Community Economic Development Connector

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

Imagine watching rain fall while drinking fresh brewed coffee with your neighbor. Now envision yourself using your Spanish as you empower youth to develop entrepreneurship skills and set goals for their future. Can you see yourself biking to the local market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for a new recipe, hearing boys and girls shout greetings to you, inquiring about your next entrepreneurship lesson? Can you envision supporting a group of rural entrepreneurs improve their business skills while helping them pick a name for their new business product? If the answer is yes, Peace Corps wants you to share your passion, curiosity, flexibility, and resiliency to support business and community initiatives in incredible Colombia by becoming a Community Economic Development (CED) Connector.

CED Connectors link, liaise, and help build the capacity of a wide array of stakeholders including community leaders, Economic and Social Development Government staff, women’s and youth groups, teachers and students, local businesses, and community-based organizations that typically have limited resources or formal business training with economic development opportunities including:

• Entrepreneurship – Facilitating entrepreneurship sessions to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in youth and adults.
• Business Advising – Advising rural small businesses on basic management practices.
• Personal money management – Promoting management of personal finances through Community Savings Groups (CSGs) and financial literacy training.

Whether you are placed on the Caribbean Coast or in the Andean Region of Colombia, as a CED Connector you will engage with the Colombian Ministry of Education (MEN). Here you will work with teachers and youth from high schools to promote an entrepreneurial vision, creating a culture of savings, soft skills development, and vocational orientation in their last two years of high school.

CED Connectors also work in close coordination with our other partner, the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA), a nationwide public institution focused on the social and technical development of Colombians through training and support to identify and grow rural entrepreneurial opportunities. You will work with SENA trainers to promote and support entrepreneurship and business development with local youth, informal groups, and business owners.

In rural Colombia, a small business can be very small, and better described as a micro-enterprise. You may work with informal businesses such as a single lady selling juices, a farmer peddling yucca at a local market, or a start-up led by youth. In addition, you may be expected to work with newly created local businesses that are made up by several partners. Sometimes it takes up to a year to build-up relationships in order to begin business consulting activities. Patience is essential!

Leveraging your own unique skills and interests, as a Volunteer you may also organize youth leadership groups, teach Information Communication Technology (ICT) practices applied to entrepreneurship and business management, lead environmental awareness workshops and school gardening projects, coach sports, teach English classes, or organize community-wide recycling projects.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business or economics discipline OR 5 years professional experience in business management, marketing or sales
• Experience working with youth (involvement in schools, clubs or with youth groups in activities related to vocational development, entrepreneurship, employability, soft skills, financial literacy, or business skills in a mentor/co-teacher role).
• Work experience in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, small business and willing to work as a business mentor, trainer, or facilitator in high schools in rural and/or semirural communities, especially with youth and women.
• Community organizing experience (promoting community groups, using participatory community assessment tools, leading committees/community projects, project design and management, proposal writing, fundraising, etc.).
• Experience creating and maintaining local networks with different stakeholders and interest groups.
• Experience designing work plans and self-directing their project work, under minimal supervision.
• Experience working with diverse rural community groups and in grassroots development.
•Experience working with women’s economic empowerment and/or women’s groups

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).

Volunteers are required to work exclusively in Spanish. Trainees must demonstrate a minimum Spanish level of intermediate-mid after 11 weeks of training. Language acquisition will be a high priority for those that complete training with the basic required Spanish level. Volunteers will be expected to reach a high level of Spanish during service and acquire business professional vocabulary.

Living Conditions

All work sites are in small and medium sized rural communities typically no more than six hours from a major city in the Caribbean or Andean regions. In the Caribbean region communities are hot and humid throughout the year with frequent electricity outages and water shortages. Seasons are divided into dry months with no rainfall and months of frequent rain and high humidity.
The Andean climate is cooler, especially at night with rainfall throughout the year and fluctuating temperatures (45 -75 degrees Fahrenheit) depending upon the time of year.

Volunteers commute by public bus and/or mini buses to get around and to attend training/working activities. Some Volunteers also use bicycles. Significant walking may be required when implementing projects in nearby rural communities.

Volunteers live with Colombian host families for the entire 27-month service to promote community integration and effectiveness. The host family stay is often one of the more rewarding components of Peace Corps service and an important means of cultural integration. As such, we ask Volunteers to be flexible and committed to building strong relationships with host families. Furthermore, as a Volunteer you will be expected to spend the majority of your time in the communities where you live and work. Because of this commitment to integrating into their communities, Volunteer travel and vacations are limited to when local schools are closed and/or organizations are not functioning.

Volunteers may be challenged to learn to adapt to some unequal gender norms whereby women perform the majority of the domestic labor (cooking, cleaning, and childcare) and have limited economic opportunities. Colombia is a predominantly male-dominated culture, especially in rural areas. Female Volunteers can expect to receive overt expressions of unwanted attention including catcalling and sexist remarks. Male Volunteers may also receive unwanted attention in more subtle ways, and Volunteers may be challenged to navigate this situation effectively. Peace Corps will provide various strategies and training on how to adjust.

Colombians are generally tolerant and Peace Corps/Colombia is an open, non-judgmental place for Volunteers. Values and mores concerning diversity (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.) in communities may vary from those in the U.S. Volunteers need to be mindful of cultural norms and use their best judgment to determine the appropriate way to approach diversity issues in their communities. We ask Volunteers to be open to Colombian diversity, including approaching others’ cultural values and views on different aspects of life with curiosity.

The Colombian diet primarily consists of corn, rice, potatoes, yucca and other carbohydrates. However, there is a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It is not very common to find vegetarians in rural communities. You may need to be flexible and explain to your host family any dietary restrictions.

In the Caribbean region, loud music and celebrations are common aspects of the culture where extroverted Volunteers thrive yet that may challenge more introverted individuals who prefer quiet environments. In contrast, the Andean region tends to be more quiet and tranquil. Embracing a flexible, resilient approach is key to adapting to the culture.

SPECIAL NOTICE ABOUT CITIZENSHIP:Candidates who are dual citizens of Colombia and the U.S. or who were born in Colombia and became U.S. citizens after July 4, 1991 are not eligible to serve in Peace Corps Colombia. Under Colombian law, anyone born in Colombia who became a U.S. citizen after 1991 or anyone holding dual U.S. and Colombia citizenship is considered a citizen of Colombia, and not of the United States. If an individual faced a legal, safety or emergency situation in Colombia, the Peace Corps' ability to intervene would be limited. If you fit one of these categories, we encourage you to look at Peace Corps volunteer assignments in other countries.

Serving in Colombia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Colombia: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Post encourages couples to apply and will be assigned to the same community but have distinct work plans. During pre-service training of 11 weeks, couples will each live with a different host family in separate homes in order to assure maximum language acquisition and cultural integration. During their 24 months of service, couples will live together in their own housing.

Medical Considerations

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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