Community Health Outreach Volunteer

Project Description

Can you see yourself co-presenting a training on HIV prevention with a Kenyan Community Health Volunteer (CHV) to mothers gathered under the shade of a mango tree? Can you envision walking to the local market to buy beans, corn, and peanuts to make nyoyo and meeting a group of youth from the health club you co-facilitate, who shout greetings to you in Kiswahili? If the answer is yes, Peace Corps seeks applicants like you who have the passion, flexibility, and resiliency to support public health initiatives in Kenya.

Peace Corps Kenya’s Community Health Outreach project is designed to support Kenyan communities to reduce HIV transmission and promote healthy mother and child practices. Community Health Outreach Volunteers work within government health clinics, national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations (CBOs). In partnership with Kenyan CHVs, Volunteers play the roles of facilitator, mentor, educator, and catalyst, seeking solutions to improve health outcomes in their communities.

All Health Volunteers work in collaboration with their communities on three focus areas:

1. HIV/AIDS Prevention
2. Maternal and Child Health (MNCH)
3. Capacity Building and Support to Community Health Volunteers

On a typical workday, Health Volunteers may be involved in the following types of activities:

• Supporting community-based health organizations by co-facilitating trainings that advocate for positive social behavior change, addressing national priorities like malaria and HIV/AIDS.
• Promoting positive health outcomes on issues such as safe motherhood and neonatal and child health through co-facilitated evidence-based interventions.
• Collaborating with local leadership to conduct needs assessments, identifying public health challenges in the community and strategizing sustainable solutions to address them.

As with all Peace Corps programs, flexibility and a positive attitude will be important for this project. Volunteers work with local CBOs or NGO partners, and their work schedules may be less rigid than that of a typical “business” work week. Their activities may occur on weekends, in the evenings, and at various locations in the community. Between formal work events, Volunteers have opportunities to work in schools and with out-of-school youth to support health education activities. They may also join community members in secondary projects and other extra-curricular activities, like leading clubs, participating on sports teams, planning youth conferences and camps, or helping in school gardens.

Corporal punishment is illegal in Kenya. While the government has regulations regarding corporal punishment, these rules are not always followed or enforced. Volunteers may encounter different levels of corporal punishment and find this challenging, particularly when it is necessary to develop good working relationships with parents and teachers in the community. Peace Corps Kenya encourages open dialogue between Volunteers and their colleagues to explore culturally appropriate and acceptable alternatives to corporal punishment.

Peace Corps Kenya partners with community counterparts to promote gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers receive training on gender realities in Kenya and have the opportunity to co-implement gender-related activities that are contextually and culturally appropriate with their Kenyan counterparts. Together, they look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and facilitate empowerment programs designed to support both girls and boys to explore a new paradigm together.

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 a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field and an expressed interest in working in the health sector.

Desired Skills

The most successful candidates will have one or more of the following relevant qualifications:

- BA/BS in Nutrition, Health, Nursing or Dietetics
- MA/MS in Public Health (MPH)
- Certified Physician's Assistant
- RN, LPN, LVN Nursing Degree or Diploma, or other post-grad health/medical degree
- Prior experience working in Maternal & Child Health, HIV/AIDS prevention, Nutrition
- Volunteer or work experience in a health-related field, i.e., HIV/AIDS outreach; Reproductive health education; contraception or family planning counseling.
- Experience with youth development, particularly life skills development, promotion of healthy lifestyles, camps, youth clubs, scouts, etc.

Required Language Skills

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

Kenya has two official languages (Kiswahili and English). In addition, Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) is the 3rd National Language and is the language of instruction in schools for the Deaf. There are over 40 other local languages and dialects, with Luo and Luhya languages spoken predominantly in the Western region. Not all Kenyans speak English in their daily lives, so Volunteers' community integration is greatly enhanced with the ability to hold basic conversations in Kiswahili or one of the local Kenyan languages used in the community.

Trainees undergo a comprehensive language immersion program during the 11-week Pre-Service Training. All Trainees learn Kiswahili, and those that reach a high level of fluency will transition to a more specific local language used at their site of assignment. Trainees are tested three times during PST and at the end of 11 weeks they are required to reach the Intermediate Mid level of Kiswahili. Once they have moved to their permanent host communities, Volunteers continue their language learning with a trained tutor identified and funded by Peace Corps Kenya.

