Community Health Support Agent

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

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 struggles to meet all the health needs of the population, particularly those living in remote and/or underserved areas. Equitable access to quality health services is a national priority of the Government of Senegal, which includes community health as a pillar of the national health policy operationalized by the National Community Health Strategic Plan (NCHSP). 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 usually 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).

Peace Corps Senegal’s Community Health Project aims to support a reduction in maternal, newborn, and child mortality in Senegal through the increased use of improved community health services by local populations, especially at the household level.

The Community Health Project seeks to (1) support CHWs to deliver quality health care and prevention services; (2) improve utilization of community health services and uptake of healthy behaviors, particularly among pregnant women and mothers and (3) promote early care seeking behaviors for common childhood illnesses.

The Community Health Project uses a two-pronged approach:
• Support CHWs to improve their skills and strengthen their capacities to act as first responders at the community level.
• Support pregnant women, mothers, and caretakers to adopt evidence-based healthy behaviors.

Volunteers work with their Senegalese counterparts to carry out the following activities:
• Organize capacity building activities for CHWs and health systems strengthening activities. These can consist of trainings, workshops, coaching, and/or mentoring.
• Implement skill building and knowledge acquisition activities that will target youth who will in turn serve as informal CHEs in their community.
• Conduct educational and awareness raising activities targeting pregnant women, mothers, and caretakers of children under 2 for the utilization of MCH services and adoption of recommended health behaviors.

Due to COVID-19, Volunteer activities and work venues may need to change to respond to community needs and agency requirements. Flexibility and adaptability are important for Volunteer service, especially during these unprecedented times.

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 have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. Through this health project, you will empower youth via youth health club activities; increase the involvement of men in maternal and child health activities; and target influential community members to help facilitate the adoption of health behaviors. 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 part of the wider Peace Corps effort to share our story with our counterparts and host government as well as to bring that story home to the US, 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 give you the opportunity to gain 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.

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 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 in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:
• Experience and/or interest in maternal and child health
• Experience in public health and positive youth development
• Experience in capacity building through training, coaching, and mentoring
• Experience with community organizing or behavior change

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 coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language.
B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language.
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker.

Candidates should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study and a subsequent placement test (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 encouraged to apply. Candidates who speak other Latin-based/Romance 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 to speak a local language to integrate into their host communities and to undertake their work.

Living Conditions

Senegal Volunteers typically live with families. They share meals and camaraderie with their host family, which affords opportunities to understand the culture, and learn the language of the host community. In light of COVID-19, placement with host families may not always be feasible; Volunteers might live in apartments instead.

In the past, Community Health Support Agents lived in villages or small towns; however, the first groups of Volunteers to return to Senegal may be placed in semi-urban or urban settings.

Senegalese dishes usually consist of a staple of rice, millet, or corn with stews, sometimes accompanied with vegetables, meat or fish (fresh or dry). There is far less variety than many Americans are accustomed to. Determined vegetarians may maintain their diet, but this further decreases variety.

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 unreliable. We recommend that Volunteers come with a laptop. Heat and dust take their toll on electronics, so an inexpensive, hardy machine is recommended.

Crowded, shared taxis and buses over rough roads for long distances are common in Senegal. In more urbanized areas, chances are that you will board taxis and buses where the Government of Senegal’s recommended social distancing measures are observed. You may also prefer biking, walking on foot or donkey/horse cart (in semi-urban areas) for shorter trips. In all cases, Volunteers must strictly observe Peace Corps Senegal’s transportation policy.

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 people 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 your household/compound, the office or other place of work every morning is essential to gaining the respect of your host family, 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 standpoints 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.

LGBTQ Volunteers are welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQ Volunteers have served here successfully. Senegal 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.

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

Couples Information

Senegal accepts couples' applications. One partner must qualify for the Community Health Support Agent position and the other must qualify for the Community Economic Development Facilitator position. Couples live with host families, as do individual Volunteers.

Couples will live together throughout Pre-Service Training and all other trainings thereafter as well as throughout Peace Corps service in their community of assignment. 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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