Community Health Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

The Peace Corps Community Health and HIV/AIDS Project (CHHAP) focuses on responding to the HIV epidemic and supporting the healthy and positive development of Namibia's population, especially among the youth. The project focuses on building youth friendly health services and reducing stigma and discrimination at the community level in order to improve access and retention for HIV care and treatment services. Volunteers also work with youth in schools, and across their communities, improving sexual and reproductive health education, economic and nutritional resilience, and adoption of healthy lifestyles.

Today, Namibia has one of the highest prevalence rates of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the world. The HIV prevalence in the general population is estimated at 13.3%. More than one-in-five adults is HIV positive, and AIDS is one of the leading causes of death and hospitalizations. The HIV epidemic has left almost 150,000 children orphaned, meaning they have lost one or both parents due to HIV.

Peace Corps Namibia, most notably though our CHHAP Volunteers, is a proud partner of the U.S. Government’s interagency global HIV/AIDS relief initiative, PEPFAR. PEPFAR in Namibia provides unparalleled support to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS), and also to non-governmental organization partners. CHHAP Volunteers will be considered to be an important piece of this massive effort in Namibia working towards an AIDS free generation.

Namibia is home to one of the strongest and best-coordinated HIV/AIDS relief efforts in Southern Africa. We are making progress in this fight, and we believe that an AIDS-free generation is possible within our lifetimes. So this is an exciting time to join the Peace Corps Namibia team of Volunteers and staff, and be on the front lines in efforts to eliminate new HIV infections and to achieve major public health advances for those who need them most.

Volunteers' work focuses on two main objectives: preventing new HIV infections among youth and increasing access to care, support, and treatment for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDs.

Examples of common primary project activities for CHHAP Volunteers include:
- Coordinate and co-facilitate youth clubs and camps for both in and out-of-school youth
- Work with teachers to co-facilitate sessions using Namibia’s Integrated School Health Program
- Co-facilitate group sessions with Community Health Extension Workers for out of school youth groups, youth based organizations in the community
- Support referral networks between health facilities and community groups
- Create and/or co-facilitate sessions with support groups for adolescents living with and/or affected by HIV
- Co-facilitate sessions for the community to educate and reduce stigma and discrimination about HIV and AIDS
- Co-ordinate and/or co-facilitate peer support groups for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their caregivers that include education, psychosocial support, positive living and wellness session
- Assist counterparts in planning and conducting community and regional health events (e.g. World AIDS Day, health campaigns, etc.)

Peace Corps Namibia promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector, mainly in rural villages, and 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 also have one or more of the following:

• A degree or experience in public health or social work.
• Demonstrated leadership and community organization skills, facilitation and training skills, and an interest in working with support groups of people living with HIV (PLHIV), adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV), and youth.
• Experience working with youth, community groups
• Candidates who express a desire to pursue a career in medicine or public health following their Peace Corps service.

Required Language Skills

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

Though English is the official language of Namibia, the country has many different languages from an array of language families (Khoekhoe, Bantu, and Germanic). Most Volunteers encounter a variety of languages in their communities, either different dialects of the same language, or different languages entirely. Throughout Pre-service training, Volunteers will take intensive language classes and live with a local family to facilitate learning the language of their region in preparation for their service. However, self-study after arriving in their community is a must for any Volunteer wishing to be successful. It should come as no surprise that becoming highly proficient in a local language is directly linked to Volunteer success and satisfaction!

We find that those who have prior success in learning another language are able to more quickly pick up local languages in Namibia.

Living Conditions

Namibia's national anthem proclaims it as "beautiful contrasting Namibia," and this could not be more appropriate. Namibia's two million citizens live in the second least densely populated country in the world. Still, urban centers like the four "O" regions of north central Namibia (population of one million), modern coastal cities of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, and the international capital Windhoek buck the notion that this desert nation is always sleepy.

Most CHHAP Volunteers will be placed in rural settings in the Northern areas of Namibia, which are considered priority regions by the Ministry of Health due to a significantly higher HIV/AIDS prevalence.

CHHAP Volunteers are provided modest housing similar to that of the community they serve. Some will live on a health clinic compound, and will share a living space with a Namibian counterpart or on a host family's compound. Some will live in independent housing and others may live in separate housing on school compounds. Volunteers are guaranteed to have a private bedroom, but typically share a kitchen, living room, and other areas. Most homes will not have running water or electricity.

Peace Corps will provide you with a modest monthly living allowance with which you will live at the same level as many of your community members. This allowance will enable you to buy meals and some clothing and to travel, and will be used for miscellaneous expenses.

Many CHHAP communities do not have reliable mobile phone networks where the Volunteer lives, but will have other communication options close by for emergencies.

Volunteers typically use pit latrines, and bathe using a bucket. Most family compounds and clinics will have a water tap from which to fetch water on the grounds or very nearby. Cooking in these rural areas is typically done over open fire or camping stove.

Namibia's weather varies greatly by season. Summers can be very hot and dry in this desert country, but winter evenings can be quite cool.

Volunteers will do a great deal of walking. It provides a wonderful opportunity to participate in daily village life - to see your neighbors and (importantly) to be seen by them. It is not uncommon to walk several kilometers each day to visit patients or other community members. Good quality, closed-toe waking shoes are important! When traveling outside the village, Volunteers will use public transportation (taxis and mini-buses), sometimes for a full day or more, to get to their banking and shopping towns, the capital, or attend local and regional trainings and conferences.

You will develop social and working relationships with a variety of people, become familiar with local expectations and customs, develop an appreciation of local foods, struggle with local languages, and learn to live and work with necessities rather than comforts.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority, or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their host country may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers turn these encounters into learning experiences, share American values, and deepen community members’ understanding of Americans.

While Namibia 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. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address these topics during PST, and identify support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Namibia: 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 Namibia can only accept couples who serve in the heath program sector. Your partner must qualify and apply for the following position:
• Community Health Volunteer

Couples who are both Community Health Educators will live with the same home stay family during approximately 8 weeks of Pre-service training (PST). They may be asked to live separately during the first week of PST when accommodations are typically dorm-style.

Though conditions of housing and site will vary, couples will live together during service.

Medical Considerations in Namibia

Namibia may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; 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: none identified. 
  • After arrival in Namibia, 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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