Health Extension Volunteer

Project Description

Madagascar’s health project strives to support global and national priorities to engage on disease prevention, in particular on child and maternal deaths, and to promote awareness of healthcare through work with local partners. We collaboratively accomplish this goal by promoting the adoption of accelerator behaviors and strengthening primary health care knowledge and practices in rural areas.

While serving as a Health Extension Volunteer, you will work alongside implementing community partners to facilitate health education and community outreach, as well as prevention and training programs. Implementing community partners may be local health professionals, mothers, and global health professionals

You will work with your counterpart to use health behavior change models and tools to design group activities for women, mothers, caregivers, and men using proven effective approaches through Care Groups for pregnant women, caregivers, and youth. Dissemination of health messages may also take place during home visits and through mentoring. You and local partners will coach community members to increase the program’s capacity and effectiveness.

Health Extension Volunteers collaborate with partners in a variety of activities to impact government and community priorities in maternal, child, and youth health. The primary focus is maternal and child health, and working with pregnant women and caregivers of children under five years old. Therefore, your main role will be that of a co-educator, co-facilitator, liaison, and mentor to assist your community in their priorities.

Your collaboration may focus on:
• Behavior change through the use of evidence-based methodologies (e.g., Care Group model, which you will receive an intensive training on during In-Service Training)
• Maternal health: working with Care Group mothers to encourage at least the four prenatal care visits for safe pregnancies
• Child health: working with Care Group mothers and training in essential nutrition actions and preparation of hygienic and nutritious food
• Disease prevention: working with Care Groups to improve infant and young child health through prevention of childhood illnesses (e.g., respiratory infections); and malaria prevention and control
• Youth health: Promoting healthy living, positive youth development, and reproductive health through clubs, camps, and/or in-school programs.

Health Extension Volunteers are also expected to work with community members to develop secondary projects such as promoting sports for girls, improving community facilities, etc., based on the needs of the community. And while much of the work will take place during typical business hours, some community activities may take place on weekends. Many Volunteers also work with their village officials to prepare large community-wide awareness events around International Malaria Day, Global Handwashing Day, etc.

Peace Corps Madagascar works with partners to promote gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in Madagascar and will have the opportunity to co-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.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

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
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have experience with one or more of the following:
• Working with communities on planning and organizing health education and community outreach activities;
• Experience in a position of leadership;
• Experience working in any public health endeavor such as maternal and child health, nutrition, and youth health.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. Please take a moment to explore the Language Comments section below to find out more on how local language(s) will be utilized during service.

Volunteers will be required to learn Malagasy language. It is essential for successful Volunteer service. Trainees who do not reach minimum language skills by the close of Pre-Service Training may not be sworn-in as Volunteers.

In limited ways, French language skills can be useful in some areas of the country. Volunteers will not use French in their daily lives and work, but French is often a transactional and technical language. For example, newspapers, restaurants, tourist activities, or technical reports by partner organizations may utilize French. Peace Corps Madagascar does not provide French language training.

Living Conditions

Madagascar is the 4th largest island on Earth and its terrain is diverse--climate can change drastically from the coast to the highlands. Volunteers are placed throughout the East Coast, the Highlands and the South East, where living conditions can vary greatly. You should be flexible, resilient, and willing to live in modest conditions. Volunteers typically live in small villages, often with a population less than 2,000.

• Housing: Volunteers live in private one or two-room houses. Housing material depends on the region, with walls made from local wooden material in the coast and bricks in the highlands. You will have individual outdoor bath houses and latrines, but often no running water or electricity. Some families in the community may have access to generators that can provide electricity/battery recharge, but that is not standard.

• Communication: Most communication is conducted by cell phone. You will have an opportunity to buy a phone during Pre-Service Training if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the U.S. Call costs are based on minutes used and texts sent and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls & texts, even from the U.S., are free. It is possible to access slow Internet or messaging apps through the purchase of local data plans.

• Transportation: On a case-by-case basis, Peace Corps may provide a bike, helmet, and basic bicycle maintenance training to assist in daily routines or in visiting sites around your village if needed. You may also be required to walk or bike between 3-10 kilometers to a main road or an outlying village to reach community partners.

• Food: Rice is the staple. Other foods include cassava, various potatoes, and corn. Meat and fish could be expensive or difficult to find depending on the region. Fish is more present in the coast and meat in the highlands. Additionally, various beans and peanuts can be used as a protein source. Vegetables vary by region. Most are produced in the highlands. Madagascar has wonderful seasonal fruits such as pineapples, peaches, etc. During the off-season, specific fruits may be unavailable and also unevenly distributed across country. You’ll do your shopping at the local market, but some items might have to be purchased at a larger town nearby.

Strict vegetarians and vegans may be challenged, especially during Pre-Service Training, and should be mindful of local food customs: turning down a plate because of meat may be seen as rejecting a gift. Volunteers have found it possible but difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet.

While people in Madagascar may be generally tolerant, values concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different than the U.S. Same-sex marriages are not permitted under Malagasy law. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach these issues in their host communities. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during training, and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Establishing a community of colleagues and friends in this island of remarkable biodiversity and multi-ethic and economic hierarchies takes work. Peace Corps Madagascar prioritizes language learning, a community based approach, intercultural training, and skill-building. Peace Corps Madagascar anticipates programming, training, partnerships, and support systems for Volunteers, host families, and counterparts will be valuable in navigating the country context.

Malaria is highly endemic and Volunteers must be prepared to take chemoprophylaxis without exception.

Serving in Madagascar

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Madagascar: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, health, and safety -- including health and crime statistics -- in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Madagascar welcomes couples. Your partner must also apply and qualify for this position.

Madagascar is a patriarchal society, so the male is often times seen as the head of the family. Couples will often face situations where the community seeks to first listen to the husband. Couples have to find their own culturally appropriate strategies to discuss gender roles and gender equality with their coworkers so both Volunteers are respected equally. As in many patriarchal societies, Malagasy people tend to believe that men are more capable to conduct intensive manual labor compared to women. Therefore, couples must find ways to support each other when faced by these gender roles expectations.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.

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