Community Economic Development Facilitator

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

Timor-Leste is a young and vibrant democracy. It was internationally recognized as an independent state in 2002 after 25 years of fighting for independence. Peace Corps Volunteers will have a rare opportunity to make a meaningful and extraordinary impact in Timor-Leste. Volunteers will work among the nation’s heroes and freedom fighters who are still active in leading and building the nation. They will serve as heralds of positive change in communities with strong motivations and aspirations for their own development. Volunteers overwhelmingly confirm that they have a highly rewarding service where they can see and feel the positive impact they are making.
Community Economic Development (CED) Volunteers will serve in rural villages to improve the economic and livelihood opportunities in their communities. Specifically, Volunteers will work with their Timorese counterparts to (1) improve the economic security of individuals in their communities and (2) improve an organization’s ability to operate effectively.
Volunteers’ counterparts may be in cooperatives, farmers/youth/women’s groups, micro-lending groups, local non-governmental organizations, local government offices, municipality administrations, or community based organizations. Volunteers will train and advise their counterparts in business planning, strategic planning, marketing, financial management, product design, project design & management, organizational development, and quality control. Volunteers will also teach their counterparts and the broader community how to manage income and expenses, leading to greater household stability and capacity in entrepreneurship, computers, and employability (including English language skills).
As a post-conflict country with poor infrastructure and public systems, many counterparts may not have had exposure to effective systems or opportunities to learn or develop their management skills. As such, they may lack vision on how to effectively manage their organizations or groups. In general, the leadership style in many local organizations is traditional and hierarchical with the influence of a patriarchal culture in most parts of Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste faces a huge unskilled youth bubble with nearly 70% of the population under the age of 25. Many young people are neither in school nor working. Consequently, Volunteers are encouraged to engage youth to build and apply entrepreneurial skills and/or employability skills when working with their assigned organizations and communities.
Volunteers’ work will be centered around:
1. Conducting community and/or organization needs assessments;
2. Building community members’ (especially youth) and/or staff capacity in English, computer literacy, financial literacy, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, employability, networking, etc.;
3. Training and/or advising on project planning, design and management;
4. Building community and organizational capacity to apply and utilize tools/systems for strategic planning; and
5. Training and coaching community members or groups in managing a business.

It is very common that staff, a community leader, school principal, youth group, or community organizations will request Volunteers to teach English. English is considered a significant marketable skill for employment and staff capacity in Timor-Leste and, hence, CED volunteers should expect to teach English and/or facilitate English language clubs. Teaching English can overlap with other CED-related activities, such as teaching financial literacy, entrepreneurship, the importance of personal money management, etc. Further, teaching English can be an opportunity to establish relationships and build trust in the community.
Community members expect Volunteers to speak the local language, respect and value the Timorese culture, and find ways to transfer skills. Community members appreciate when Volunteers work to create change through education, role modeling, demonstration, inspiration, and motivation.
Volunteers will need to exhibit flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity as the Peace Corps Timor-Leste program re-establishes itself post COVID-19 evacuation and strives to address the Government of Timor-Leste’s dynamic needs.

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; and/or
• 5 years’ professional work experience.

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline;
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field with professional business experience;
• 5 years of professional experience in business management;
• A strong desire to support economic development at all levels as demonstrated by past experiences in supporting entrepreneurship or teaching the basics of business; or
• A commitment to community economic development that could involve working with individuals, organizations, or communities, and a commitment to serving a community at their pace, level and according to its priorities.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

Volunteers will learn the country’s official language, Tetun, during Pre-Service Training and must demonstrate intermediate proficiency after nine to ten weeks of training. Tetun is not grammatically complex and uses the Latin alphabet. Volunteers find it relatively easy to achieve the required Intermediate-Mid proficiency and many go on to an Advanced level after serving at site for some time. Many Volunteers will also learn a local language or dialect spoken in their district. Since Portuguese is the national language and many words have been incorporated into Tetun, Portuguese and Spanish speakers will find their knowledge of those languages helpful in their Tetun studies. Many Timorese also speak Bahasa Indonesian and Volunteers will be taught some common words that are used by Timorese.

Living Conditions

Volunteers are required to live with a host family during Pre-Service Training and another host family at their permanent site during their full two years of service. This connection to a respected family in the community creates opportunities for Volunteers to build relationships with other community members, which forms the foundation for an effective service. The experience of living with a Timorese family is often one of the most rewarding aspects of service. Host families help Volunteers become integral parts of the community, offering a deeper understanding of local culture, traditions, and customs in a safe, welcoming environment. Volunteers regularly cite their relationships with their host families, both at PST and their permanent site, as a highlight of their service. Host families in Timor-Leste are large and multi-generational, with many children. It is common for many members of the host family to smoke cigarettes. Ninety-seven percent of Timorese are Catholic and attending church is a common community activity.
Timor-Leste has 13 municipalities, which are subdivided into districts. Municipalities range in population from 50,000 to 120,000. Most Volunteers will be placed at the village (suco) or sub-village (aldeia) level while a few may be placed in a district capital (vila). Volunteers are not placed in the capital city and it can take more than four to eight hours by public transportation to get to the capital.
Roads are in poor condition and may be washed out and impassable during the rainy season, December-April. Volunteers may have to walk or cycle as much as one hour over rugged terrain to the main road to catch public transportation (small truck or mini-bus) to a larger city. In addition, there has been a growth in road construction throughout the country so travel can be affected by this.
Amenities such as electricity, running water, and cell phone reception vary from site to site. There may be periods of time without electricity. Cell phone coverage is improving but there are still some “dead” zones. Accessing internet through data usage is very common in the districts. Some Volunteers have more than one SIM card from different providers to take advantage of different data packages and coverage.
Volunteers report frequent episodes of unwanted attention on public transportation and in Dili. This can be uncomfortable and stressful. Post provides training and mitigation strategies to prepare Volunteers for these situations and to understand how to manage them.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Timor-Leste: 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

Post can accept mixed program couples only, i.e. one spouse in CED and one spouse in ED.
Peace Corps Timor-Leste can accommodate couples serving together in different sectors. Therefore, their partner must apply and qualify for the following position:

English Education

Couples should consist of a male and a female. Couples should be prepared to live apart during Pre-Service Training. Once couples moves to their sites, they will live with a host family for their full two years of service in their own room in the household. This means they may not have as much privacy to which they are accustomed.

Couples serving in Timor-Leste will receive pressure to adhere to more traditional gender roles. They will likely be asked how many kids they have and may experience pressure to have children if they do not have any. However, in general, couples have done well and are happy serving in Timor-Leste.

In Timor-Leste, couples are married by the church or simply by parents mutually agreeing that their adult children are married.

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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