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 (women’s 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) 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.
• Working with schools by creating school-based health clubs to address various issues and particularly sexual and reproductive health including early pregnancies and STI and HIV/AIDS prevention; creating English and girls’ and boys’ soccer clubs.

Secondary Activities
Secondary activities can greatly enhance your Volunteer experience initiating projects outside your primary assignment. Depending on the needs of your community, you may:
• Plant a garden promoting greater food security;
• Paint wall murals with health messages at the school;
• Organize a Village Saving and Loan Association to increase financial security with your care groups
• Design and implement summer camps

Gender Activities
Peace Corps Benin promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in Benin 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. You will also report on these efforts and their impact. This may include summer camps, clubs, sports teams, etc.

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

Competitive candidates will have experience supporting health initiatives focusing on women, adolescents, and children. Strong candidates demonstrate flexibility to address community needs in structured and unstructured settings.

Required Language Skills

Romance Language - 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 coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker
Candidates with rudimentary romance language skills should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study pre-departure

It is expected that Health Volunteers learn a local language (in addition to French) that is widely used in host communities. French is used as the official language in the Beninese governmental system, and your successful integration and work in your host community will depend on learning the local language.

Upon arrival, you will be tested on your French ability for language class placement. At the completion of Pre-Service Training you will be required to reach a proficiency level of 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 fee reimbursement) for your continued language learning.

Living Conditions

Volunteers serving in Benin are assigned to sites throughout the country, in a variety of settings: semi-urban centers, rural towns and villages. Housing is provided by the host organization; Peace Corps staff visit and assess all housing prior to trainees arrival. Volunteers’ houses may vary in size and amenities, but all comply with Peace Corps standards for Safety and Security. Houses are normally located in a compound with other families. A typical house for a Volunteer will have one main room, a bedroom, kitchen area, and a private shower and latrine. In more rural areas, you will most likely not have running water or electricity. Access to fruits, vegetables, and proteins will also vary by region and season.

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 you with training 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 your work zone. Since this may require considerable physical exertion on the part of the Volunteer, you should be in reasonably good shape or at least willing to improve your physical fitness to meet this work demand.

Benin 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 incoming trainees.

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.

Couples Information

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

Sustainable Agriculture Systems Extension Agent
Sustainable Agriculture Systems Agent
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher
Health Extension Volunteer

Couples of the same sector will live with the same homestay family during PST. Couples of different sectors will train in separate locations and live with separate homestays. Couples will see each other once a week during CORE days (joint-sector training days) where all trainees will receive full group sessions.

Once in-service at permanent site, couples live in the same accommodation.

Going through the Peace Corps experience as a couple allows for ample growth in trust, confidence, and communication. There will be times when you will both need each other’s support. Understand that you will need to put in an extra effort to be an ally to your partner. Although you will not be able to completely eradicate many of these challenges, they can be coped with and overcome with time, patience, and a most importantly a good sense of humor.

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 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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