Community Environmental Promoter

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

Paraguay is home to priority ecosystems and its economy is heavily agricultural-based, with intensive use of natural resources. Due to the heavy dependence on natural resources, there is a need for a more sustainable approach.

The Environmental Education project has two objectives:
Objective 1: Increase the knowledge, skills and attitudes of youth to become effective environmental stewards.
Objective 2: Increase the adoption of practices by individuals and communities that lead to an increased number of trees.

Objective 1 works toward developing young people into future environmental stewards through environmental education (EE) with teachers in elementary schools, co-planning and co-facilitating eco-clubs, environmental days and school-based recycling, through the Basura Cero initiative.

Objective 2 is focused on promoting forestry, through identifying interested community members, establishing nurseries, preparing the community for receiving saplings and supporting tree planting and follow-up care, in support of the National Forestry Institute (INFONA).

All work is done through collaborative efforts with other people. Volunteers do not work on EE, tree planting or nurseries alone.

More specifically, Environment Volunteers work on the following activities:
• Collaborate in primary schools (up to 9th grade) by co-designing, co-planning and co-facilitating with teachers on EE topics and recycling using Basura Cero, a behavior change-based framework which incorporates gamification to improve waste management practices.
• Co-implement with local counterpart(s) a structured eco-club (in or out of school) and other environmental events, following the Voices of Nature curriculum created by partner organization Para La Tierra (PLT).
• Collaborate with INFONA staff and counterparts on initiating or managing a tree nursery/ies.
• Promote forestry with native species (and some fast-growth), while working with manageable solutions that address rural, low-resourced communities’ economic realities

INFONA leads the public sector in sustainable forestry management and has decentralized their offices to reach more communities. Collaboration with Peace Corps expands INFONA’s reach and makes their work more effective. Volunteers work with communities to identify and prepare interested families to receive tree donations and support tree maintenance and care after planting. INFONA contributes tree donations to communities, and Volunteers and counterparts rely on INFONA’s staff for technical consultations.

Regarding environmental education, PLT works to conserve fragile habitats through research, community engagement and EE through the curriculum “Voces de la Naturaleza”, an evidence-based curriculum for both the school setting and eco-clubs outside of the school setting. Peace Corps Volunteers work with community members to co-implement the Voces de la Naturaleza curriculum in their community as a part of the formative process for young people to become effective environmental stewards and leaders.

Through collaboration with these, and other agencies, Environment Volunteers expand citizens’ access to these organizations and support both the organizations and community members’ capacity towards creating and maintaining a healthy, productive and resilient environment around them.

All Volunteers should feel comfortable working with community, teacher and youth groups as well as coordinating with local elected officials and government/non-government organization workers. Environment Volunteers are placed in communities ranging from small to mid-size rural villages to marginalized neighborhoods of urban areas. Priority eco-regions for Volunteer assignment include the Atlantic Forest and the Chaco, although Volunteer requests will be accepted from other regions and Volunteers assigned accordingly.

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 an expressed interest in promoting environmental awareness in schools and communities, and 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

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:

• At least one year of experience working in a rural area under challenging conditions
• At least one year of service/volunteer work in a community
• At least one year of experience implementing behavior change methodologies
• Interest and skills in people-focused environmental work regarding environmental education, tree planting and trash management
• Demonstrated successful experience in organizing and/or planning community events
• Background in environmental education, science, or studies
• Conversational Spanish skills
• Experience working directly in community training for environmental conservation
• Demonstrated ability to work effectively with teachers, students and youth groups as well as with local elected officials, other elementary school staff and local government workers
• Demonstrated flexibility in work assignments
• Strong interest to learn an indigenous language

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).

Competitive candidates will have conversational Spanish language skills. Paraguay is a bilingual country where both Spanish and Guaraní are official national languages. In order to communicate in the capital city of Asuncion (and other large urban areas), Spanish is the most common language. However, in most semi-urban to rural areas where Environment Volunteers will be placed, Guaraní or “Jopara” (a mixture of Guaraní and Spanish) is the most common way to communicate. Therefore, Trainees/Volunteers need to learn/know both languages in order to be able to communicate and be effective. Pre-Service Training will include Spanish and Guaraní training. Trainees who start PST with limited Spanish language skills, may struggle to learn the two languages. It is important to maintain an open and positive attitude about language learning, as well as being willing to dedicate substantial time to learning and practicing both languages outside of formal language class during Pre-Service Training.

Trainees will not be able to swear in as a Volunteer unless they meet both language benchmarks. Additionally, during training, Trainees are taught a basic competence in Spanish, but the focus of language training will be in Guaraní. Also, Guaraní is taught through Spanish so each Trainee needs to be able to communicate in both languages.

If perfecting or becoming fluent in Spanish is a main goal of Peace Corps service for you, Paraguay may not be the best fit.

Living Conditions

Communities:
• Communities range from rural (less than 1,000 habitants) to larger semi-urban areas (7,000-12,000 habitants).
• In some communities electricity is unreliable (works some days and doesn't work other days).
• Volunteers may have limited cell phone coverage and/or internet access. Somewhere in the community there will be cell service, but it may not be at the Volunteer’s home or work location. Be prepared to not have internet access in the community.

Housing:
• Following 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training where all Trainees live with a host family, all Volunteers are required to live with a host family in their community for at least three months - totaling six months of homestay with a family. Volunteers are expected to adjust to the host family in a respectful and thoughtful manner.
• Conditions in rural areas can be very basic- i.e. you may have to use a latrine; water is not treated, etc.
• Houses and family living situations may be very rustic, and sometimes Volunteer housing does not have running water and depends on wells which may be shared with neighbors.

Work:
• Environment Volunteers should be able to walk and/or bike up to five miles a day as well as work in the fields under hot and humid conditions (often over 90 degrees and 70% humidity).
• Working situations range from outdoor manual labor to co-facilitating in front of a classroom.
• In Paraguay, there isn’t a clear separation of personal and professional life, as many on a community level are related and personal relationships heavily influence professional relationships.

Transportation:
• Most communities are accessible by public transportation, but some will require up to a 10k (~6 miles) walk or bike ride to the closest bus station or main road where public transportation runs.

Food:
• The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat therefore it can be challenging for vegetarians. The diet is also very high in carbohydrates - many meals involve more than one starch at a time, for example manioc and pasta or manioc and rice. Manioc and meat are eaten at least once a day almost every day. Fruits are available by season. Most communities have access to tomatoes, onions and green peppers; but have limited or no access to other vegetables. Many Volunteers have gardens in order to increase access to vegetables. Many Volunteers do not have access to a supermarket near their community. Please be prepared to have a routine diet that does not depend on access to a supermarket.

Serving in Paraguay

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Paraguay: 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 apple and they will be assigned to the same community but have distinct work plans. Therefore, your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions:
Community Environmental Promoter
Agricultural Sciences Promoter

Couples will live together with a host family during Pre-Service Training but may be separated for certain field-based activities if they are in different project sectors. During service, couples will live together with the same host family. If couples are in different sectors they will be separated for workshops and conferences for up to two weeks at a time due to in-service training events.

Medical Considerations

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


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