life Skills approach should be.
No formal evaluation results available
The strengths of the Peace Corps Life Skills Manual include its availability in multiple languages including Spanish, French and Swahili as well as English. In addition, every lesson offers specific, behaviorally-stated learning objectives although these are not always directly measured in the evaluation section of the lesson. The manual is designed to build on facilitators’ existing knowledge and skills, for example through brainstorming; role plays; scenarios; paired, small group and large group discussion; low-stakes initial assessments of knowledge; games and simulations; and reflection. The format is also clear and useful. The photographs are very attractive, the writing is clear and straightforward. And there are lots of materials included for activities.Weaknesses of the curriculum are that although originally developed in Africa, this manual has been re–edited for global distribution, but without updates since 2001 so there may be a need for review of content, especially in health-related topics such as HIV/AIDS. There is also a heavy reliance in a majority of the topics on health and sexuality decision making. These are, of course, important life skills areas, but this is not a comprehensive life skills curriculum, does not for example, include money management, work readiness, family living and parenting skills, knowledge of good environmental practices, worker rights and responsibilities and other important life skills topics.This Manual would be especially useful for an intensive Training of Trainers whose focus was on enabling youth behavior change in the areas of STDs and decisions around sexuality and relationships.
The Life Skills Manual provides a lot of information and participatory activities to address key life skills topics including HIV/AIDS, communication skills (focusing primarily on assertiveness), decision making skills, and relationship skills. While there is an attempt to build off the existing knowledge of participants as well as concepts introduced in previous lessons, the curriculum feels somewhat disjointed. HIV/AIDS topics figure heavily and could be treated separately in a stand-alone manual. The unit on communication skills focuses primarily on assertiveness instead of opening it up to other forms of communication.
Overall however the manual is user friendly and provides a consistent format. It touches on many topics that are important to youth and presents them through interactive methods that participants will find engaging. Users of the manual might want to develop a more formal way of assessing whether or not the participants have understood the materials and have developed some skills in communication, decision-making and managing relationships.
If the manual is to be used in a “preparing for work” context, the facilitator will need to do some extra work to link the concepts presented here to the work setting. For examples, work-related scenarios and role plays could be integrated into some of the activities, and discussions could be centered on the application of life skills topics in the work environment.
Download Materials in English, French, Spanish or Swahili Here:
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