Health Extension Volunteer

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

The Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 in Liberia overwhelmed the health system and highlighted the unmet need for a network of health workers covering the most remote communities. With the strategic support of partners, Liberia has restructured and continues rebuilding its health sector, emphasizing maternal and child mortality reduction. The new national community health plan establishes a cadre of health extension workers explicitly tasked with providing essential health services to the approximately 30% of the population living five kilometers or farther from a health facility. Peace Corps, which is widely known and respected throughout Liberia, is well-positioned to play a meaningful role in this effort.

In light of the National Community Health Services Program, Peace Corps Liberia has launched a Community Health project. In this project, health Volunteers work closely with the Community Health Program and community counterparts to build the capacity of local service providers and improve health practices at a household level, with the ultimate goal of improving child and maternal health throughout the country.

Volunteers’ primary work is to support local service providers at the health facility and community levels by:
• Promoting foundational soft skills that support behavior change through formal and informal trainings, mentoring, and modeling
• Promoting monitoring and data utilization skills to track and report on diseases and vaccination rates

Volunteers and their counterparts will directly support households with pregnant women by:
• Providing health education
• Counseling and encouraging behavior change
• Actively linking households with health services

Volunteers will work with and support these households from pregnancy through the child’s first year of life to assist with:
• Encouraging positive health practices during mothers’ pregnancy
• Developing birth plans
• Promoting breastfeeding and immunizations
• Educating on child nutrition and childhood illness prevention

In addition to primary sector work, Volunteers have the opportunity to engage in cross-sector programming priorities through a variety of supplemental projects. Peace Corps Liberia’s cross-sector programming priorities are gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment, and malaria awareness and prevention. As such, all Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in Liberia and will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During service, Volunteers will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. Additionally, all Volunteers will receive training on malaria prevention initiatives in Liberia and best-practices for promoting malaria prevention in their community. All Volunteers are strongly encouraged to participate in any organized anti-malaria campaigns that may occur within their regions of service.

Because a Volunteer’s work is complex and sometimes stressful, many Volunteers find constructive outlet through engaging in supplementary projects. While Volunteers are free to explore their personal interests, such as music, art, and sports through community engagement, Peace Corps Liberia works to provide basic guidance to Volunteers interested in school-based agricultural education, school-based nutrition and WaSH education, and youth development programs.

While Volunteers will spend much of their time on the activities described above, they will also be developing relationships with their community. They will be picking mangos with neighbors, learning to build a cook fire to make cassava gravy, and getting clothes made out of the traditional “lappa”. They will share stories with friends and make life-long relationships with some of the most welcoming people in the world.

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

Additionally, Liberia strongly prefers its Volunteers have:
• Household/community outreach experience (e.g. canvasing, voter registration, cold calling, door-to-door sales)
• Academic exposure and/or work experience in global health, public health, women’s health, child health and development, or social work
• Interest or experience in data collection, visualization, dissemination, analysis
• Experience with under-resourced populations such as women, vulnerable children, families in poverty/homeless, etc.

Required Language Skills

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

There are 15 local languages spoken in Liberia with Liberian English spoken throughout the country. Standard English is officially the language of instruction in schools and will be spoken by most healthcare providers; however, most community members will speak in Liberian English. Liberian English is very different in pronunciation and structure from Standard English and will require training to understand. In addition to training in Liberian English, Volunteers receive limited training in the local language relevant to their site.

Living Conditions

Volunteers are assigned to some of the most remote and rural communities of Liberia, where the largest and longest lasting impacts are often seen. Health Volunteers live and work within a community that has a health facility. Working alongside counterparts, Volunteers will not only be serving their community but also the communities within that assigned facility’s catchment area.

Housing: Volunteer housing is simple and may consist of two to three rooms including a kitchen and either a pit latrine or an indoor bathroom that requires bucket flushing as you will not have running water. Water is typically fetched from a nearby hand pump or well. Volunteers should not expect to have electricity in their homes. Some Volunteers choose to invest in solar panels. There is usually only one Volunteer in the community with the closest neighboring Volunteer roughly 2-3 hours away.

Diet: The staple food is rice. It is the base for most meals and is typically served with a sauce or “soup” made from a variety of locally-grown vegetables and prepared with meat, fish or chicken when available. Cassava or “fufu” is another main staple and can be found dried, fermented, or fresh depending on the dish. Because of Liberia’s wide-spread food insecurity, access to higher nutrition foods can be limited and many Volunteers find the ratio of carbohydrates to be high. Spice and hot peppers are also common in Liberian cuisine and many dishes put even the most spice tolerant palates to the test.

Transportation: During your Peace Corps service, you will travel via public transportation, often in the form of tightly packed taxis. However, due to Covid-19, Volunteers will be transported by Peace Corps vehicles and specially arranged trusted taxis. The primary methods of Covid-19 mitigation in any form of transportation begins with the basic 3Ws. Whether in a Peace Corps vehicle, or a private taxi or car, practicing the 3Ws reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission:
1. Wash your hands
2. Wear a mask
3. Watch your distance

During normal times most health Volunteers should expect to ride a motorbike to reach the bank or a larger market town. All Volunteers are trained to ride motorbikes and issued a helmet. Health Volunteers will occasionally ride to communities to do site visits. Many roads and vehicles are in extremely poor condition, especially during the rainy season. You will be trained in transportation safety; however, transportation will always be a very large challenge during your service. While traveling between locations, you should be prepared for old and crowded vehicles and long hours on the road.

Health: The health, safety and security of Volunteers are Peace Corps' top priority. Throughout the 11 weeks of pre-service training Volunteers will receive training on ways to maintain physical and mental health while in Liberia.

Communication: All calls in Liberia are made via cellphone and most communication with staff and locals will be done through text messaging apps. All Volunteers are required to have a smart phone and are strongly encouraged to bring an unlocked phone with them. Volunteers will be able to purchase a phone upon arrival in Liberia, but smart phones tend to be poorer quality and more expensive compared to what is available for purchase in the US. While a few Volunteers may not have service in their houses there will be places in the community to get service, which applies to both phone coverage and internet.

LGBTQ Volunteers: Liberia 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 some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Serving in Liberia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Liberia: 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.

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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