Community Health Advisor
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Madagascar is a beautiful tropical island, hosting more than 10% of the World’s biodiversity with untouched but endangered rain-forests. While serving as a Community Health Advisor, you will work alongside implementing community partners to facilitate health education and community outreach, as well as prevention and training programs. Implementing community partners may be local health professionals, Community Health Workers and mothers.
Most often you will use health behavior change approaches and tools to design activities for women, mothers, caregivers, men and heads of households using proven effective approaches such as Care Groups. Dissemination of health messages may also take place in village forums, theaters, festivals, schools or youth clubs; and through one-on-one mentoring, door-to-door visits or during informal social interactions. You may also have the opportunity to bring training opportunities to community health workers, building their professional capacity and increasing their effectiveness.
Peace Corps Community Health Advisors act as catalysts on a wide range of activities aligned with government and community priorities that seek to impact maternal and child health, nutrition, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and Malaria prevention and control. Therefore, your main role will be that of an educator, a facilitator, a liaison, a mentor, and a resource to assist your community.
Your work may focus on:
• Behavior Change through the use of evidence-based methodologies (e.g. Care Group model, which you will receive an intensive training on during In-Service Training)
• Maternal Health: working with Care Group mothers to encourage at least the four antenatal care visits (ANC) for safe pregnancies
• Child Health: working with Care Group mothers and training in essential nutrition actions and preparation of hygienic and nutritious food
• Disease Prevention: working with Care Group to improve infant and young child health through prevention of childhood illnesses (e.g. respiratory infections); and malaria prevention and control
• WASH Programs: working with community members and through school partnerships to reduce water-borne illnesses. Activities may include education on essential hygiene actions and hand-washing; building hand-washing stations; latrine use and maintenance; water treatment and storage
• Health Environment Interventions: Identifying concrete interventions related to water, sanitation and hygiene in households and schools, and various other health topics
Community Health Advisors are also expected to work with community members to develop secondary projects such as promoting sports for girls, improving community facilities, adolescent sexual health education, and life skills training. And while much of the work will take place during weekday daytime hours, some community activities may take place on weekends. Many Volunteers also work with their village officials to prepare large community-wide awareness events around International Malaria Day, Global Handwashing Day, etc.
Peace Corps Madagascar promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in Madagascar and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience
• Working with communities on planning and organizing health education and community outreach activities;
• Experience in a position of leadership;
• Experience working in any public health endeavor such as maternal and child health, nutrition, water and sanitation (WASH), as well as malaria prevention and control
Required Language Skills
• Housing: During service, Volunteers live in private one-room or two-room housing. House material often depends on the region, with walls made out of local wooden material in the Coast and concrete in the Highlands. Volunteers have individual outdoor bath houses and latrines, but often no running water or electricity. Some families in the community may have access to generators that can provide electricity/battery recharge, but that is not standard.
• Communication: Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone. Peace Corps will help you buy your phone during Pre-Service Training if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the States. Call costs are based on the amount of minutes used and texts sent and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls and texts, even from the US, are free.
• Transportation: On a case by case basis, Peace Corps may provide a bike, helmet, and basic bicycle maintenance training to assist you in daily routines such as biking to nearby markets or visiting sites around your village if needed. You may also be required to walk or bike between 3 to 10 Kilometers to reach a main road or an outlying village where community partners live and work.
• Food: In Madagascar, rice is the staple. Other foods include cassava, sweet potatoes, potatoes and corn. Meat and fish could be expensive or difficult to find depending on the region where you serve. Fish is more present in the coast and meat in the highlands. If meat or fish are not available, a variety of beans and peanuts can be used as source of protein. Vegetables vary by region but most of them are produced in the Highlands. Madagascar is graced with wonderful, though seasonal, fruits such as pineapples, peaches, plums, bananas, etc. But during the off-season, specific fruits may be unavailable and also unevenly distributed across country. You will do you shopping at the local market, but some items might have to be purchased at a larger town nearby.
Strict vegetarians and vegans may be challenged, especially during Pre-Service Training, and should be mindful of food customs in Madagascar: turning down a plate because it has meat may be seen as rejecting a gift. Volunteers have found it possible but difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet in Madagascar.
Madagascar has no laws prohibiting same sex relationships or romantic involvement; however, same sex marriage is not permitted. LGBTQ Volunteers in Madagascar may experience prejudice because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but cases of violence are extremely atypical. Volunteers suspected by communities as non-cisgender, non-heteronormative may experience isolation, mockery, or difficulty in managing personal and professional relationships with Malagasy. There is a strong network of LGBTQ Volunteers serving in Madagascar today, and many who have successfully served in the past.
The cultural environment of Madagascar is an extremely social and welcoming one. Most Volunteers find it very easy to make friends. Although Madagascar has a rich history and fascinating culture, it is one of the poorest countries in the world; many Volunteers experience emotional reactions to poverty and all that correlates to it. Volunteers must be emotionally mature and prepared to manage stress from living in such different conditions.
Malaria is highly endemic and PCVs must be prepared to take chemoprophylaxis without exception.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Madagascar: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Madagascar is a patriarchal society, so the male is often times seen as the head of the family. Couples will often face situations where the community seeks to first listen to the husband. Couples have to find their own culturally appropriate strategies to challenge their coworkers about their views on gender roles and gender equality. As in many patriarchal societies, Malagasy people tend to believe that men are more capable to conduct intensive manual labor compared to women (such as agriculture, for example). Therefore, couples must find ways to support each other when faced by these different gender roles expectations.
Medical Considerations in Madagascar
- Madagascar may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
- The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse.
- Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten, peanut, and shellfish.
- After arrival in Madagascar, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, 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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