Maternal and Child Health Promoter

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

Since 1963 over 5,000 Volunteers have served in Guatemala making it one of the world’s longest standing posts. Peace Corps Volunteers serve in municipalities in one of six departments in the Western Highlands. A country of striking features and a strong indigenous culture, Guatemala's natural beauty and powerful identity stand prominent in the countries of Central America today. Its indigenous populations make up about half of the population, with a high concentration in the Western Highlands. More than 20 indigenous languages are spoken alongside Spanish, the official tongue. Strategically located, with substantial natural resources and a young multi-ethnic population, Guatemala has enormous potential to generate growth and prosperity for its people. However, poverty and inequality in the country are persistently high, and high rates of childhood stunting and lack of opportunities for youth, women and the indigenous populations threaten Guatemala’s ability to reach its full development potential. Peace Corps Guatemala responds to these inequalities through strategic governmental collaborations and community empowerment within four project areas: Youth in Development, Maternal and Child Health, Community Economic Development, and Rural Extension.

Forty-eight percent of children under five in Guatemala suffer from undernutrition. Maternal mortality (105/100,000) and child mortality (25/1,000) are major issues in Guatemalan’s public health sector. Although improvements have been observed they are still critical to the present and future of Guatemalans. The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) project started in 2013 and has trained over 2,000 health workers in adult learning methodologies and over 5,000 women and family members in health practices with the work of approximately 100 volunteers. In 2018, the MCH project was reviewed by local stakeholders and a second iteration began in 2020 with an additional focus in promoting behavior change. Volunteers work directly with health workers, mothers, women, family members and community leaders who are “ready to change” and demonstrate use of acquired methodologies.

Project Goals: The goal of the Maternal and Child Health project is to decrease preventable maternal and child morbidity and mortality. It is based on three objectives which are:

1. Increase the capacity of community health service providers to support mothers and family members in adopting key maternal and child health behaviors.
2. Increase the capacity of women and family members to adopt key maternal and child health behaviors.
3. Increase the capacity of key actors and groups to strengthen community systems that enable the adoption of maternal and child health behaviors.

Description of Primary Duties:
Community health workers promote healthy behaviors for mothers and their family members at the clinic, through classes, or while performing house visits. Volunteers assist in achieving these goals by training and coaching community health workers to use adult education methodologies when communicating with their patients. Volunteers participate in outreach activities and then provide feedback to the health workers. Together with the health workers, Volunteers keep track of educational outcomes by assessing the adoption of healthy behaviors on the part of women and family members that they educate.

Volunteers also work with the community to achieve the third objective of the project, which addresses how environmental factors influence behavior change and mobilizes communities to adopt new behaviors for improved maternal and child health. Volunteers work with the community to connect key leaders and organizations in the assessment of community needs. Together they collaborate to implement campaigns, activities, and projects that enable the adoption of healthy behaviors. Examples include organizing parades to promote better nutrition, workshops to empower women and girls, and small scale infrastructure that improve health services or family homes.

The project is designed with an emphasis on behavior change theory, community empowerment, and sustainability. All work performed by Volunteers within the project reflects this approach and is accomplished in collaboration with the community in which they work. A monitoring and evaluation system is in place to track project progress and outcome.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

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

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:
• 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
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing
• Experience in adult health education and behavior change training.
• Experience working with adults with low literacy levels.
• Experience in teaching or training facilitation.
• Strong communication and interpersonal skills.
• 2-3 years of professional work experience.

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

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 Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Volunteers need to demonstrate an Intermediate level of oral and written proficiency in Spanish for site placement by the end of Pre-Service Training. Most Volunteers will work directly in Spanish and some will work in communities with Mayan languages with support from a Spanish/Mayan speaking community member. Volunteers serving in areas where Mayan languages are spoken may study the local language once they arrive to their community to assist with integration into the community and basic communication.

Living Conditions

Work Site and Housing
Most Volunteers live in medium-sized to larger rural communities (3,000 - 40,000 people). Most communities have electricity and running water, but the supply may be intermittent. Fruits, vegetables, and meats are available on site or in nearby communities. Housing typically consists of cement block structures with a private bedroom and shared kitchen, bathroom, and living rooms. The phone plan Peace Corps provides includes credit for some local calls and limited internet. Most Volunteers have access to internet in their communities either in a local internet café or by purchasing additional internet data.

Host Family Situation
Volunteers are required to live with a host family during the 10-week Pre-Service Training and during the two years of service to increase integration and for continuous orientation to the local safety and security concerns. It is important that applicants be willing and eager to interact and live with a Guatemalan host family. Many Volunteers cook for themselves during service, but some opt to eat with their host family or in small local restaurants.

Diversity Challenges
While Guatemala is generally tolerant, values 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 judgement to determine the best way to approach communicating sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. 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. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address these topics during Pre-Service Training, and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Climate
Volunteers are placed in Guatemalan communities which may be quite mountainous and, due to the altitude, can be cool to cold at night. Dressing in layers is the best way to deal with the daily temperature variations. The sunlight is strong, even during colder temperatures.

Dress
Personal appearance is important to people in Guatemala, so professional or business casual dress is expected. Dressing appropriately will help you gain respect in your host community, facilitate integration, and increase your credibility and effectiveness. It is advised to take cues from your Guatemalan colleagues, and dress to meet/exceed their standards of professionalism.

Volunteers with visible body piercings or tattoos will need strategies to conceal them. In Guatemala, tattoos may be associated with criminal activity. Likewise, having visible body piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your host community. Keep in mind that Peace Corps/Guatemala staff will ask you to be flexible with regard to your personal appearance to facilitate integration in training and during your service. Remaining flexible is the key to Peace Corps service in any country.

Cultural Considerations
Guatemala is a very traditional and religious society. People’s roles in regards to gender, work, and the community are much more clearly defined along gender roles than in the U.S. Volunteers must be aware, tolerant, and respectful of their practices, customs, and way of life and they may need to adapt certain behaviors to demonstrate that respect.

The cultural and security considerations for alcohol use differ greatly in Guatemala and the United States. Volunteers must understand and evaluate the social and cultural implications of alcohol use in their communities. Peace Corps service has many stressors and it is important for applicants to bring healthy self-care practices and coping strategies that will help them serve positively within country. Additional conversations and guidance on coping strategies will be shared during the Pre-Service Training period.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Guatemala: 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

Peace Corps/Guatemala is happy to accommodate cross-sector couples. We will identify communities with sufficient work opportunities for both Volunteers. Your partner can apply and must qualify for: Rural Agricultural Development Facilitator

Couples will not live together during the ten weeks of Pre-Service Training. Guatemala’s community-based training model places trainees in communities based on their technical program and Spanish level. Special considerations are given to couples so that they live in nearby communities and they will have more flexibility to see each other (e.g. on weekends). Language acquisition and cultural integration increase when each member of the couple lives with a separate host family. After training, couples will live together for the duration of their service.

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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