Community Health Promoter
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The health project received the Government of Sierra Leone endorsement in October of 2016. After 23 years without a health project, Peace Corps/Sierra Leone received its first Health input in 2017. The formal health system in Sierra Leone is excited to receive Peace Corps’ support to meet more of Sierra Leoneans health needs, particularly those living in communities with limited access to clinics. Consequently, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is promoting community health as a way to improve access to basic health care and prevention services for the majority of the population. Volunteers are not expected to be a health expert or trainer, rather their role is to work with local clinics, community health workers, and other implementing partners to strengthen basic primary health care knowledge, practices, and services in rural and marginal areas in order to reduce the impact of malnutrition, and communicable and preventable diseases. Primarily, Volunteers are assigned a community with a clinic and staff, but Volunteers often seek other opportunities to collaborate with local organizations to deliver important messages to men, women, mothers, caregivers, and heads of households in the following priority areas:
1. Maternal and child nutrition
2. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
3. Malaria prevention and control
Volunteers act as a catalyst for behavior change on a wide range of activities that are aligned with government and community priorities. Volunteer’s main roles are health promoter, facilitator, liaison, educator, mentor, and resource to assist your community. Activities may include:
• Assisting counterparts and community health workers with the quality of their health education and promotion methodologies
• Working with mothers to improve infant and early childhood health through training in the essential nutritional actions and preparation of hygienic and nutritious foods
• Working with communities and households to improve nutritional practices and sustain a healthy diet through small household gardening
• Conducting regular home visits to follow-up with pregnant women and mothers of newborns to ensure their utilization of maternal and child health services and of recommended health behaviors
• Helping health centers and community-based organizations reduce the spread of malaria through education, distribution and proper use of bed nets, and environmental sanitation;
• Working with community members and school partnerships to reduce water-borne illnesses through community-based WASH programs. A few examples of such activities are education on essential hygiene actions, training on correct hand-washing and building hand-washing stations, raising awareness on latrine use and maintenance, and water treatment and storage
• Working in schools to create youth health clubs that train students to be informal community health ambassadors and apply their skills in their community
• Focusing on behavior change through the use of evidence-based methodologies
Sierra Leone promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in country and will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During service, Volunteers will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of their work, Volunteers will also report on these efforts and their impact.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience
• Experience and/or interest in maternal and child health, health promotion, or any bachelor’s degree supplemented by work experience in public health.
• Experience in building capacity through training, coaching, and mentoring and experience with community organizing
• Counseling and negotiating behavior change
Required Language Skills
COMMUNICATION: Almost all calls are made by cell phone. Peace Corps will provide you with a phone during the first few days of pre-service training for use throughout service. Volunteers are on a “Family Plan” which allows them to call staff and other Volunteers at no charge. Other calls are based on the amount of minutes used/texts sent similar to a data plan and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls and texts, even from the US, are free. Please be aware that communication options are very limited in Sierra Leone where Internet access and email is not widely available; texting is more common. The cell phone network or signal in Sierra Leone is weak and spotty in many areas. However, all of the Volunteers’ sites will have network coverage within their community or walking distance.
Peace Corps receives mail from the main post office and periodically disseminates them to Volunteers based on an established calendar. Note that mail is slow to reach Sierra Leone and takes time. Most Volunteers will not have mail access in their communities. Please be aware and inform friends and family that communication options are much more limited than in the States.
TRANSPORTATION: Peace Corps provides a bike to assist daily routines, such as biking to nearby markets or visiting sites around one’s village. Even though access to public transportation is one of our site identification requirements, Volunteer access and frequency to transportation varies from daily to once a week for a market.
FOOD: Prices may vary and can be relatively expensive due to seasonality and the cost of importing some goods. In Sierra Leone, rice is the staple food. Other food items include: eggs and fish, which are more affordable sources of protein, while meats such as beef, goat, or chicken are more expensive. Plantains, cassava, yam, potato, beans as well as a variety of vegetables like onions, potato and cassava leaves, peppers, eggplant, okra, cabbage, tomato, cucumber and carrots are also available. Peanuts and sesame seed cakes are popular protein rich snacks. If meat or fish is not available, peanuts are used as a source of protein. Often times, cooked dishes will have a fish base in them. Based on the available foods, vegetarians find ways to balance a diet. However, strict vegetarians and vegans will be challenged, especially while living with the host family during pre-service training.
Sierra Leone is graced with wonderful, though seasonal, fruits such as pineapples, bananas, papaya, coconuts, avocado, orange, watermelon and mangoes. You will do your shopping at the local market, but some items might have to be purchased at a larger town nearby.
HEALTH: The health, safety and security of Volunteers are Peace Corps' top priority. Once in Sierra Leone, Volunteers will be trained on awareness and prevention activities such as handwashing and hygienic practices. If health, safety and security issues arise you will have support from our Peace Corps Medical Officer and Safety & Security Manager respectively.
SOCIAL CLIMATE: While Sierra Leone is generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in the U.S. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Sierra Leone: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
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Couples will be placed in the same host family for pre-service training and in the same home during their service. However, due to our pre-service training schedule, couples working in different sectors will be separated for technical training sessions.
Medical Considerations in Sierra Leone
- Sierra Leone may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: cardiology; dermatology; insulin-dependent diabetes; gastroenterology; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ophthalmology; mild asthma; seizure; ongoing counseling.
- The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified.
- Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: peanuts.
- After arrival in Sierra Leone, 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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