Community Health Support Agent

Before You Apply

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Project Description

As a Community Health Support Agent, you will take on the urgent task of helping to expand access to community health programs. You will assist Senegalese Community Health Workers by assuming the role of a facilitator, a support person, an organizer, and a motivator for your community’s health outreach. You are not expected to be a health expert, rather your role will be to work with and support local trainers.

The formal health system in Senegal is unable to meet all the health needs of the local population, particularly those living in communities with limited access to clinics and hospitals. Consequently, the Ministry of Health and Social Action (MSAS) is promoting community health as a way to improve access to basic health care and prevention services for the majority of the population. The MSAS created a network of basic health units called health huts, and each health hut is run by two Community Health Agents (CHAs). CHAs are volunteers from the community who have received training to provide basic health care. They are supported by Community Health Educators (CHEs) who are in charge of educating the community on disease prevention and the adoption of healthy practices. The CHAs and CHEs together compose the area’s Community Health Workers (CHWs).

The Community Health Project aims to support a reduction in maternal and child mortality in Senegal. This is a priority for the Government of Senegal and the Peace Corps works alongside other U.S. agencies engaged in ending preventable maternal and child deaths.

The Community Health Project seeks to (1) support CHWs to deliver quality health care and prevention services; and (2) improve utilization of community health services and uptake of healthy behaviors, particularly among pregnant women and mothers.

The Community Health Project uses a two-pronged approach:
• Support CHWs to improve their skills. A set of soft skills have been identified that will strengthen the impact of CHWs.
• Support a cohort of pregnant women and mothers to adopt evidence-based Maternal and Child Health (MCH) behaviors.

Volunteers will work with their Senegalese counterparts to carry out the following activities:
• Organize individual and group capacity building activities for CHWs. Group activities will consist of workshops and trainings, while individual activities will include coaching and mentoring through one-on-one interactions.
• Work in primary or middle schools to create youth health clubs that train students to be informal CHEs and apply their skills in their community.
• Conduct regular home visits to work with a cohort of pregnant women and mothers of under-2-year-olds and ensure their utilization of MCH services and application of recommended health behaviors.

Peace Corps Senegal includes gender equity and empowerment efforts throughout all our work. As such, you will receive training on gender challenges in Senegal and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. Through this health project, you will empower youth via the young relais (community health volunteer) program; increase the involvement of men in Maternal and Child Health activities that used to only target women (men as partners); and target influential community members to help facilitate the adoption of health behaviors (behavior change communication). During your service, you will look for other ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ and women’s sense of agency.

As an actor in the development of Senegal, and a part of the wider Peace Corps effort to share our story with our counterparts and host governments as well as to bring that story home to the U.S., you will monitor and report on your work activities throughout your service.

A background or education in health is not required. Peace Corps training will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to implement capacity building and MCH outreach activities. There will undoubtedly be challenges, but you will not be alone. Peace Corps Senegal has an experienced health team ready to provide technical assistance, advice, and feedback.

Your work will truly make a difference and be critical in saving lives—the lives of mothers who are still dying from childbirth and the lives of children under five who are still dying from preventable diseases. This is a priority for the Government of Senegal and each Community Health Support Agent provides essential assistance.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates 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 related to health
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field with work experience in public health
• 5 years' professional work experience in public health, community development, positive youth development, or community outreach

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have experience and/or interest in maternal and child health experience in capacity building through training, coaching, and mentoring and/or experience with community organizing or behavior change is highly desirable.

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.

A. Completed 4 years of high school French coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed 2 semesters of French college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of French

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the French College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Candidates with intermediate and higher fluency in French are highly desirable. Candidates speaking other Latin-based or Roman languages who are committed to learning French through self-study are also eligible. Candidates should note that Peace Corps Senegal only teaches local Senegalese languages, not French, as Volunteers need local language to integrate into their host communities and to undertake their work.

Living Conditions

Senegal Volunteers live with families. You will share meals and camaraderie with your host family, affording you valuable opportunities to truly understand the culture, enjoy the benefits and security of family life, and learn the language of your host community.

Most Community Health Support Agents live in the village or town where a health post is located. Village populations range from 2,000-5,000 people. A few health Volunteers live in more urban or semi-urban areas. You will have your own room in your host family’s house or your own mud hut in their compound in more rural areas. Your room or hut will include a private latrine or bathroom and bathing area. Although having your own room or hut provides some privacy, adjusting to family life can be a real challenge, albeit one that also brings many benefits.

Senegalese dishes are tasty, usually consisting of a staple of rice, millet, or corn with vegetable sauces, sometimes with meat or fish. There is far less variety than many Americans are accustomed to. Determined vegetarians may maintain their diet, but this further decreases variety. Some Volunteers choose to alter their diets in order to be more culturally aligned with a Senegalese lifestyle.

Utilities vary widely across Volunteer sites. Many Volunteers do not have running water or electricity. Water is collected at a community pump or well, and light comes from oil lamps, candles, or small solar lights. Cell phone coverage is inconsistent or non-existent in some areas. You will be issued a simple cell phone for texting and calling. Internet can sometimes be accessed through 4G for those Volunteers who own a smart phone, although coverage is inconsistent. We recommend that Volunteers come with a laptop. Heat and dust take their toll on electronics, so an inexpensive, hardy machine is recommended.

You will travel in crowded, shared taxis and buses over rough roads for long distances, and by bike, foot or donkey cart for shorter trips.

Peace Corps Volunteers are role models in Senegal. As such, you are expected to model respectful, responsible behavior throughout your 27 months of service. Alcohol, for example, must be used responsibly, especially in any public places and in the community in which you live.

Senegalese pride themselves on being well dressed and a neat, dignified appearance will say a lot about your desire to be accepted as a colleague. During both Pre-Service Training and your Volunteer service, the dress code is business casual. There is a great deal of beautiful cloth available in Senegal, and many Volunteers enjoy having clothing made by local tailors. For women, clothing should not be overly tight and should cover you to below the knee. For men, long shorts are acceptable for manual labor and sports, but otherwise are rarely worn.

In order to build trust with the people you are here to serve, you must respect cultural norms and practices. For example, greeting everyone in the office every morning is essential to gaining the respect of your co-workers and community members.

Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority may experience curiosity and unwanted attention from Senegalese nationals. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers are welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQ Volunteers have served here successfully. However, same-sex sexual activity is criminalized by Senegalese legal code and punishable by imprisonment in Senegal. Culturally, LGBTQ people are not well accepted in Senegal, and LGBTQ Volunteers cannot safely serve openly. Please refer to the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Senegal: 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

Senegal is able to accommodate couples serving together. One partner must work in the Health sector and the other in the Community Economic Development sector. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for the following position:

Business Development Service Agent

Couples will live together throughout Pre-Service Training as well as throughout Peace Corps service. Couples, just like all other Volunteers, are required to live with a host family for the entire 27-months.

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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