Rural Community Health Volunteer

The Peace Corps continues to monitor and assess the COVID-19 pandemic domestically and internationally. The locations and timing of returning Volunteers to service will be determined on a country-by-country basis. The positions and projected departure dates listed below are subject to change.

Project Description

Benin is a warm and welcoming country in which to serve in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. As a Rural Community Health Volunteer, you will support nation-wide efforts to increase access to healthcare and improve health. You will be supervised by the head of a health center, social center, or NGO, and your work will be done in close collaboration with Community Health Worker counterparts to achieve the project goals of ending preventable child and maternal deaths and improving the health and well-being of youth in the community. Your work will focus on the following four main objectives:
1. Maternal and Newborn Health: Increase the knowledge and skills of women to adopt practices that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery, good postpartum health, and a healthy newborn.
2. Child Health: Increase the knowledge and skills of children’s caregivers (including men as well as women) to keep children under 5 healthy.
3. Youth Health: Increase the knowledge and skills of youth to improve their health and well-being through education in sexual and reproductive health and life skills and linkages to youth-friendly services.
4. Community Health Workers (CHW): Improve CHWs’ skills to deliver health education and behavior change messages.

You will work with your community on the follow types of activities to support specific goals that have been prioritized by the community:

• Building Community Health Worker capacity in counseling, facilitation skills, and data collection and reporting
• Developing care groups with groups of mothers or fathers to address specific community health issues; identifying, training, and following up with leaders who expand outreach of health education in their communities.
• Facilitating sessions with fathers or other men to increase their knowledge of essential pregnancy and newborn practices and their importance in having a healthy pregnancy and newborn
• Implementing Amour & Vie (Love & Life) peer education projects to address youth sexual and reproductive health issues and other life skills.
• Working with Community Health Workers to promote balanced nutrition among pregnant and breast-feeding mothers and children under the age of 5.
• Providing malaria education to youth and influential community members so that they will initiate behavior change.
• Organizing cooking demonstrations for women of reproductive age to improve infant nutrition
and highlight the merits of a diversified diet.
• Encouraging the community to improve hygiene and sanitation through more efficient use of water.
• Assisting with coordination of village-based immunization and baby-weighing sessions;
• Planting gardens with women’s groups to provide increased sources of nutrition.

Gender Activities
Peace Corps Benin promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment by providing training on gender challenges in Benin. You will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate, which may include programs and activities such as clubs, leadership programs, and sports teams. In addition, you will challenge gender stereotypes by providing training on pregnancy and newborn care with fathers and other men.

Training:
Peace Corps Benin will provide you with a 12-week in-country Pre-Service Training (PST) to prepare you to work effectively in your community. You will learn how to translate your existing skills in order to work effectively in the health field in Benin. You will receive technical training in malaria awareness and prevention, maternal child health, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and facilitation skills to empower you to be an effective change agent, no matter your background. This work will require personal motivation, dedication, and resiliency to meet the needs of your community and accomplish your project goals.

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:
• Experience in supporting health initiatives focusing on women, adolescents, and children.
• Experience in program management and leadership.
• Experience working with youth.
• Demonstrated flexibility and resilience to address community needs in structured and unstructured settings.

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 coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework (or equivalent classes at Alliance Française, etc.) within the past 6 years in a Romance language C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker Candidates should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study and a subsequent placement test (score of 50 on the French College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Benin is fascinating, linguistically. French is the official language in the Beninese educational and governmental system. There are also many local languages, including Fon, Mina, Adja, Bariba, Yoruba, and Dendi, to name a few. Volunteers are expected to learn French and achieve an intermediate-high level by the conclusion of Pre-Service Training, and by the end of the first year of service Volunteers are expected to have utilized all language acquisition opportunities in order to achieve an advanced-low level of French, as well as a novice-mid level of a local language.

Benin has dedicated Language and Cross Culture Facilitators (LCFs) to teach French and local languages during Pre-Service Training (PST). In addition, you will be supported throughout your service by a full-time Language Coordinator who monitors each Volunteer’s progress in French and local language. Peace Corps Benin will provide you with resources for your continued language learning during your first year of service, including identifying and training a language tutor at your site. Having an interest in a deeper study of local language, which most often will occur at site in the form of self-study, will help you connect more directly with community members, particularly with women, who may not have finished school and therefore may not speak French.

