Community Economic Development Facilitator
Through history, most Fijians have been content to live within their means in a bartering-based society. Today, the importance of money has risen, leading to a transition as people adapt 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 are not consistent within the indigenous context: financial literacy and money management, recordkeeping, project design, risk management, monitoring and evaluation, and business development, to name a few. Volunteers are uniquely positioned to support the development and maintenance of these skills.
Nearly all Volunteers will be 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 will generally follow this sequence of activities:
1. Upon arrival to their communities, Volunteers spend three 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 joining community events.
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 interests, shine a light down efficient and potential 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 many 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 support their communities in building a suite of foundational organizational and economic skills that, when understood deeply and wielded with diligence over time, can be transformational.
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, caring about community members as they want to be cared for. Along the way, there are vibrant opportunities for Volunteers to leverage their business skills and passions, further empowering the economic advancement of the community around them.
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.
• 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
• 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 land or aquatic farm management and agribusiness
• Interest in mastering a local language and working within cultural norms
• Interest in working collaboratively and resiliently in a rural, traditional iTaukei village
Required Language Skills
The indigenous Fijian village context is central to most PCVs’ experience. Hierarchy, Christianity, and traditional gender roles are highly valued. To integrate, PCVs must embrace these norms with curiosity and respect, even when it involves such acts as wearing restrictive clothing in 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 triggering. To be successful, PCVs need 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 Peace Corps PCVs live with a host family for ten weeks during Pre-Service Training (PST). After PST, PCVs are assigned to communities spread across several 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 small and made from corrugated tin.
• Electricity: Some PCVs’ homes do not have consistent electricity. In these cases, Peace Corps provides a solar kit that can power one light or charge a phone.
• Phone/data coverage: Some PCVs do not have phone or data coverage within their home, though there are usually spots within walking distance where they can connect.
• Water: Some homes have periodic shortages of fresh water, requiring PCVs to 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. PCVs on 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 gardens.
• Transportation: Most PCVs travel through a mix of buses, trucks, and vans. PCVs on smaller islands also use speedboats, inter-island ferries, and/or airplanes as small as six-seaters. PCVs posted to outer islands may have limited options (e.g., one ferry or plane per week) that cost enough money and time to prohibit regular trips off of the island.
Other relevant factors:
• Religion: Fiji is deeply religious. While there many religions are present, 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 part of their integration.
• Diversity and gender: PCVs who outwardly appear to belong to an underrepresented community—including categories of race, ethnicity, and physical ability—as well as female PCVs in general, may receive unwanted attention. Socially appropriate behavior varies by culture, and many PCVs encounter stereotypes. PCVs of color sometimes face facets of colorism or racism, even in the form of racial slurs. Due to local beliefs and customs, many LGBTQAI+ PCVs choose to remain closeted at site throughout their service.
Peace Corps staff strives to cultivate an inclusive environment for all PCVs, acknowledging and building proactive support structures around the inequities that some PCVs experience. Staff collaborates with four Volunteer committees focusing on different elements of the Volunteer experience, including diversity and inclusion.
Visit the Peace Corps Fiji webpage (www.peacecorps.gov/fiji) 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. During in-service trainings, which can last up to a week, couples may be separated into gendered hotel rooms or dorms with peer Volunteers and/or counterparts.
Couples serve at the same site, but serve as individuals and are therefore expected to develop unique work plans addressing different needs within their community. Male/female couples should be prepared for the male to receive more attention and eye contact in some settings. He may be treated as the voice of authority for the couple, and the female may be expected to seek permission from the male when making decisions.
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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