Health Extension Volunteer

Currently, departure timelines are not available and the Peace Corps is not issuing invitations to serve. Once we begin issuing invitations, applicants will have a minimum of three to four months’ notice between invitation and departure.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change.

Project Description

Ethiopia is an ancient land, known for its coffee, rock hewn churches and rugged landscape. Ethiopia has hosted Peace Corps intermittently since 1962. The Peace Corps program was re-established in Ethiopia most recently in 2007 and since then Volunteers have been working with the Ethiopian people through various initiatives. One priority is reducing preventable child and maternal deaths and improving health and well-being of youth in the community. Volunteers support this goal by serving as Community Health Educators through Health Education for Youth, Maternal and Child Health (HEYMCH) project.

Ethiopia faces significant health challenges including illnesses related to nutritional deficiencies, waterborne diseases, malaria and respiratory tract infections. As a Community Health Educator, you will be assigned to a rural health center or clinic where you will serve as an educator, community mobilizer and trainer. Your work will be divided into three parts.

The first part focuses on working with the health sectors where you will work on programs that include promoting essential practices that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, newborn and essential child health. Volunteers do this by making home visits, conducting mother’s group meetings, co-facilitating sessions with care groups of mother leaders and co-facilitating sessions with fathers or other family members.

The second part focuses on working in local primary and secondary schools. Along with teachers and club leaders, you will implement or co-facilitate gender-equitable clubs and camps for youth 10-14 years of age and 15-19 years of age that provides culturally appropriate comprehensive youth health information and allows youth to practice skill building.

The third part focuses on capacity building to improve the skills of health extension workers, health care providers and school-based staff to deliver health education and life skill behavioral change messages through coaching and co-facilitating workshops.

You will learn skills and knowledge you need to accomplish these tasks during pre-service training. This is a 12-week-long intensive training period where you will live with a local family and be trained on technical, cross-cultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the rural Ethiopian context. Once you have demonstrated the required competencies in these areas, you will be sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Serving in Ethiopia as a Community Health Educator is the quintessential Peace Corps assignment and a great opportunity for someone who wants to design and implement public health interventions in a real world setting. You’ll also gain experience with community mobilization, organizing, behavior change campaigns, leadership, inter-cultural communication and international development, all while helping improve the lives of people in your community.

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
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will also have the following qualifications:
• Demonstrated experience working or volunteering with health organizations.
• Demonstrated experience working or volunteering with youth.
• Expressed interest in working with families on health interventions related to maternal, newborn and child health and youth health and wellbeing.

Required Language Skills

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

During pre-service training, you will receive twelve weeks of intensive instruction in either Amharic, Oromifa, or a Southern regional language. Few, if any, people in your community will speak English, so strong dedication to learning your new language is essential to having a successful service. You must attain an intermediate level of spoken proficiency before swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Additional language resources to improve your fluency will be offered to you at Peace Corps training events and through independent tutoring during service.

Living Conditions

Ethiopia’s climates and cultures vary widely with more than 80 separate ethnic groups inhabiting areas from the Ethiopian Highlands to the Great Rift Valley. Your living conditions will depend on where you are assigned to work; however, most Volunteers are assigned to a small town in the Amhara, Oromia, Sidama or Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region.

As a Volunteer, you are expected to live at the same level as your local counterparts. Volunteer housing is commonly a mud house with a dirt floor and a corrugated metal roof, located on a compound with a landlord. A pit latrine is shared with the host family. Water will likely come from a well or protected spring that may be a 20-minute walk away. Peace Corps will provide you money to purchase modest furniture and household items. Within the community, cell phone service is fairly reliable, but electricity and internet are unreliable or non-existent. Internet can be found in larger towns, generally within a day’s trip. Pre-service training (PST) will help you adapt to this lifestyle through sessions that cover topics from bucket bathing to storing food without electricity. Many Volunteers grow to love this simple lifestyle.

Your diet will be local foods such as injera, a spongy pancake-like bread eaten with sauces, vegetables and meat. Vegetables and fruit are available with seasonal and regional variability. Vegetarians will find that it is generally easy to maintain their diet. The closest shopping town may be 30 miles away, though basic food will be available in your community.

Transportation will be by foot, bicycle or public transportation. Public transportation will be available near your site and, in most cases, goes several times a week to and from the nearest urban center; it is likely to be crowded and uncomfortable. Travel to the clinic, community members’ homes and demonstration sites may require walking 30 minutes or more each way or riding a bike for 5 to 10 miles. Due to safety risks, Peace Corps Ethiopia prohibits the operation of motorcycles or vehicles by Volunteers. Many sites are above 8,000 feet in elevation and a good level of physical fitness will make some activities easier.

Ethiopians are conservative in professional and casual attire. Volunteers are looked upon as role models, and their appearance and clothes need to be clean and neat.

Ethiopia 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 PST, and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

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 experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address identity-related concerns during pre-service training. There are also multiple support networks within Peace Corps Ethiopia including specially trained staff and Volunteer led initiatives such as a Peer Support Network for general support, an LGBTQ+ support group and a racial/ethnic identity support group.

Serving in Ethiopia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Ethiopia: 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

Your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions:
• Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Worker
• English Language Teacher - TEFL
• English Language Teaching Specialist - TEFL

Couples with one Community Health Educator and one Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Worker and/or Education Teacher/Specialist Volunteer will be separated during the 12 weeks of pre-service training and may live with separate host families. Peace Corps staff will ensure the opportunity to visit with each other periodically; however, couples should be prepared to spend most of the Pre-Service Training time apart.

After Pre-Service Training, couples will live together at their permanent site. Usually couples are provided 2 small rooms at their site so that they can have their own space.

Medical Considerations

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

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