Community Economic Development Promoter

Project Description

Peace Corps Costa Rica’s Community Economic Development (CED) project aims to support economic development in rural communities. Peace Corps CED Volunteers (hereafter, Volunteers) are assigned to work throughout the country with community development organizations in rural communities where small-scale business activities, such as rural tourism, agribusiness, or community-based services drive the local economy. All CED activities will have a particular emphasis on working with women and youth.

PRIMARY OBJECTIVES:

Volunteers will support the CED project to meet its two primary objectives:

1) Strengthen the capacity of community organizations to contribute to local economic development.
2) Empower individuals, especially women and youth, to create and access economic opportunities.

The Volunteer’s primary project is based on capacity building through a unique one-on-one relationship with local development associations, as well as current and potential entrepreneurs. Collaboration with local project partners includes, but is not limited to:

• Strengthening community organizations’ project design and management practices.
• Guide business planning, marketing, finances, and product design.
• Developing individuals’ behaviors for entrepreneurship.
• Increasing individuals’ preparedness for available jobs.
• Strengthening management of businesses and income generation activities.

Volunteers work in both formal settings, including high schools, and informal settings, such as communal meeting spaces, entrepreneur’s homes, or places of business.

DIGITAL LITERACY:

Volunteers will also focus on bridging the digital gap by building capacities in digital literacy to better position community members to achieve future economic growth goals. Staff will train Volunteers and provide them with curriculum materials and other resources so they may offer digital literacy courses to community members.

COMMON ACTIVITIES:

Many common Volunteer activities include, but are not limited to:

• Serving as role models for community members.
• Conducting community assessments.
• Facilitating business skills workshops and business simulations.
• Collaborating with high schools.
• Planning and facilitating training activities and enrolling interested participants.
• Guiding individuals in adopting and applying entrepreneurial behaviors and improved business practices.
• Supporting communities to identify economic opportunities.
• Motivating community members to be engaged in the development process of their community.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

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 business discipline.
• 5 years’ professional experience in business management

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have at least one or more of the following criteria:

• Community Organizing experience (Managing, forming or supporting community groups, organizational development and performance, strategic planning, feasibility studies, use of participatory community assessment tools, leading committees/community projects, project design and management, proposal writing, fundraising, etc.).

• Work experience in entrepreneurship, social business, small business, or business simulations/competitions and willing to work as a business mentor, co-trainer, or co-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 entrepreneurship; leadership and empowerment, employability, vocational, and business skills in a mentor/co-teacher role, experience with 4-H, Junior Achievement, etc.).

• Digital Literacy experience (familiar with Microsoft Office applications, digital tools teaching, social media, basic web design, excel spreadsheets for basic bookkeeping, cost and pricing, 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).

Peace Corps Costa Rica strongly recommends non-native Spanish-speaking candidates to proactively engage in Spanish language learning activities before arrival. This prepares them for service and the intensive language training in Costa Rica.

As Volunteers work fully in Spanish, Trainees must take personal responsibility to achieve an Intermediate-High score on the language proficiency interview by the end of the 12-week Pre-Service Training (PST) to be eligible as Peace Corps Volunteers. This can be challenging for Trainees with very limited Spanish skills at the start of PST. Staff assesses Trainees’ language proficiency at multiple points during PST and creates individualized learning plans to support their progress towards reaching an Intermediate-High level.

Once at their assigned community, Volunteers will need advanced Spanish skills for conducting meetings, interviews, trainings, assessments, and reporting. They are expected to continue active participation in their language learning journey until reaching an advanced proficiency level.

Living Conditions

HOUSING:

Volunteers are required to live with a host family for at least nine months, including three months during Pre-Service Training (PST) and at least six months in their assigned community. If suitable housing is available later, they may request independent living. Many communities don’t offer independent living, so Volunteers should prepare themselves to live with a host family throughout their service.

Although living with a family brings challenges (less privacy, new diet, noise, etc.), the homestay experience offers rewards like community integration, safety considerations, increased language skills, building trust and friendships, cultural sharing, and a unique understanding of the Costa Rican culture. Applicants must think carefully about the commitment to live and integrate with a Costa Rican host family, particularly one with limited resources. They must be willing to follow cultural norms and respect family dynamics.

Peace Corps Staff arrange housing with respected host families in the assigned communities. Staff thoroughly inspect homes prior to approval. 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. Volunteers should always follow the example of Costa Ricans at their worksites and in their communities (e.g., clean and ironed clothes, polished shoes, and groomed hair). Working with schools, government officials, entrepreneurs, and other professionals requires that Volunteers consistently demonstrate a professional attitude and appearance. Professional dress in the workplace is business casual and includes knee-length skirts/dresses, pressed pants, khakis, nice jeans, blouses, collared shirts, or short sleeve polos. Flip-flops, sport sandals, shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, crop tops, and other athleisure wear should only be worn in the home, during recreational activities, or at the beach, but never at work. Revealing attire or the lack of proper undergarments is never acceptable for Peace Corps service.

CULTURE AND DIVERSITY:

While the Peace Corps/Costa Rica (PC/CR) office welcomes and celebrates the diversity of its Volunteers, the culture and beliefs in some communities may produce stigma and discrimination. Volunteers must be mindful of cultural norms and use their judgment to determine how best to approach diversity issues in Costa Rica. Volunteers of a U.S. racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from most of their Costa Rican community may experience curiosity or unwanted attention. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, to share values, and to deepen community members’ understanding of the U.S.

SITE LOCATION & PHYSICAL HARDSHIPS:

Work sites vary in size and geographical characteristics, from remote rural communities to semi-rural, access-limited towns. All communities will have limited resources and services, and local populations may have limited education. Most sites are hot and humid year-round, and many areas are physically challenging, i.e., mountainous terrain, rocky unpaved roads, and extensive mud in the rainy season. All regions of Costa Rica experience a heavy rainy season. As such, Volunteers must prepare for tropical living and coexistence with tropical insects/animals, including mosquitos, cockroaches, spiders, ants, rodents (mice and rats), arthropods, snakes, bats, and many kinds of insects they have not seen before.

Nearly all Volunteer sites are accessible to the capital San José within two to six hours by public transportation. The closest urban center may be as little as 1 hour away by public transportation. Buses are available from all communities at least several days a week. They are both inexpensive and relatively dependable.

Serving in Costa Rica

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

Costa Rica is happy to receive couples and will identify sufficient work opportunities within the same community for both Volunteers. This cohort will include two programs: Community Economic Development and Youth In Development. We offer couples the choice of working in the same program or one in each program.

NOTE: Each applicant must apply separately and qualify for their respective program.

Couples can expect similar living conditions for them as for single Volunteers. They will live with the same host family during the three months of Pre-Serving Training; however, they may have Spanish classes in different groups depending on language levels. They will then live with the same family for the first six months in their assigned community. If suitable housing is available later, they may request independent living. Many communities don’t offer independent living, so Volunteers, including couples, should prepare themselves to live with a host family throughout their service.

NOTE: While couples will be working in the same community, they may be assigned to work at different institutions.

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process Recruiters and Placement Officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities.

For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.

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