Community Health Educator

Project Description

Can you imagine working alongside a nurse at a health center, helping mothers to keep their babies healthy? Or collaborating with a local youth center to teach adolescent girls and boys about life skills, sexual and reproductive health and how to adopt low-risk behaviors? If so, Peace Corps is seeking applicants like you who have the passion to join the ranks of nearly 4,000 volunteers who have served in Cameroon since 1962.

The goal of the Community Health program is to end preventable maternal and child deaths and attain an AIDS-free generation. Community Health Educators work alongside their Cameroonian work colleagues (counterparts) to support the following program objectives:
• Increase the knowledge and skills of women to adopt practices that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery and a healthy newborn;
• Increase the knowledge and skills of caregivers to keep children under five healthy;
• Prevent new HIV infections among 10–24-year-olds by utilizing gender-specific approaches and their families;
• Increase access, knowledge and skills of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, including orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their families, to improve their well-being and resilience within their communities.

Health Volunteers work with their technical counterparts to:
• Educate individuals and groups on maternal and child health and improved nutritional practices;
• Mobilize communities to support maternal and child health and nutrition;
• Establishment and strengthen the care groups that address maternal and child health, nutrition, malaria, and/or HIV/AIDS prevention;
• Design and implemente behavior change communication activities such as:
o Educating adolescents and youth on age/sex and gender appropriate skills to lead healthier lives;
o Engaging community members to support adolescent and youth activities focused on HIV prevention interventions for adolescent girls and young women.

Peace Corps Cameroon’s HIV program is focused on prevention of HIV infection in adolescent girls. Volunteers collaborate with counterparts and community members to implement activities such as trainings, community mobilization, small group meetings, clubs, camps, mentoring and create safe spaces for adolescents and youth to discuss health and gender related issues. Alongside their counterparts, they receive training to facilitate discussions with youth and community members on sensitive issues, such as: HIV prevention, youth sexual and reproductive health including condom use and menstrual hygiene; positive gender roles; sexual and gender-based violence prevention, positive parenting and youth-friendly health services. Health Volunteers are encouraged to implement cross-sector activities, such as working with Education Volunteers to create health clubs in schools, and with Agriculture Volunteers to promote cultivation and consumption of nutritious crops to combat malnutrition in their communities.

Peace Corps has developed tools to help you and your Cameroonian counterpart perform an initial needs assessment in a culturally appropriate way that will provide information about the needs of the community in relation to your program goal and objectives. Among the key to success are integration into your community to help you develop and maintain meaningful relationships with community members, and your ability to communicate in the local language.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

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
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have the following relevant qualifications and qualities:
• Coursework, as part of a major or minor, related to Public Health, Epidemiology, Global Health, Community Health, Environmental Health, Anthropology, Sociology, Social Work, Nutrition, Nursing or related fields.
• Experience working in a Public Health or Social Service related program such as HIV/AIDS outreach, sex education, contraception and family planning, counseling, youth outreach, community health, maternal and child health, etc.
• Desire to work in a rural setting to meet the community’s health needs;
• Demonstrated leadership experience or experience in community organizing;
• The ability to demonstrate flexibility, learning on the fly, and a sense of humor;
• A strong willingness to learn French and other local languages of Cameroon.

Required Language Skills

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

While there is no French language requirement for Cameroon, it is recommended that Invitees engage in intensive study of French in the U.S. before departing for Cameroon. Peace Corps will provide suggestions for online learning options and offer limited virtual French lessons prior to arrival.

While many people in Cameroon speak English, in the regions where Peace Corps operates, French is the predominate language and necessary to travel safely and interact effectively with colleagues, neighbors and others. Trainees will receive over 100 hours of French language training and all Trainees will be required to attain a functional French level (“Intermediate-Mid”) by the end of Pre-Service Training (PST). Volunteers posted in the Adamawa Region will also be expected to learn some Fulfulde during PST, as soon as they are informed about their post. No benchmark is set for Fulfulde, but Volunteers are encouraged to leave training with at least survival communication skills.

Indigenous languages in Cameroon are quite localized. For easy integration and a successful service, Volunteers will be expected to learn basic communication skills in the local language of their site during the first year of service and will be provided with resources to do so. Volunteers are also provided with additional learning opportunities to continue improving their French skills and after they go to their sites.

Living Conditions

Volunteer assignments are in the French-speaking regions of Cameroon. Host communities range from approximately 300 to 40,000 inhabitants. Cameroon’s climate has a dry season and two rainy seasons; it can be hot and muggy or more temperate or cool at higher elevations. Volunteer housing is modest and varies from site to site and region to region. Houses are usually built with cement blocks and zinc roofswith zinc. Houses may have inside toilet and shower areas, but most have nearby or attached access to a private pit latrine and bathing area. Many houses do not have electricity or running water. Volunteers may need to use solar lamps for lighting. Water may have to be collected from nearby water sources. All water must be filtered before drinking and filters will be provided. While most Volunteers may have limited or no access to the internet or cell phone coverage in their houses, all Volunteer will be within a 30-minute walk of cell phone coverage. A basic cell phone can be purchased by Volunteers using their Settling-in Allowance, but it is recommended that Volunteers bring their own tablet or laptop for use at site or in a larger town or city. Settling-in allowance also allows Volunteers to buy furniture and set up their houses. Volunteers must be flexible, resilient, and prepared to adapt to the above-mentioned living conditions.

Your diet will include foods such as rice, or various pastes made of cassava, cornmeal, plantains., This is often served with a sauce made of tomato or greens and meat or fish. In most communities, there are markets and small stores where you can buy basic household items, food staples and fresh vegetables and fruits. Or you may need to travel to another town to buy supplies. Vegetarians will face some challenges but should be able to maintain their diet.

Transportation to and from your site may be challenging at times, especially during the rainy season. Depending on the location of your site, you’ll likely travel by foot, motorbikes (as a passenger only), “bush taxis”, buses or train, You may request a bicycle from Peace Corps. Volunteers quickly observe that personal appearance is important to people in Cameroon. During Pre-Service Training (PST), the standard professional dress code is business casual. Following PST, when you are placed in the community, you will need to dress appropriately for socializing in the community and for work. Respecting Cameroonian culture and tradition by dressing appropriately helps you gain respect in your host community. It will also facilitate integration and increase your credibility and effectiveness.

Religion plays a central role in the lives of most Cameroonians. You may be assigned to a majority Christian or majority Muslim community. You may be asked to participate in religious or other traditional ceremonies. During PST you’ll have the opportunity to explore how you might respond to such situations.

Because of limited exposure to the diversity of the U.S., some Cameroonians may expect all U.S. citizens to be white. For Volunteers, the range of responses to their skin color may vary greatly: from being mistaken for a Cameroonian to being questioned about their citizenship. These encounters can be turned into teachable moments for the Volunteer and the Cameroonian.

Though people in Cameroon are generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity are conservative and there are restrictive laws that target certain sexual behaviors. 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. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during PST and identify some potential support mechanisms for Trainees and Volunteers.

Serving in Cameroon

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Cameroon: 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

During pre-service training, we will try to accommodate couples living with the same host family, but we cannot guarantee that you will be housed in the same location. However, during your service you would be able to live together. Cameroon cannot accommodate couples within the same sector, and sector-specific technical training may be in different locations (but all trainees will come together for core training sessions). Your partner must qualify and apply for:

Agriculture Extension
Secondary Education English Teacher
Secondary Education Science or Math Teacher

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. At this time, Peace Corps Cameroon is only able to accept heterosexual couples. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.

Medical Considerations

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


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