Community Health Promoter

The Peace Corps continues to monitor and assess the COVID-19 pandemic domestically and internationally. The locations and timing of returning Volunteers to service will be determined on a country-by-country basis. The positions and projected departure dates listed below are subject to change.

Project Description

Sierra Leone is very welcoming, and Volunteers will have many opportunities to make friends, integrate within their community, learn the local language, cook Sierra Leonean dishes, and participate in community events. It will not always be easy, and in many ways, your service will likely be the most challenging and rewarding experience you have ever faced. An open mind and patience will be helpful, and you are likely to find your creativity, flexibility, and a sense of humor among your strongest assets.

Community Health Promoter Volunteers are not expected to be health experts or trainers; rather, their role is to work together 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 to a community with a clinic and staff, but are also encouraged to seek other opportunities to collaborate with local organizations to deliver important messages to community members in the following priority areas:

1. Maternal and child health and nutrition
2. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
3. Malaria prevention and control
4. Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health

Volunteers' main roles are as health promoter, facilitator, educator, and resource to assist your community. Activities Volunteers and their counterparts engage in may include:

• Improve infant and early childhood health through training in nutritional actions and the preparation of hygienic and nutritious foods.

• Improve nutritional practices and sustain a healthy diet through small-scale household gardening.

• Conduct regular home visits with pregnant women, mothers of newborns, and caregivers to ensure their utilization of maternal and child health services and of recommended health behaviors.

• Support health centers and community-based organizations to reduce the spread of malaria through education, distribution, and proper use of bed nets and sanitation.

• Reduce water-borne illnesses through WASH programs. Examples include: education on essential hygiene, training on correct hand-washing and building hand-washing stations, raising awareness of latrine use and maintenance, and water treatment and storage.

• Facilitate classroom lessons for youth that provide health information and allow youth to practice skill building.

• Facilitate workshops and mentor community health workers to improve their skills in organizational management, behavior change communication, and health promotion methodologies.

The Peace Corps promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender context and issues in Sierra Leone, and will have the opportunity to develop and implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During their service, Volunteers are encouraged to find opportunities 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.

The safety and security of all Volunteers is the Peace Corps' top priority. In response to the ongoing pandemic, this has included revisions to key processes, policies, and activities to align with required and recommended COVID-19 mitigation measures, including requirements focused on Volunteers’ engagement in communities. All Volunteers must adhere to the Peace Corps’ health and safety requirements, including COVID-19 specific recommendations and policies. Illustrative COVID-specific activities may include:

• Conduct one-on-one engagement with community members on COVID-19 mitigation measures in settings where appropriate preventive measures are in place.

• Provide culturally appropriate information in a manner that uses different communication strategies to reach individuals with low health literacy.

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 applicants will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and fulfill one or more of the following criteria:

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field

• 5 years’ professional work experience

Desired Skills

Additionally, Sierra Leone strongly prefers its Volunteers have one or more of the following qualifications:

• Experience and/or interest in maternal and child health, health promotion

• Experience in counseling, training, coaching, mentoring, and experience with community outreach

• Professional work experience in public health, community outreach and development, and positive youth development

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. Please take a moment to explore the Language Comments section below to find out more on how local languages will be utilized during service.

English is the official language used in schools and government administration. However, Krio is the most widely spoken language. Volunteers will learn Krio, a widely-spoken dialect with some similarities to English, to ensure safe and productive work throughout the community and travel. Volunteers will also learn traditional local languages spoken in their communities, where applicable, to improve collaboration, work with community members and integration in their community.

Living Conditions

HOUSING: Volunteer housing typically consists of two rooms and a parlor with an individual outdoor or indoor bathroom. Houses are located within a neighborhood, and it is at most a 15 minute walk to a potable water source. Many houses may not have electricity or running water. Some communities may have access to generators that can provide electricity/battery recharges, but this is not standard.

COMMUNICATION: The Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a phone soon after arrival in country, which they retain for use throughout their service. Please be aware that communication options are very limited in Sierra Leone as internet access is not widely available. Texting is the most common way to communicate, but cell phone signals in Sierra Leone are often weak and spotty in many areas. Every Volunteer’s site will have network coverage within their community or within walking distance. The Peace Corps receives mail for Volunteers from the main post office, and periodically delivers it to Volunteers based on an established schedule. Most Volunteers will not have access to mail in their communities. Please be aware and inform friends and family that communication options are much more limited than in the States.

TRANSPORTATION: The Peace Corps will assist with providing bicycles for Volunteers who want one for their daily routines. Public transportation to major centers is available from every Volunteer site. However, access to and frequency of transportation varies from daily to weekly. Per current transportation policy, modified during the COVID-19 pandemic and subject to change at any time, Volunteers are prohibited from riding as a passenger on the back of a motorcycle taxi (okada).

FOOD: Prices for food and other basic items may vary by location and time of year, and can be relatively expensive due to seasonality. Rice is the staple food. Other food items include: eggs and fish, which are the most 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, cassava leaves, peppers, eggplant, okra, cabbage, tomato, cucumber, and carrots are also typically available. Peanuts and sesame seed cakes are popular protein rich snacks. Fruits such as pineapple, banana, papaya, coconut, avocado, orange, watermelon and mango are seasonal. Based on available foods, vegetarians can find ways to balance a diet. However, strict vegetarians and vegans will be challenged, especially while living with a host family during Pre-Service Training (PST).

HEALTH: The health, safety, and security of Volunteers are the Peace Corps' top priorities. During PST, Volunteers are trained on awareness and prevention activities such as handwashing, food safety, and other hygienic practices in the Sierra Leone context. We also provide extensive training and information on personal safety and security best practices and available resources throughout the Volunteer’s service. The Peace Corps’ Sierra Leone team includes two dedicated Medical Officers, a Safety and Security Manager, and other designated staff at Post and at Peace Corps’ headquarters, who are available at all times to support and respond to Volunteer health, safety, and security needs.

SOCIAL CLIMATE: Sierra Leone 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 currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during PST, and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

Serving in Sierra Leone

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.

Couples Information

Peace Corps Sierra Leone values the contribution that couples make to the overall program. Your partner must apply and qualify for one of the following positions in Sierra Leone:
-Primary Education English Teacher
-Secondary Education English Teacher
-Secondary Education Math Teacher
-Secondary Education Science Teacher

Couples will be placed with the same host family for Pre-Service Training (PST) and in the same home during their service. However, during PST, couples working in different sectors will attend separate technical training sessions, potentially in different locations.

Medical Considerations

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

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