Community Economic Development Facilitator
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Through history, most Fijians have been happy to live within their means in a bartering-based society. Today, however, the importance of money is rising, leading to a transition as people begin to see the value of adapting traditional mindsets and behaviors to accommodate contemporary capitalism.
This is where Peace Corps Volunteers offer support. Fiji has the resources to see an economic growth that is shared broadly, but there are a variety of enabling skills that do not come naturally within the indigenous context: financial literacy and money management, recordkeeping, project design, monitoring and evaluation, and business development, to name a few. Volunteers are uniquely positioned to support the development of these skills.
Nearly all Volunteers are placed in rural villages. Their goal is to help community organizations—such as women’s and youth groups—improve their project design and management skills, and to help individuals and families build income-generating activities and related money management skills. To accomplish this, Volunteers generally follow this sequence of activities:
1. Upon arrival to their communities, Volunteers spend several months focused purely on integration and language learning, settling into local rhythms and joining their neighbors’ daily activities, such as farming, fishing, washing, cooking, and drinking kava.
2. In time, Volunteers begin to more actively collaborate with counterparts, such as village mayors, leaders of women’s and youth groups, and other community members who carry a spark of initiative. Volunteers use a variety of participatory activities to mirror their counterparts’ economic development-related enthusiasms, gently guide their thoughts down efficient paths, and offer background support as community members mobilize and prioritize their efforts. Activities may include the development of cooperatives, communal projects, community savings groups, financial literacy trainings, and an array of income-generating activities.
3. As needed and appropriate, Volunteers scaffold their community’s efforts to find and solicit support from the myriad of government ministries and NGOs that provide relevant resources, which include some trainings that Volunteers may co-facilitate.
4. Finally, Volunteers use coaching skills to help community members deepen and leverage their new abilities, cheerleading and celebrating successes along the way.
The focus of this approach is sustainable capacity building, and Volunteers generally do not take the lead in identifying priorities or executing projects. The Peace Corps defines Volunteer success by the quality of community learning and empowerment that they facilitate, rather than the number or size of the projects they complete. For Volunteers who arrive to Fiji fresh out of the achievement-driven pulse of many U.S. colleges and jobs, the quiet pace and hands-off approach of Peace Corps’ development model can take some getting used to. Rather than managing much themselves, Volunteers help their communities build a suite of basic organizational and economic skills that, when understood deeply and wielded with diligence over time, can be revolutionary.
Let it be clear that this job begins and ends with heartfelt integration into rural, conservative, unhurried villages. Volunteers’ first priority is to be engaged neighbors and friends, loving community members as they want to be loved. Along the way, there are vibrant opportunities for Volunteers to leverage their business skills and passions, empowering the economic advancement of the community around them.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline
• 5 years' professional experience in business management
• At least one year of community service or volunteer experience that included individual capacity building through teaching, mentoring, or coaching adults, especially women and older youth
• Experience working in grassroots development or community organizing that involved forming and motivating groups of adults by facilitating participatory, asset-based processes
• Experience writing proposals and using strong project design and management skills
• Experience advising or coaching entrepreneurs in the development of income-generating activities, including such tasks as market research, opportunity identification, feasibility studies, and business planning
• Experience managing core business activities, such as marketing, sales, bookkeeping, and quality control
• Experience coaching individuals in applying personal money management skills (i.e. saving, budgeting, financial goal setting, evaluating borrowing options), potentially through a community savings group or microfinance initiative
• Education, experience, and/or interest in farm management and agribusiness
• Interest in mastering a local language and working within cultural norms
• Interest in working collaboratively in a rural, traditional iTaukei village, with the resilience to persist in the face of challenges that a U.S. American may face working in a high power distance, collectivist society
Required Language Skills
The indigenous Fijian village context is central to most PCVs’ experience. There is great value placed on hierarchy, Christianity, and traditional gender roles. The integration process asks PCVs to embrace these norms with curiosity and respect, even when it involves such acts as wearing restrictive clothing in hot, humid weather, conforming to gender expectations, or regularly attending church. Fijians are often playful—“cheeky,” as they say here—but may also carry biases that can be hurtful. PCVs’ professional success hinges upon their ability to build the cultural sensitivity, maturity, and interpersonal skills to navigate these elements with grace, while also respectfully but vibrantly sharing who they are with their communities.
All Volunteers live with a host family for eight weeks during Pre-Service Training (PST). After PST, PCVs are assigned to communities that are spread across ten-or-so islands, with most based on the two larger islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. With limited exceptions, PCVs are placed in rural villages, often in an independent home that the village loans to the Peace Corps. PCVs’ communities and homes vary across a number of factors, including:
• Housing type: While PCVs live in a variety of house types, most are fairly small and made from corrugated tin.
• Electricity: Some PCVs’ homes do not have consistent electricity. In these cases, Peace Corps provides a solar panel that can usually power one light or charge a phone.
• Phone/data coverage: Some PCVs do not have phone coverage within their home, though there are usually spots within walking distance where they can make calls.
• Water: Some communities experience periodic shortages of fresh water, requiring PCVs to save and store water to use during those periods.
• Access to market towns: Few villages hold more than basic “canteen” stores, and market towns may be up to four hours away by public transit. PCVs on small outer islands may not have a market town at all, requiring them to stock up for months at a time.
• Food: While Fiji has an abundance of food, village diets are heavy in root starches, fish, canned meat, processed noodles, fried dough, and other oily foods, often featuring little variety and few vegetables. PCVs are encouraged to grow their own vegetable garden.
• Transportation: Some mix of buses, trucks, taxis, and vans are the primary means of ground transportation for most PCVs. In addition, some travel on small boats, inter-island ferries, or airplanes as small as six-seaters. PCVs on outer islands may have limited options (e.g., one ferry or plane per week) that can be costly enough to prohibit regular trips off of the island.
• Religion: Fiji is a deeply religious society. While there are many religions throughout Fiji, Protestantism and Catholicism dominate in the villages where most PCVs live. Religion and culture are inextricable in Fiji, and PCVs are encouraged to engage in local religious activities as a part of their community integration.
• Diversity: PCVs who are of a racial, ethnic or other minority in the United States may find a high degree of unwanted attention. US concepts of appropriateness are not universal and many PCVs encounter stereotypes. Many have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, share American values, and deepen local community members' understanding of Americans. LGBTQAI+ PCVs may find that local customs require being closeted in community or throughout their service.
The Peace Corps staff strives to cultivate a supportive, inclusive atmosphere for all PCVs, with the collaboration of four Volunteer committees focused on various elements of the Volunteer experience, including diversity and inclusion. Visit the Peace Corps Fiji webpage for more information.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Fiji: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Couples live together with a host family during pre-service training, and then have their own house together during service. Couples may be separated for in-service training events, which can last up to one week.
Couples serve in the same community, but are expected to develop unique work plans addressing different needs within their community.
Medical Considerations in Fiji
- Fiji may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; cardiology; gastroenterology; insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; seizure disorder; urology; ongoing counseling.
- The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified.
- Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: shellfish.
- After arrival in Fiji, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and to receive 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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