Living Conditions

Trainees live with Kenyan host families throughout Pre-Service Training (PST). After PST, Volunteers are placed in rural communities in Western Kenya. Housing is provided by the work partner and can be a private structure in a family compound, staff housing at the health facility, or a stand-alone house in the community. Structures vary from mud houses with metal roofs to concrete houses with glass windows. Volunteers all have a cooking area, private bathing area, and latrine. They may have to collect water from a local water source and may not have electricity.

Volunteers’ communities will be no more than five hours from the regional capital, Kisumu, where the Peace Corps Office is located. County capitals will have banks, a variety of shops, markets, restaurants, and guesthouses. Volunteers use matatus (minivans) as a main mode of transportation and work locations are no more than four kilometers from their houses.

Cell phone coverage may not be consistent in all communities, and text messaging may be more reliable. Internet is available at both Peace Corps’ office and through cellphone providers.

LGBTQI+ Volunteers have served successfully in Kenya, but safe and successful service requires a clear understanding of the dynamic LGBTQI+ cultural, political, and social context. The U.S. State Department provides the following guidance to LGBTQI+ travelers to Kenya under the Local Laws and Special Circumstances drop-down menu: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Kenya.html

For safety and security reasons, LGBTQI+ Volunteers are advised not to disclose this aspect of their identity. All Volunteers are asked to refrain from discussing the topic of LGBTQI+ rights with community members, given the risks of being suspected of being part of or supporting the LGBTQI+ community. Due to these restrictive laws, same-sex couples are not currently eligible to serve together in Kenya.

While all Peace Corps staff have received training in ICDEIA, certain staff in Kenya have a “Safe Space” identification on their office doors and are able to provide more direct support to LGBTQI+ Volunteers.

Kenyans regard dress and appearance as demonstrating respect. Volunteers are expected to dress in a culturally appropriate manner, whether in training, traveling, or on the job. Volunteers spend much of their time working with local leadership, so it is advisable to bring clothing that is comfortable and appropriate for a professional setting. Footwear appropriate for standing, walking, and biking is also a necessity.

Dresses and skirts should fall below the knee and spaghetti straps are not appropriate unless covered with a sleeved shirt or jacket. Shorts can be worn at home, when exercising, or when doing work where Kenyan counterparts are also wearing them. Sturdy sandals and closed-toed shoes are acceptable footwear for work-related activities.

Hair should be clean and neat, with beards and mustaches neatly trimmed. Long hair on men may have a cultural stigma. Tattoos and some piercings may not be culturally accepted and may impede community integration. Volunteers with visible body piercings or tattoos will need strategies to conceal them during the beginning of their process of integration into their communities.

Food availability and variety will vary by host community. The staple food in Kenya is ugali, made from maize meal and eaten with cooked vegetables, fish, meat, beans, or chicken. Vegetarians and vegans should have little trouble maintaining a healthy diet, though vegetarianism is relatively uncommon. A few words of polite explanation will usually suffice to be excused from eating meat in any situation.

Serving in Kenya

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Kenya: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Peace Corps Kenya welcomes couples serving together during service. For any couple to be considered, both partners must qualify for and be invited to any of the following projects:

- Community Health Outreach Volunteer
- Secondary Education Math Educator
- Secondary Education Science Educator
- Deaf Educator

Volunteers in the Health and Education sectors undergo different technical training programs, and during Pre-Service Training they live in different training villages around the main training site. Couples who serve in different sectors should note that they may not be living in the same villages during the 11 weeks of PST, and that their additional compulsory trainings such as In-Service Training may be held at different times. However, all couples will live together in their communities while working at different host organizations. During PST, couples serving in the same sector will live with the same host family.

Due to Kenya’s expectation that whenever a man and woman live together, they are by default married, unmarried couples should be prepared to present themselves as married throughout their service. Due to the country’s restrictive laws regarding the LGBTQI+ community, same-sex couples cannot serve in Kenya at this time.

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. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. 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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