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

The purpose of the Rural Community Health Program is to assist Beninese individuals and communities in improving their overall health and well-being through disease prevention and health promotion activities. This program focuses on two main goals:
1) Maternal, neonatal and child health, with a focus on nutrition;
2) Disease prevention and healthy practices – specifically hygiene and sanitation, malaria, HIV/AIDS and promotion of reproductive health with adolescents and youth.

All Health Volunteers are expected to conduct the following activities during their two years of service; while these activities are required, Volunteers are encouraged to work with their community partners to tailor the activities to the needs of the community:
• Developing care groups to address specific community health issues by identifying, training, and following up with mothers; and
• Implementing the peer education project Amour & Vie (Love & Life) in conjunction with international NGO PSI to address youth health issues.

Many Volunteers also conduct the following activities in conjunction with their care groups and Amour & Vie groups:
• Working with health care professionals to better define and promote balanced nutrition among pregnant and breast feeding mothers and children under the age of five;
• Providing malaria education to young people and influential community members so that they will initiate local action aimed at behavior change;
• Assisting with the organization of village-based immunization and baby-weighing sessions;
• Providing health education focused on nutrition and disease prevention (HIV/AIDS, malaria and hygiene);
• Assisting the community to encourage better use of water and sanitation tools and promoting behavior change;
• Working with local groups to create or improve existing gardens providing increased sources of nutrition;
• Working with NGOs to develop sustainable projects in the community.

Volunteers receive training on gender challenges in Benin and they have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During their service, Volunteers look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of the initiative, they will 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
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

• Experience supporting health initiatives focusing on women, adolescents and children.
• Flexibility to address community needs in structured and unstructured settings.

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 French coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed 2 semesters of French college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of French

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a 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).

Additional Language Information

You will receive French instruction during the pre-service training; the required level is Intermediate High. If you are an experienced French speaker and test at a higher level from the beginning of PST, you will begin learning Fon, a local language widely spoken in Benin. At your assignment site, you are strongly encouraged to learn the local language spoken (this may or not be Fon). Peace Corps will provide you with resources (suggesting a local language tutor and and fee reimbursement) for your continued language learning.

Living Conditions

Housing Conditions:
Volunteers serving in Benin are assigned to sites throughout the country, in a variety of settings: semi-urban centers, rural towns or villages. Housing can vary between different communities. Houses are constructed of either cement or mud brick with separate bathing and pit latrine structures. Roofs will likely be either tin or thatch (straw). There may or may not be running water and electricity. Water may be drawn from an open well or pump, and will require boiling and filtering. A kerosene lantern will provide lighting where there is no electricity. Volunteers must be prepared to accept the living conditions to which they are assigned as they will be living under the same conditions as the people with and for whom they work.

Dress Code:
Dressing in neat, clean and in a culturally appropriate manner is a sign of respect and pride. Long pants, blouses/shirts, skirts (below the knee) and dresses are appropriate attire for work. Particularly in the north where there is a sizable Muslim population, dress is very conservative. If dress is inappropriate (shorts, halters, short skirts, form fitting blouses or low cut blouses, spaghetti straps, dirty or torn clothing), it can be difficult to find acceptance in the community. For women, inappropriate dress and behavior will attract unwanted attention. Men should maintain neat haircuts and trimmed beards. Clothes should be kept clean, at least when leaving the house!

Cultural Attitudes:
While Benin is generally tolerant, values and morals 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 and host countries. This topic will be addressed during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers can be “out” and will be welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and will find an open and inclusive support network within this community. LGBTQ Volunteers have served successfully in Benin, however, sexual orientation and nonconforming gender identities might not be discussed openly and the LGBTQ community may be stigmatized. Please know that whatever the challenges of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc., all trainees and Volunteers will have the support of Peace Corps Staff and the Volunteer Support Network (PSN).

All Volunteers have to make many cross-cultural adjustments during their service in Benin. Volunteers, who are older, of different religions, of different sexual orientations, or of an American minority ethnic group, may find that they have more freedom to "be themselves" than they do in the United States.
The most successful Volunteers are those who are well-integrated into their communities and make a commitment to stay in their communities. They eat the local food, speak the local languages, and attend important village ceremonies.

Travel:
Travel can be challenging and many of the roads and means of public transportation are in poor condition. Rural travel is mostly by local taxi or motorbikes used as taxis. Peace Corps provides training about how to safely ride a motorbike as a passenger. Peace Corps also provides Volunteers with a mountain bike, which may be the principal means of transportation around their work zone.

Workstations:
There are regional workstations with computers and Wi-Fi access. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop which not only in increases options for internet access, but also enables Volunteers to complete required assignments off-line and upload them at a later date. Please note that tablets and smart phones are not an effective alternative.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Benin: 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 Benin

  • Benin may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; dermatology; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; insulin-dependent diabetes; mammography; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; seizure disorder; 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:  gluten, peanuts, and shellfish. 
  • After arrival in Benin, 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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