Health Extension Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

In 2003, Peace Corps Swaziland reopened its Health sector to focus on the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic through the Community Health Project. The project aims to promote local leadership and respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in collaboration with the Government of Swaziland and international partners. The project places Peace Corps Volunteers in rural communities throughout Swaziland. Volunteers work with a variety of partners in their communities, such as health clinic staff, youth groups, and religious and community leaders.

Volunteers address the key health challenges in Swaziland through the following three goals:

Goal 1: To improve knowledge and skills around health and HIV/AIDS. Many Volunteers accomplish this by creating and working with support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS, conducting health workshops throughout the community, working with youth peer educators, and organizing HIV-testing campaigns. Volunteers also address youth sexual reproductive health through innovative after-school clubs and summer camps, where they link life skills subjects like decision-making, emotional health, and prevention of alcohol and drug abuse with sports, music and other topics of interest to youth.

Goal 2: To empower community members with new knowledge and skills to live positively and plan for the future. Volunteers work with adults and youth in communities to improve decision making, goal setting and critical thinking through activities such as camps, sports, clubs, training of peer educators and support groups.

Goal 3: To work with community members to reduce infectious diseases and improve environmental health in the home. Volunteers accomplish this by improving access and use of safe water to improve their hygiene and health. Volunteers work on water purification activities, construct water harvesting tanks and gutters, conduct education campaigns on safe water sources, and train families on food preparation.

Health Volunteers in Swaziland must demonstrate creativity and tenacity to design and implement projects in areas with high rates of HIV and compassion fatigue. Volunteers will work closely with, and augment the work of Youth Development Volunteers in Swaziland.

Peace Corps Swaziland promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in Swaziland and will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During service, Volunteers will look for ways 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.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector 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

Highly competitive candidates will possess a strong desire to address community health needs for both adults and children and meet one or more of the following criteria:

1) Experience working at a health clinic or community health center.
2) Experience facilitating health training sessions or workshops for groups.
3) Experience designing, implementing or evaluating community development projects in any context.
4) Experience working on nutrition projects, or with community gardens or permagardening.
5) Demonstrated leadership experience, including being a “self-starter” and creating structure in informal settings.
6) Experience working in nursing homes, hospitals or hospices, etc.
7) Proven experience learning a language. For social and work-related purposes, developing strong local language skills helps immensely in community integration process.
8) Candidates with a Bachelors or Masters of Public Health degrees, or former AmeriCorps or Teach for America alumni, are encouraged to apply.

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 language(s) will be utilized during service.

Additional Language Information

SiSwati is the national language. Successful integration only happens when the volunteer learns SiSwati. Volunteers must actively pursue their language learning to have success. Language acquisition is a requirement for training, and volunteers must prioritize language learning in order to successfully meet training criteria.

Living Conditions

Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with an immensely kind, caring and giving population. The mountainous country is the only absolute monarchy in Africa. Volunteers often easily feel at home in the rural areas, as community members display humor and generosity.

Moving Around Communities:
In Swaziland, the distance between homes in a community is often greater than 1 mile. All volunteers must be willing and able to walk at least 5 miles a day in mountainous terrain to get to work and do daily errands. Volunteers must often carry water 1 mile in these same conditions from the community well.

The weather across the small nation can vary greatly, from very cold winters (with average temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit) in houses with little insulation, to extremely hot summers (with temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit). All applicants should be prepared to serve in either extreme.

Similarly, some volunteers will serve in houses with modern conveniences, while others live in single-room mud houses with no running water or electricity. All applicants must be willing and able to live in either situation.

Host Family:
All Volunteers will live with a home-stay family during their 10 weeks of training. Host families are asked to treat PCVs as a member of the family, which means that Volunteers will be expected to follow the rules of the household regardless of their age. Volunteers must be open and willing to take part in this experience and participate in the daily life of their family. Most volunteers also live with host families for the duration of their service.

Other Considerations:
Living and working in Swaziland can be an enriching experience but it will certainly be challenging in ways that are different from anything you've experienced stateside.

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. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Peace Corps works diligently to identify and train host country partners on the rich diversity of the United States. Still, when engaging with some individuals, Volunteers who are of an American racial or ethnic minority, have visible disabilities or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience discrimination or a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Further, these Volunteers may notice that they are not treated with the same level of respect as other Volunteers, and may even be told that they are not “genuine Americans.” Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans. Peace Corps works diligently to provide a supportive environment for volunteers when coping with these challenges.

Swaziland has an HIV prevalence rate of 31%, and over one half of pregnant mothers are HIV+. All applicants must be willing to compassionately live and work closely with HIV-positive and HIV-affected people. Because of the devastating impact this disease has had on most communities in rural Swaziland, there is often a shortage of human resources at nearly all levels of society. Therefore, candidates must be self-starters and be able to cope with a lack of formal structure. Patience, emotional maturity, and flexibility are key requirements for success.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Swaziland: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations in Swaziland

  • Swaziland may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild and childhood;  dermatology; insulin-dependent diabetes; gastroenterology; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; seizure disorder, urology; 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: peanut.
  • After arrival in Swaziland, 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 also review Important Medical Information for Applicants [PDF] to learn about other health conditions typically not supported in Peace Corps service.

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