Health Extension Volunteer

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

Ethiopia is an ancient land, known for its coffee, rock-hewn churches and rugged landscape. The Peace Corps program was re-established in Ethiopia in 2007 and since then Volunteers have been working with the Ethiopian people through various initiatives. One priority is improving individual and family health through strengthened health practices and care-seeking behaviors. Volunteers support this goal by serving as Community Health Educators through the Improving Community Health in Ethiopia (ICHE) Project.

Ethiopia faces significant health challenges including illnesses related to nutritional deficiencies, water borne diseases, malaria and respiratory tract infections. As a Community Health Educator, you will be assigned to a rural health center or clinic where you will serve as an educator, community mobilizer and trainer. Your work will be divided into two parts.

The first focuses on the clinic, where you will work on programs that could include building handwashing stations, training community members on latrine use and maintenance, human and home waste disposal, water sanitation, treatment and storage, conducting weekly home visits and promoting care seeking behaviors.

The second part focuses on working in a local primary or secondary school. Along with the teachers, you will
implement health campaigns, organize school-based clubs and promote health education regarding WASH-related diseases, hand and face washing, personal hygiene, nutrition, reproductive health practices, family planning, contraception methods, HIV/AIDs prevention, girls’ empowerment and life skills. This includes working with local teachers to increase their capacity to conduct similar programs.

Along with your health education work, you are encouraged to be involved with school clubs, youth camps, sports and other activities of interest to both you and your community. This could include anything from building fuel efficient stoves to soap making classes. You are especially encouraged to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you should look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency.

You will learn all the skills and knowledge you need to accomplish these tasks during Pre-Service Training. This is a 12-week-long intensive training period where you will live with a local family and be trained on technical, cross-cultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the rural Ethiopian context. Once you have demonstrated your proficiency in these areas, you will be sworn 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 design and implement public health interventions in a real world setting. You’ll also gain experience with community mobilization, organizing, behavior change campaigns, leadership, inter-cultural communication and international development, all while helping improve the lives of people in your community.

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 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.

During Pre-Service training, you will receive twelve weeks of intensive instruction in either Amharic, Oromifa, Tigrinya or another regional language. Few people in your community will speak English, so strong dedication to learning your new language is essential to having a successful service. You must attain an intermediate level of spoken proficiency before swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Additional language resources to improve your fluency will be offered to you at Peace Corps training events and through independent tutoring during service.

Living Conditions

Ethiopia’s climates and cultures vary widely with more than 80 separate ethnic groups inhabiting areas from the Ethiopian Highlands to the Great Rift Valley. Your living conditions will depend on where you are assigned to work; however, most Volunteers are assigned to a small town in the Amhara, Oromia, Tigray or SNNP Regions

As a Volunteer you are expected to live at the same level as your local counterparts. Volunteer housing is commonly a mud house with a dirt floor and a corrugated metal roof located on a compound with a landlord. A pit latrine is shared with the host family. Water will likely come from a well or protected spring that may be a 20-minute-walk away. Peace Corps will provide you money to purchase modest furniture and household items. Within the community cell phone service is fairly reliable but electricity and internet are unreliable or non-existent. Internet can be found in larger towns, generally within a day’s trip. Pre-Service Training will help you adapt to this lifestyle through sessions that cover topics from bucket-bathing to storing food without electricity. Many Volunteers grow to love this simple lifestyle.

Your diet will be local foods such as injera, a spongy pancake-like bread eaten with sauces, vegetables and meat. Vegetables and fruit are available, though there is seasonal and regional variability. Vegetarians will find that it is generally easy to maintain their diet. The closest shopping town may be 30 miles away, though basic foodstuffs will be available in your community.

Transportation will be by foot, bicycle or public transportation. Public transportation will be available near your site and in most cases goes several times a week to and from the nearest urban center. Public transportation is likely to be crowded and uncomfortable. Travel to the clinic, community members’ homes and demonstration sites may require walking 30 minutes or more each way or riding a bike for 5 to 10 miles (a helmet will be provided to you). Due to safety risks, Peace Corps Ethiopia prohibits the operation of motorcycles or vehicles by Volunteers.

Many sites are above 8,000 feet in elevation and a decent level of physical fitness is required for this position.

Ethiopians are conservative in professional and casual attire. Although your counterparts' resources may be limited, they will present themselves professionally. Volunteers are looked upon as role models, and as such their appearance and clothes need to be clean and neat.

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 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 handle these subjects. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Volunteers of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of the country of service may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. This can be uncomfortable, but Volunteers are encouraged to use these moments as opportunities to deepen local community members’ understanding of U.S. diversity by sharing their values and experiences. Peace Corps recognizes that this is challenging. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address identity related concerns during Pre-service training. There are also multiple support networks within Peace Corps Ethiopia including specially trained staff and several Volunteer led initiatives such as a Peer Support Network for general support, an LGBTQ+ support group and a racial/ethnic identity support group.

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 the following position:

• Agriculture and Nutrition Development Worker

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.

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

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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