Business Advising Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Peace Corps Costa Rica’s Community Economic Development (CED) project aims to support economic development in rural communities by strengthening community organizations’ project design and management practices; developing individuals’ (especially women and youths’) capacity for entrepreneurship; and increasing individuals’ (especially women and youths’) preparedness for available jobs.

CED Volunteers are assigned to work throughout the country with community development associations (ADIs). ADIs are organized groups, comprised of local leaders, that act as local governing bodies. They work together to manage and improve community facilities (if present), address community issues and improve the situation of the community by managing the government financial support received on a yearly basis.

In rural communities where the local economy is driven by small-scale business activities, such as rural tourism (tourism based on environmental, cultural and scenic assets of rural and indigenous communities); agribusiness (vegetables and fruits production, dairy products, coffee growers, small scale cattle, etc), or community-based services; Peace Corps volunteers provide support in the areas of business management, marketing and promotion, bookkeeping, project design and management hoping to empower locals and help them develop skills that can improve their business activities.

Most of the activities that generate income and small businesses supported by the PCV are small scale, and usually family owned. As a CED Volunteer, you will help the CED project meet its two primary goals: 1) Organizations successfully lead local community development efforts and 2) Rural Households achieve economic security.

Your primary project is based on capacity building through unique one-on-one relationships with current and potential entrepreneurs, especially youth and women. Collaboration with local project partners includes, but is not limited to: organizational development, project design and management, serving as a mentor for business planning, marketing, financial management and product design; facilitating business skills workshops and business simulations and supporting communities to identify funding sources. CED Volunteers work in both formal (elementary and high schools) and informal (communal meeting spaces, entrepreneurs’ homes or places of business) settings.

Additionally, CED Volunteers focus on improving vocational skills, such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and conversational English to better position community members to achieve future work or educational goals. You will be trained and provided curricular materials to offer computer literacy and conversational English training to community members, especially youth and women.

The most common CED Volunteer activities include,: serving as role models for community members, conducting community assessments, planning and facilitating training activities, enrolling interested participants in training activities, mentoring individuals in the adoption and application of entrepreneurial behaviors and/or improved business practices, and inspiring and motivating community members to be engaged in the development process.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline
• 5 years professional experience in business management

Desired Skills

• Community Organizing experience (Managing or forming community groups, using participatory community assessment tools, leading committees/community projects, project design and management, proposal writing, fundraising, etc.)
• Work experience in entrepreneurship, small business or business simulations/competitions and willing to work as a workforce and business mentor, trainer, or facilitator in rural communities, especially with youth and women.
• Experience working with Youth (involvement in schools, clubs or with youth groups in activities related to career development, entrepreneurship; employability, vocational, and business skills in a mentor/co-teacher role, experience with 4-H, Junior Achievement, etc.)
• Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experience (familiarized with Microsoft Office Applications, ICT teaching, social media, basic web design, excel spreadsheets for basic bookkeeping and inventory control)

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Applicants that have a working level of Spanish and/or are actively engaged in Spanish language learning are preferred. You must achieve intermediate-mid level oral Spanish proficiency by the end of the 12-week Pre-Service Training program.

Living Conditions

Housing:
All Volunteers are required to live with a host family for the first nine months in country. This includes 3 months during pre-service training (PST) and at least 6 months in their community of assignment. Living with a host family for this introductory period is a mandatory and non-negotiable requirement. After that, if appropriate housing is available, Volunteers may request to live independently. Some communities do not have a live-alone option and Volunteers must be open to the possibility to living with a host family during their entire course of service.

The home-stay experience helps orient Volunteers to local customs and safety considerations, and serves as a bridge to build trust and relationships, integrate into the community, gather information and gain key insights about the host community. Although living with a family has certain challenges (lack of privacy, limited control and choice over diet, noise, etc.), it also has multiple rewards: community integration, increased language skills, friendship, sharing, and gaining a unique understanding of the Costa Rican culture. It is important that applicants think carefully about the commitment to live with a Costa Rican host family in basic living conditions, with limited privacy. Prospective Volunteers should be willing to integrate with the host family, follow cultural norms and respect family dynamics.

Most host family homes have indoor bathrooms and showers, but do not have hot water.

Professional Appearance:
Most Costa Ricans take great pride in being neat, clean, and well-groomed even on informal occasions, and Volunteers should follow the example of Costa Ricans at their worksites and in their communities (e.g., clean and ironed clothes, polished shoes, and groomed hair). Volunteers will gain greater acceptance of their presence and ideas by wearing the right outfit, which generally means dressing in a professional manner. For example, in schools, Costa Rican women tend to wear skirts, dresses, or pressed pants. Men in schools tend to wear collared shirts with khaki pants. Volunteers are expected to observe these guidelines for dress during pre-service training as well. A Volunteer should never go into a school or official partner agency office wearing shorts or flip-flops. In most areas of the country, shorts are generally worn only in the home while doing household chores, during recreational or sports activities, or at the beach, but not on the street. It is best to bring a variety of clothing that can be layered.

Visible tattoos may make the Volunteer an unwanted source of attention. It is preferable that male Volunteers not have ponytails, long hair, or beards, but if so, hair must be neatly groomed, and beards must be neat and trimmed.

Please bring business-casual clothes for professional settings and comfortable casual clothes for recreational settings. During training, and occasionally as a Volunteer, there will be times when it is appropriate for men to wear jackets and ties and for women to wear dresses or slacks and a blouse. In classroom and office settings in cities and larger towns, attire should be professionally casual—skirts or slacks for women, slacks and button-down shirts with collars for men.

Site Location & Physical Hardship:
Work sites vary in size and geographical characteristics, from remote, rural indigenous communities to semi-rural resource-poor and access-limited towns. Most Volunteers will be working in semirural or rural communities with limited resources and services, and local populations may have limited education. The majority of sites are hot and humid year-round, with several months of rain. Some of the more remote areas can be physically challenging, i.e., mountainous terrain, rocky unpaved roads, extensive mud in the rainy season.

Nearly all PCV sites are accessible to the capital San José within 2-8 hours by public transportation. The closest urban center may be as little as 1 hour away.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Costa Rica: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

For couples that come into Pre-Service Training with different levels of Spanish, one may need to commute for Spanish classes, but they will be able to live together in the same host family. During their 24 months of service, couples will live either with a host family or together in their own apartment depending if appropriate housing can be located in their community.

Medical Considerations in Costa Rica

  • Costa Rica may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Vyvanse.
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten.
  • After arrival in Costa Rica, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and mandatory immunizations.

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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