Community Health Educator

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Project Description

Volunteers participating in the Improving Community Health in Ethiopia (ICHE) Project make it a priority to improve individual and family health through strengthened health practices and care seeking behaviors. Volunteers in this project are assigned to rural health centers or clinics and serve as educators, community mobilizers, and trainers.

Community Health Educators work directly with caregivers of children under five to improve behaviors in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases (WASH), nutrition, and early care seeking. Throughout their service, Community Health Educators will focus on 8 families; conducting weekly home visits, performing analysis of barriers to practicing healthy behaviors, and implementing action plans to help each family adopt healthy behaviors. Community Health Educators also establish community groups who meet regularly to support each other as they address specific health needs.

In addition to working with families, Community Health Educators work in local primary and secondary schools to implement health campaigns, organize school-based health clubs, and work with school officials to improve school sanitation and hand washing facilities and organize school-wide health campaigns. The work in schools focuses on WASH-related diseases, hand and face washing, personal hygiene, nutrition, reproductive health practices, family planning, contraception methods, HIV/AIDs prevention, and girls’ empowerment and life skills. Additionally, Community Health Educators work with local teachers to implement these initiatives and will actively build their knowledge of, and capacity in, health education.

Volunteers serving in Ethiopia have an opportunity to do meaningful work that addresses significant health challenges facing the country ranging from illnesses related to nutritional deficiencies, water borne diseases, malaria and respiratory tract infections. Ethiopian Ministry of Health studies reported that about 80% of rural and 20% of urban populations in Ethiopia have no access to safe water. Three-quarters of the country’s child health problems are communicable diseases arising from the environment, specifically water and sanitation.

Along with their health education work, many Volunteers are involved with school clubs, youth camps, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Community Health Educators integrate Peace Corps Ethiopia’s cross sector program priorities into their health education and secondary projects, which can include HIV/AIDs prevention, malaria mitigation, food security, and technology. You will receive training on gender challenges in Ethiopia 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.

During Pre-Service Training, Community Health Educators spend 12 weeks living with a local family and being trained on technical, cross-cultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the rural Ethiopian context. Peace Corps staff will measure your achievement to determine if you have successfully achieved competencies before swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Serving in Ethiopia as a Community Health Educator is the quintessential Peace Corps assignment and a great opportunity for someone who wants to implement the theories of designing for behavior change in a real world setting working with families and schools. You will learn about designing for behavior change and behavior change communication, and in applying it, you will make significant health improvements in the communities you serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will also have the following qualifications:
• Demonstrated experience working or volunteering with health organizations;
• Demonstrated experience working or volunteering with youth;
• Expressed interest in working with families on health interventions related to nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation.

Required Language Skills

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

Learning the local language is the key to integration and successful service. You need to arrive with a strong commitment to learning the local language of the village to which you will be assigned. Volunteers will receive 12 weeks of pre-service training in a local language (Amharic, Oromifa, or Tigrinya) and must attain an intermediate level of spoken proficiency before swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Additional language resources will be offered to you at Peace Corps training events and through independent tutoring during service. Most of the people Volunteers work and live with do not speak English, so it is extremely important to understand and be able to communicate in the local language.

Living Conditions

Volunteers live in rural villages (pop: ~2,000) in the Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, and SNNP Regions. Ethiopia’s climate is cold in the mountains and hot in lower regions. Volunteer housing is commonly a mud house, with a dirt floor, and a corrugated iron roof. Peace Corps will provide you an allowance to purchase modest furniture and household items. Houses are typically located on a compound with the landlord. A pit latrine is shared with the compound family. Water is commonly from a hand dug well or protected spring that may be a 15 to 20 minute walk away.

Within the community, cell phone service is fairly reliable, but electricity and internet are usually lacking. Internet can be found in larger towns, generally within a day trip. The closest shopping town may be 20 to 30 miles away, though basic foodstuff will be available in your community. Volunteers must be prepared to accept the living conditions to which they are assigned as they will be living under the same conditions as the people with whom they work. Pre-service training will help you adapt to the lifestyle.

Your diet will be local foods such as injera, a spongy pancake made from tef, and eaten with sauces, spinach, beets, carrots, and various meats. Vegetables and fruit are available. Vegetarians will find that it is generally easy to maintain your diet.

Transportation will be by foot, bicycle, or local public transportation. Public transportation is available near Volunteers’ sites and, in most cases, travels several times a week to and from the nearest urban area or trading center. Public transportation is likely to be crowded, uncomfortable and unreliable. Travel to families’ homes, the health clinic, and the school may require walking 30 minutes or more each way or riding a bike for 5 to 10 miles. Many sites are at high altitudes, over 8,000 feet. The position requires a level of physical fitness that will enable the volunteer to successfully fulfill the job requirements. Peace Corps may provide you with a bike and a helmet, which must be worn when riding. Due to safety risks, Peace Corps Ethiopia prohibits the use of motorcycles or vehicles by Volunteers.

Volunteers are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop to enable Volunteers to complete required reporting and access digital resources.

Ethiopians are conservative in professional and casual attire. Although your counterparts' resources may be limited, they will present themselves in a professional way. Volunteers are looked upon as role models, and as such their appearance and clothes need to be clean, neat and mended. Throughout training and service, the dress code is business casual.

Sexual mores in Ethiopia are very conservative and strict, and you are expected to respect them. Public displays of romantic affection with members of the opposite sex are not socially acceptable. Ethiopia has some restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws, and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Staff and Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for trainees. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of Ethiopians may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, share their American values, and deepen local community members understanding of Americans.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Ethiopia: 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

Your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions:
• Agriculture and Nutrition Development Worker
• Community Health Educator

Couples with one Community Health Educator and one Agriculture and Nutrition Development Worker will be separated during the 12 weeks of Pre-Service Training and live with separate host families. Peace Corps staff will ensure the opportunity to visit with each other periodically; however, couples should be prepared to spend most of the Pre-Service Training time apart.

Couples who are both Community Health Educators will live together during the 12 week Pre-Service Training with the same host family. During the homestay, couples will only have one room to themselves.

After Pre-Service Training, couples will live together at their permanent site. Usually couples are provided 2 small rooms at their site so that they can have their own space.

Medical Considerations in Ethiopia

  • Ethiopia may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild and childhood; some types of gynecologic support; insulin-dependent diabetes; mammography; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; seizure disorder; 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:  none identified. 
  • After arrival in Ethiopia, 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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