Health Extension Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Peace Corps has a rich and diverse history in Guinea. Though the first Volunteers arrived in Guinea in 1963, the Public Health program was launched in 1990. The program was recently renewed to broaden its scope and bolster efforts to improve maternal child health in Guinea. Public Health Educators are now working with youth, caregivers, pregnant mothers or fathers, and anyone related to promoting the care of young children and mothers. Areas include family planning and gender equity, sexual and reproductive health, prevention of transmissible diseases (including malaria), health care for pregnant mothers and newborn children, nutrition, and much more.

Maternal Child and Neonatal Health encompasses a large number of related topics, which allows Volunteers to work where they understand is the most need in their community. Topics include: nutrition, breastfeeding and antenatal care, prevention of transmissible diseases including malaria, sexual and reproductive health and family planning, hygiene (from washing hands to trash projects), home gardening and preparing balanced diets and more.

As a Public Health Educator, you will partner with and work to empower healthcare workers, individuals, and communities in work that leads to the reduction of maternal, neonatal, and child morbidity and mortality. Volunteer work is dependent on behavior change for which Volunteers design projects to reach out to a primary group such as mothers, fathers, youth and other child caregivers due to the linkage between the various sectors of the population. One group directly influences others. Thus the primary goal of the Public Health program is to increase the knowledge and skills of these groups to improve maternal child health in Guinea.

Public Health Educators live in communities that are located near rural health centers and one of your goals is to encourage usage of local healthcare facilities. As a Volunteer, you will form a strong collaborative partnership with a counterpart or counterparts to work with community members to provide information and training on preventative maternal and child health. This can be done through individual home visits, group meetings, working with a youth group, and/or school presentations.

Public Health Educators will also have the opportunity to pursue secondary projects based on the needs and resources available in your community. Cross-sector collaboration with Agroforestry Volunteers is highly encouraged, particularly in the area of Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture. This includes teaching gardening skills and encouraging local preparation and consumption of nutrition-rich vegetables not commonly eaten in the community. Collaboration with Education Volunteers is also encouraged, as school garden projects and youth groups/classes are great venues for outreach on a variety of public health topics (e.g., sexual and reproductive health, malaria).

Peace Corps Guinea promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country 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. Part of your work in this area will include reporting on your efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have an expressed interest in working in health 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

• Studies, as part of a major or minor, related to Public Health: Anatomy, Anthropology, Sociology, Social Work, Public Health, Physiology, Biochemistry, Nutrition, Community Health, Environmental Health.
• Any work experience in Public Health/Community Health/Social Services related programs.
• Familiarity with health work, particularly maternal and child health
• Any experience working in a Public Health related endeavor such as HIV/AIDS outreach, sex education, contraception and family planning, counseling, youth outreach, community health programs.
• Desire to work at the community/rural level to meet the communities’ health needs.
• Demonstrated leadership experience or experience in community organizing.
• A strong willingness to learn a local language of Guinea and a very basic level of French.

Required Language Skills

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

Public Health Volunteers will be taught to speak a local language based on their assignment – Malinke, Susu, and Fula are the most common of these. You will receive 100+ hours of local language during Pre-Service Training.

Volunteers will also be provided with an introduction to French, but it is highly recommended that Invitees do an intensive French course (online or in-person class) before departing the US. Between 10-20 hours of French will be taught during Pre-Service Training to provide you the language needed to navigate transportation and see to your own basic needs. Optional French tutoring will be offered two nights per week in the second half of the training.

Living Conditions

Public Health Educators serve in small villages within 10 kilometers of a health center, health post, or partner organization. These villages can range in size from several hundred to a few thousand inhabitants. The size and style of housing varies depending on the region and resources available. Peace Corps works with communities to prepare housing and assure that it is safe and secure, near a source of water, accessible to a market and shops and within walking distance of a clear cell phone reception site.

Houses are typically modest, consisting of one to three room structures, or a simple round hut, with thatched roofs. Many are situated within a family compound and most houses do not have electricity or running water. Some houses have inside toilet and shower areas but most are equipped with a private pit latrine and enclosed bathing area.

Cell phone service is improving. Phones work in almost all areas of the country, but internet access can be limited at the village level. Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers bring their own laptop for use at site or at the regional office. The three regional offices are also equipped with computers with internet access.

Personal appearance is important to people in Guinea. During pre-service training, the dress code is business casual. Following pre-service training, Volunteers will need to dress appropriately for work situations in their community. Dressing appropriately will help Volunteers gain respect in their host community, facilitate integration, and increase their credibility and effectiveness. It is advised to take cues from your Guinean colleagues.

Volunteers are provided bikes for transport should they choose to have a bike. Most Volunteer sites are within walking distance, so it is not required, but useful, to be able to ride a bike. For longer distances, Volunteers use bikes or public transportation (in small passenger vehicles) to get to their regional capital or to another site.

Rice, maize, cassava or a local grain “fonio” is eaten for most main meals, along with leaves (like spinach), peanut and/or tomato based sauce with vegetables, meat or fish. Fruits such as mangoes, avocado, pineapples, papaya, oranges, and limes are available seasonally. Guineans do not eat vegetables with the same passion as Americans do and they are usually cooked into sauces. One of your goals is to assist Guineans to understand the importance of eating these vegetables in new ways.

While people in Guinea may be generally tolerant, the values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity are well defined and there are 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, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and other currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

During your two years in Guinea, you will have an incredible experience that will without a doubt have its challenges, but nonetheless will bring incredible rewards as you develop social and working relationships with a variety of people, learn to communicate in local languages, develop an understanding of local expectations and customs along with an appreciation of local foods, and learn to live and work in Guinea where the concepts of comfort and necessity get redefined.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Guinea: 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

Your partner must qualify and apply for the following position:

• Agroforestry Volunteer

Couples will likely be separated during the nine weeks of Pre-Service Training and live with different host families. Once at site, couples will share a home that meets the same standards for all Volunteers. There will be times during service when couples will spend days and nights apart, such as when one is attending a meeting, routine medical appointments, etc.

Medical Considerations

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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