Community Health and HIV/AIDS Programs (CHHAP) Volunteer

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Project Description

Today, Namibia has one of the highest prevalence rates of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world. The HIV prevalence in the general population is estimated at 13.3%. More than one-in-five adults are HIV positive, and AIDS is one of the leading causes of death and hospitalizations. The HIV epidemic has left almost 150,000 children orphaned, meaning they have lost one or both parents due to HIV and face dire psycho-socio and economic challenges as a result.

The Peace Corps Community Health and HIV/AIDS Project (CHHAP) focuses on responding to the HIV epidemic and supporting the healthy and positive development of Namibia's population, especially among the youth. The project focuses on building youth friendly health services and reducing stigma and discrimination at the community level in order to improve access and retention for HIV care and treatment services. Volunteers work with youth in schools and across their communities, improving sexual and reproductive health education, economic and nutritional resilience, and adoption of healthy lifestyles. They are encouraged to collaborate with other Volunteers at post (i.e business and education) to implement community health and HIV/AIDS programs at their sites. In many cases CHHAP Volunteers will be paired with another CHHAP Volunteer as well as local partners.

Peace Corps Namibia, most notably though our CHHAP Volunteers, is a proud partner of the U.S. Government’s interagency global HIV/AIDS relief initiative, PEPFAR. PEPFAR in Namibia provides unparalleled support to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) and other non-governmental organization partners. CHHAP Volunteers are considered to be an important piece of this massive effort in Namibia working towards an AIDS free generation.

Namibia is home to one of the strongest and best-coordinated HIV/AIDS relief efforts in Southern Africa. We are making progress in this fight, and we believe that an AIDS-free generation is possible within our lifetimes. So this is an exciting time to join the Peace Corps Namibia team of Volunteers and staff, and be on the front lines in efforts to eliminate new HIV infections and to achieve major public health advances for those who need them most.

Examples of common primary project activities for CHHAP Volunteers:
• Conduct health promotion education sessions in various public settings on a variety of topics, depending on community priorities (e.g. alcohol dependency; nutrition; healthy lifestyles)
• Assist in creating demand for HIV counseling and testing
• Working with young mothers to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child
• Promote and encourage vulnerable populations, including youth to access HIV treatment and other services, and support them to stay on treatment and maintain healthy livelihoods through training on gardening skills and economic strengthening
• Provide learning support, life skills education, and psycho-social support to orphans and vulnerable children through afterschool clubs and school youth camps
• Assist in the implementation of the national Integrated School health and life skills program
• Promote youth-friendly health and counseling services at health clinics
• Develop, update, and promote health information using proven behavior change communication tools and materials
• Assist counterparts in planning and conducting community and regional health events (World TB day, World AIDS Day, World health day, immunization campaigns, etc.)
• Conduct topical trainings for clinic and community health workers, as well as school staff to more effectively promote positive health behaviors

Peace Corps Namibia promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country 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 facilitate empowerment programs designed to ensure that both the girl and boy child learn the new paradigm together. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector, mainly in rural areas (villages) and semi- rural areas with disadvantaged communities. One or more of the following criteria applies:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive Candidates will have one or more of the following:

• Candidates with a degree or experience in public health or social work.
• Candidates with demonstrated leadership and community organization skills, facilitation and training skills, and an interest in working with support groups of people living with HIV (PLHIV), adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV), girl empowerment programs and youth.
• Flexible and adaptable candidates willing to be self-starters in resource-limited communities and able to work with minimal supervision.
• Candidates with experience working with youth and community groups
• Candidates who express a desire to pursue a career in medicine or public health following their Peace Corps service.

Required Language Skills

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

Though English is the official language of Namibia, the country actually has many different languages from an array of language families (Khoekhoe, Bantu, and Germanic). Most Volunteers encounter a variety of languages in their communities, either different dialects of the same language, or different languages entirely. Throughout Pre-service training, Volunteers will take intensive language classes and live with a local family to facilitate learning the language of their region in preparation for their service. However, self-study after arriving in their community is a must for any Volunteer wishing to be successful. It should come as no surprise that becoming highly proficient in a local language is directly linked to Volunteer success and satisfaction!

We find that those who have prior success in learning another language are able to more quickly pick up local languages in Namibia.

Living Conditions

Namibia's national anthem proclaims it as "beautiful contrasting Namibia," and this could not be more fitting. Namibia's 2 million citizens live in the second least densely populated country in the world. Still, urban centers like the four "O" regions of north central Namibia (population of 1 million), modern coastal cities of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, and the capital Windhoek buck the notion that this desert nation is sleepy.

Most CHHAP Volunteers will be placed in rural to semi-rural settings in mostly the Northern areas of Namibia, which are considered priority regions by the Ministry of Health due to significantly higher HIV/AIDS rates. Others may live in other regions supporting the expansion of our program. Namibia's weather varies greatly by season. Summers can be very hot and dry in this desert country, but winter evenings can be quite cool.

Most CHHAP Volunteers will live in modest housing without electricity or running water. Most family compounds and clinics will have a water tap from which to fetch water on the grounds or very nearby. Volunteers typically use pit latrines and bathe using a bucket as well. While Volunteers are guaranteed to have a private bedroom, they typically share communal areas and a kitchen, where cooking is done over open fire. Some examples of housing are: living on a health clinic or school compound, with a Namibian counterpart or host family, or independent housing.

Many CHHAP communities also do not have reliable mobile networks where the Volunteer lives, but will have other communication options close by for emergencies.

Volunteers do a great deal of walking, sometimes several kilometers each day. However, it’s a wonderful way to see your neighbors and, importantly, to be seen by them and other community members. Quality, closed-toe waking shoes are important! Traveling outside the village, Volunteers will use public taxis and mini-buses to get to their banking and shopping towns, the capital, or attend local/regional trainings and conferences.

Volunteers who are of an American racial/ethnic/national minority, or whose religious/spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of Namibians may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. Please be aware that American ideas of courtesy and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked “where are you actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers turn these encounters into learning experiences, share American values, and deepen community members’ understanding of Americans.

While Namibia is generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in the U.S. Volunteers must be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during PST, and identify support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

Volunteers would do well to research Namibia’s history in advance of arriving in order to be better prepared to live and work in a ‘post-conflict’ area and the issues that come with its post-apartheid and colonial past. Namibia is an exceedingly diverse country with a complex history that continues to affect the country politically, economically, and socially. Living and working in Namibia means negotiating extreme economic disparity on a regular basis as well as navigating one’s own individual identities – especially around race and ethnicity - and how they may be perceived differently in Namibia because of its past. Volunteers must be aware of this and consider the stress and challenges of such. PC Namibia strives to educate Volunteers through training and dialogue, and is committed to supporting its Volunteers and staff around these complexities.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Namibia: 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

Peace Corps Namibia accepts couples. Your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions in Namibia:

- Community Health and HIV/AIDS Programs (CHHAP) Volunteer

- Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development Volunteer

Couples who are both in the Health sector will live with the same home stay family during the 9 weeks of Pre-service training (PST).

Couples with one Volunteer in the Health sector and the other in the Community Economic Development sector will possibly live with different host families during PST. If this is the case, Peace Corps staff will ensure the opportunity to visit with each other periodically. Couples should be prepared to spend much of their PST time apart.

Though conditions of housing and site will vary, couples will live together during service.

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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