Health Extension Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

The purpose of the Peace Corps/Ghana Health project is to support global and national efforts to ensure that all Ghanaians live long, healthy lives by adopting healthy behaviors and practices. In support of those efforts, Peace Corps Ghana has four goals under this project:

• Improve maternal and child health;
• Reduce incidences of malaria through community focused prevention methods;
• Improve water, sanitation and hygiene; and
• Increase knowledge about healthy sexual behaviors to prevent the spread and mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS.

Peace Corps Ghana has both semi-structured projects with international and local partners, as well as more traditional Peace Corps postings where individuals are expected to work exclusively in their community with relatively little structured support. Both settings provide exciting opportunities for Volunteers to promote positive behavioral changes in support of the four goals of the Health project. Action planning, implementation and capacity building form the foundation of the project’s mostly rural health outreach.

Many Volunteers conduct the following activities:
• Working with health care professionals at the Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS, a small health clinic) facility to:
o better define and promote balanced nutrition among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under the age of five;
o provide malaria education to young people and influential community members so that they will initiate local action aimed at behavior change;
o assist with the organization of village-based immunization and baby-weighing sessions;
• Assisting your community to encourage better use of water and sanitation tools and promoting behavior change, and improving water and sanitation options, such as household latrines, rainwater harvest systems and soak away pits;
• Working with local groups to create or improve existing gardens providing increased sources of nutrition;
• Conducting health education programs, focused on nutrition and disease prevention and directing community members to clinics for treatment (HIV/AIDS, malaria and diarrhea), in schools, out-of-school youth, and various community groups/settings.

Peace Corps/Ghana promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in Ghana 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 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

• Experience working in any public health endeavor such as nutrition, malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS outreach, reproductive health/sex education, contraception and family planning, counseling, youth outreach, or water and sanitation
• Flexibility to address community needs in structured and unstructured settings
• Positive attitude and willingness to live in a rural community.
• Ability to culturally adapt and integrate into a new setting

Required Language Skills

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

There are over 70 languages spoken in Ghana, but English is the official language. It is possible that you will not be taught the exact language spoken at your site, but rather a related language or a language spoken at the district level instead. Applicants should know that some Volunteers must learn a second local language when living at their site.

Living Conditions

Culture: Ghana is one of the friendliest and most peaceful countries in West Africa. With different tribes and over 70 languages throughout the ten regions, Ghana is a very diverse country which exists harmoniously. Ghana is known for its stable democracy, forward-looking development, beautiful beaches, rich culture, and hospitable people. Welcoming visitors is a point of cultural identity. Hosting visitors is the ultimate expression of Ghanaian culture. Acknowledging the presence of another human being by greeting them, honors their existence. You will be expected to take on this practice. Indeed, your ability to greet and to form relationships will be a significant factor in your success. Especially in the local communities, visitors will be welcomed into families and quickly be made to feel at home.

Living Conditions: Volunteers are placed in rural communities throughout the entire country. Volunteers are expected to live at the same socio-economic conditions as the people with whom they serve. Peace Corps/Ghana requires the community to contribute housing that meets the minimum standard of at least one room with a porch/sitting area. Housing is to be adequately ventilated with a roof, a solid floor, walls, access to year-round water supply, latrine (often a long drop or pit), bathing facilities (often a bucket bath), and secure doors and windows. Some Volunteers find that their housing greatly exceeds these minimum standards, while others live in mud huts at the minimal level. Flexibility and a positive attitude will help greatly in overcoming such challenges.

Pre-Service Training (PST) is an 11-week training that is intended to ensure that Volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for a successful service. PST in Ghana is community-based, meaning that Volunteers will be living with host families, interacting with community members, and they will be immersed in Ghanaian culture to give them a better understanding of their new environment.

Climate: The climate of Ghana is tropical, with two main seasons—the dry season from November through March and the rainy season from May through August. It is hot and comparatively dry along the southeast coast. It is hot and humid in the southwest and dry in the north. During the dry season, the Harmattan affects the northern regions with days of continual cool air, haze, and fine dust.

Communication & Transportation: Communication systems have been steadily improving throughout Ghana, and cell phone reception is available at most sites. The level of reception, clarity and speed of internet (where available) varies greatly throughout the country.

Volunteers live and serve in rural, underserved communities anywhere from 2-5 hours from a larger district town. Transportation to and from site is primarily via public vehicles, which, depending on the remoteness of the site, can have irregular schedules and may or may not be well maintained. Often, placement requires long hours of travel on rough roads. Volunteers generally walk or bike in and around their communities.

Dress: Ghanaians are very meticulous about their dress in the workplace and wear their good clothes. They are particular about their personal hygiene (a real accomplishment in communities of mud-brick houses and no running water), and cleanliness is a sign of respect. Volunteers are expected to dress and behave accordingly.

LGBTQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers have served successfully in Ghana; however, it should be noted Ghana has some restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws, and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for trainees.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Ghana: 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

Ghana is always eager to accept couples whenever possible. Your partner must qualify and apply for:

Health Extension Volunteer
Agriculture Extension Volunteer
Business Advising Volunteer

However, if and when possible, Peace Corps Ghana prefers cross-sectoral couples.

Couples with one Health Volunteer and one Agriculture/Business Volunteer will be able to reside in the same community and host family during pre-service training (PST), if desired. This arrangement would involve one individual “commuting” to their sector training facility – departing early and using public transportation to arrive on time. There will be a 2 week field-based training for each sector and during that time couples will reside separately.

During service at your permanent site, couples living conditions are the same as other Volunteers’ but couples will share a house or living quarters.

Medical Considerations in Ghana

  • Ghana may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: insulin-dependent diabetes; HIV; airway 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 Ghana, 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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