French language skills are not required pre-arrival, but are highly recommended to facilitate language training and cultural integration in Benin. Candidates with no or low-level French language skills are strongly encouraged to take a French course or make a commitment to self‐study prior to departure in order to prepare for living and working in Benin. There are numerous free online French language resources available. Upon arrival, Trainees will be tested in spoken French for language class placement. Experienced French speakers who test at a higher level from the beginning of training will begin learning a local language.

Living Conditions

Housing
Volunteers in Benin live in villages, rural towns, and semi-urban centers. Housing is provided by the host organization and may vary in size and amenities. Volunteers live in their own private houses, which are often located in a compound shared with families. A typical Volunteer house has one main room, a bedroom, a kitchen area, and a private bathing area and latrine. In more rural areas, you may not have running water or electricity.

Diet
Access to Western foods may be limited and Volunteers have to adapt their diet to local foods such as rice and corn "pâte," with various leaf and peanut sauces, local vegetables like okra, eggplant, and tomatoes, and various kinds of meat. Other protein sources are local cheese, beans, and soy products. Peanuts, cashews, and tree nuts are part of the staple diet. Couscous, pasta, and bread are available in towns. Access to fruits, vegetables, and proteins varies by region and season.

Transport
Car taxis or motorcycle taxis used as the main transportation for many people. You will be advised about the recommended travel options during training and throughout your service. Many Volunteers use a bicycle for local transportation, which requires a certain level of fitness and ability to ride in hot weather.

Connectivity
Internet is generally through pre-paid phone data, and connection quality varies in rural areas. Data is more expensive than in the U.S. Most Volunteers bring an unlocked cellphone, and communicate via WhatsApp and other apps. Bringing a laptop or tablet will facilitate submitting work reports. Smartphones can also be used, but may be challenging for long reports. There are regional workstations with computers and Wi-Fi access for Volunteers, but they may be several hours travel from a site.

Dress
Your dress and behavior will be judged according to Benin’s conservative cultural norms. Long pants, short or long sleeve shirts, skirts and dresses (below the knee), and nice sandals or shoes are appropriate for work. Dressing inappropriately (shorts, halter tops, short skirts, tight or low-cut blouses, spaghetti straps, dirty or torn clothing), will make it difficult to be accepted in your community, while appropriate dress will earn you respect, facilitate integration, increase professional effectiveness, and decrease unwanted attention.

Hair
In Benin, beards, braids (corn row type), locs, and long hair on men are unusual. All men are encouraged to adjust to the local hairstyle (low cut/short). Many male Volunteers have chosen to shave their facial hair or cut their hair to facilitate integration. Many female Volunteers wear their hair back in a ponytail or bun, short, or in braids or locs. Regardless of gender, Volunteers should keep their hair clean, neat and well groomed.

Religion
Religious tolerance is respected in Benin. There are three main religions in Benin: Islam is primarily in the north, Christianity is primarily in the south, and the religious and cultural practice of Animism (Voodoo) traditional religion is common throughout the country. Many Beninese maintain a strong belief in both Voodoo and another major religion. Real Voodoo in Benin is very different from how it is represented by Hollywood.

LGBTQI+
While people in Benin may be generally tolerant, values and norms concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in some parts of the U.S. There are laws in Benin that target certain acts with individuals of the same sex. People in the LGBTQI+ community in Benin continue to face widespread persecution and are rarely open about their sexuality. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and laws, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and current Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for Volunteers.

Serving in Benin

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Benin: 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

Benin is happy to accommodate couples, as long as each person is in a different sector program. Your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions:

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher
Sustainable Agriculture Systems Volunteer

During the 12-week Pre-Service Training, couples will live and train in separate villages along with their program cohort. Couples will see each other once a week during core curriculum days when trainees from all three sectors will participate in full group training sessions. We recognize that this may be a challenge, but it will allow each person to learn the technical skills needed for their work, and it will facilitate language learning. After training, each couples will live in the same house and will work in the same community.

Going through the Peace Corps experience as a couple poses unique opportunities and challenges, and success will require trust, confidence, and communication. There will be times when you will both need each other’s support. Understand that you will need to put in an extra effort to be an ally to your partner. Although you will not be able to eliminate all of the challenges for each other, they can be coped with and overcome with time, patience, and most importantly a good sense of humor.

Medical Considerations

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


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