Health Education Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

As a Health Education (HE) Volunteer, you will be assigned to a community to teach and co-teach life skills and sexual health education at a middle school or combined elementary and high school. You will work closely with teachers to develop four types of curricula: biology, physical education, science/natural science, and elementary education. You will also collaborate with teachers during principal classes, free/project classes, or schools as community centers.

You are encouraged to collaborate with students and teachers in several schools within a region to organize community projects, clubs, and camps addressing life skills and sexual health education topics. Co-teaching and training comprise a significant part of Peace Corps Albania’s Health Education project. You will work alongside an Albanian teacher in classrooms as well as help train teachers regarding youth sexual and reproductive health. Some Volunteers may also liaise with a health education unit or provide staff trainings at community health centers, which have a long history of being under-resourced. Volunteer placement is typically in smaller towns and rural areas; no Volunteers are placed in the capital city of Tirana.

In the summer, you can lead camps and other youth development activities in partnership with schools, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or facilitate youth-centered projects such as Model United Nations, Girl Scouts, Outdoor Ambassadors (an environmental-themed afterschool program begun by Volunteers), Girls Leading our World (GLOW) camps, etc. You may develop or participate in summer youth camps, promote “life skills” education, tutor students in school subjects in addition to English, help develop student government in schools, and/or liaise with projects that foster youth employability.

If you have prior health education-related technical training, you may work closely with health education professionals at health centers or NGOs, or with other health professionals. You may introduce new teaching methods and techniques with regard to preventive health education in schools and kindergartens. You will also partner with NGOs and other community-based organizations to provide basic health education, and raise awareness of safe and healthy sexual and reproductive health practices, HIV/AIDS prevention, and other emerging health issues.

You will likely have more than one main colleague or counterpart, depending on the projects or activities you are involved in. You will work with a number of schoolteachers who lead health education classes, and sometimes with representatives of NGOs in the community, as well as government public health representatives. If you are placed in a school within a community that also has a rural health center, you may also provide access to resources and enhance the health education efforts of the doctors and nurses staffing those facilities and smaller health posts in surrounding villages, schools, and kindergartens. Locating motivated community members to help with these diverse projects will demand a concerted effort on your part. For this reason, it is important that you develop strong relationships in your community and commit yourself to improving your language skills, as well as bring a high level of self-initiative, determination, and positive attitude.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in the health sector and meet one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline
• 5 years’ professional work experience

Desired Skills

Experience in one or more of the following areas:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition, health, public health, or nursing
• Teaching, co-teaching, or tutoring primary, middle, high school students, or adults
• Developing and implementing clubs and camps for children, students, or young adults
• Ability to network and develop partnerships in small communities

Required Language Skills

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

Pre-Service Training (PST) will focus on language and cross-cultural adaptation. Albanian (Shqip) is a challenging language. Your language training will focus on developing your competency as a communicator, not grammar skills. Language acquisition is difficult and will consume a substantial part of your energy during training. You will use the Albanian in work settings during your service. PST will give you the basis for continuing to develop your language skills during service. Diligent commitment to learning Albanian during PST and throughout your service will help you acquire language skills that will be critical to developing relationships within your communities and the success of your projects.

Following PST, all Volunteers are required to retain a tutor for the initial six-months of service.

Living Conditions

Trainees will live with Albanian host families during Pre-Service Training and after Swearing-In at the Volunteer’s permanent site for a minimum of six-months. Living with and becoming part of a host family is often one of the most rewarding aspects of Volunteer service. In some cases, public transportation may not be available and you may have to walk to smaller villages. Your host agency and Peace Corps work together to identify housing and host families and to ensure they meet our safety and security criteria.

Housing in Albania tends to be small and you should anticipate living in less space, in much closer proximity to others, and with far fewer amenities and less privacy than you are used to.

Housing is often scarce and expensive. In many communities it is unusual for a single woman to live alone or to even walk alone in the street. Most communities in Albania are conservative and close-knit; Volunteers may choose to live with a family for a variety of reasons, including convenience, social integration, or personal security.

Most Albanian villages and towns have electricity and running water, but power and water outages are frequent. Most housing has minimal conveniences. Houses are not centrally heated, and most Albanians heat only one room with a gas or electric heater. Peace Corps will provide a small space heater. Warm water may be a luxury, and toilets are often squat style rather than commode style. Outside temperatures range from 100 degrees in the summer to below freezing in the winter, depending on your location.

It is likely that you will significantly modify your standard of living while serving in Albania. This may be more challenging than it seems. Volunteers also face challenges around the expectations of community members, who perceive Americans as wealthy. These expectations are sometimes reinforced by the smart phones, tablets, expensive-looking cameras and iPods that Volunteers use during service. You will need to become comfortable explaining that during service you live on a modest allowance provided by Peace Corps.

You will spend most of your time in your community but may travel periodically to the nearest larger town to access supplies and services. You should be prepared to walk long distances (several miles) regularly, especially during training.

Food in Albania is readily available, although shopping and food preparation can be time consuming with few processed items available. Vegetables are seasonal and meat is expensive, which means that bread, beans, rice, yogurt, and cheese are common staples.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Albania: 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

Albania cannot accommodate couples within the same sector. Therefore, your partner must qualify and apply for:

English Education Volunteer or Community Development Volunteer

Couples will likely be placed in different host families during Pre-Service Training, which will allow them to study language independently, to train with peers from their own programmatic sector, and grow and develop individually before being sworn in as a Volunteer (Swearing-In). During service couples will live together with the same host family. Couples may be separated for workshops and conferences for up to two weeks at a time due to in-service training events.

Medical Considerations in Albania

  • Albania may not be able to support Volunteers  with the following medical conditions:  insulin-dependent diabetes;  gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; mammography; ongoing behavioral health support; seizure disorder; urology.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve:  gluten.
  • After arrival in Albania, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and 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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