Health Extension Volunteer

Before You Apply

You can only have one active Peace Corps Volunteer application, so choose a position that best fits your skills and interest. You have the opportunity to tell us if you’d like to be considered for other openings and more about the ones that interest you most! See application process

Project Description

Peace Corps/Vanuatu has increasingly focused on placing Volunteers in the most remote corners of Vanuatu. Community Health Volunteers work with community-led health committees, Village Health Workers (VHWs) and other healthcare providers at aid posts, dispensaries and health centers to strengthen Vanuatu’s healthcare system, assessing communities' health needs utilizing tools and training provided during Pre-Service Training. With the ultimate goal of behavior change, Volunteers and their counterparts raise awareness about healthy water and sanitation practices, communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and sexual and reproductive health. Volunteers also work with communities and health service providers to address identified environmental health issues, including inadequate water and sanitation and health hygiene practices. Volunteers frequently work with local schools on health education activities, and may also provide technical support to Ministry of Health counterparts and other Volunteers.

Volunteers may be required to engage and/or jump start community health and water and sanitation committees that often need additional assistance and training in project design and management, and incorporating sustainability plans into the construction of small scale, community-based water and sanitation systems.

Volunteers are expected to build a foundation for activities that can be sustained by the community after the Volunteer departs.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have an expressed interest in working in the health sector and one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelors of Science degree in any field, or;
• 5 years’ professional work experience

Desired Skills

Peace Corps/Vanuatu desires the following additional skills:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, Nursing
• Master of Public Health degree or Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Public Health
• Certified Physician Assistant or Public Health Nurse with expressed interest in public/community health; or
• Training, facilitation and capacity building skills to help local health service providers and village health committees conduct their own health education activities
• Ability to live and work in an isolated, undeveloped, rural tropical island environment with limited resources
• Strong interpersonal skills and the willingness/ability to build good working relationships with local people, including identify non-traditional leaders or individuals who can assist in supporting sustainable work activities
• Ability to adapt to unforeseeable changes such as personnel or policy changes
• A willingness to develop and implement multiple alternative strategies to achieve goals
• A willingness to learn more than one language (i.e. National dialect and specific island dialects)

Required Language Skills

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

Additional Language Information

There are 110 vernacular languages in Vanuatu, and Bislama is the language that is used by host country nationals to bridge the gap. The 10-week Pre-Service Training will include Bislama language training. Bislama is similar to the "tokpisin" found in Papua New Guinea and the "pijin" found in the Solomon Islands. The majority of Volunteers acquire high levels of language proficiency during their service. Some Volunteers may find that other vernacular languages in addition to Bislama are spoken at their work site and strive to learn the local language to improve community integration. A basic knowledge of French is desirable as there are many Francophone communities in Vanuatu.

Living Conditions

Volunteer sites range from isolated rural areas to more populated provincial centers. Applicants to Peace Corps/Vanuatu should be open to serving in remote sites with limited resources. Volunteers should be prepared to live and work in an isolated and often undeveloped rural tropical island environment. This means:

Isolation – Volunteers serve on 14-18 different islands. Volunteers are clustered but often separated by several hours of walking or an arduous truck ride. Air travel by small plane is required to reach the majority of Volunteer sites. Travel between islands is expensive thus Volunteers seldom come to the capital city, Port Vila.

Underdeveloped Infrastructure – Vanuatu’s transportation infrastructure is mostly undeveloped; many islands only have one road and most roads are not paved. Travel by small boat or truck is required for almost all sites. Walking on dirt roads or single track is also a common mode of Volunteer transportation. Volunteers should be able to swim and feel comfortable traveling in small boats for short (5-10 minutes) or long distances (2-3 hours).

Rural – Electricity may be provided by a school generator while often solar panels are the only option. Stores in villages have very limited goods and no services (banks, mail, or internet). Stores in provincial centers have limited goods but will have an ATM/bank branch, post office, and slow internet. Transportation from site to a Provincial center may be unreliable.

Tropical – The weather is hot and humid. Cyclones and earthquakes are expected. Severe weather may limit or interrupt transportation (rough seas, heavy rain, or flooding). Seasonal tropical fruit is abundant; only a handful of Volunteers have access to refrigeration. Most island families grow food in their gardens.

Housing- All Health Volunteers will live in or near the compound of a host family and should be prepared to interact with this family in a way that demonstrates respect, equity and facilitates community integration. This will be discussed in more detail during your Pre-Service Training. Most Volunteers don't have running water in their house, electricity or internet connectivity.

Dress- Dressing appropriately will help you gain respect in your host community, facilitate integration, and increase your credibility and effectiveness. For teaching in a classroom or working in an office setting, men should wear a nice collared shirt and trousers. Women usually wear nice blouses and dresses or skirts. All skirts and dresses should be below the knee. Inappropriate dress may attract unwanted attention.

Religion- Longstanding traditions and customs are still strong outside of the major population centers. Christianity has been thoroughly integrated into Vanuatu culture since Christian missionaries first arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century. Village church attendance will likely be expected within communities, especially in rural communities. Volunteers will not be pressured to join in religious traditions, though are encouraged to seek to understand and respect the importance religion hold in the lives of many Ni-Vanuatus.

Demographic groups/Aspects of Diversity - 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. Peace Corps/Vanuatu provides support to a diverse group of Volunteers LGBTQ individuals. LGBTQ Volunteers have served successfully in Vanuatu; although it is not illegal in Vanuatu, it is often not accepted in Vanuatu Society.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Vanuatu: 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 Vanuatu

  • Vanuatu may not be able to support Volunteers  with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; cardiology; dermatology; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support;  insulin-dependent diabetes; mammography; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ophthalmology; 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: shellfish.
  • After arrival in Vanuatu, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot,  to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and 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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