Health Extension Volunteer
Albania is a dynamic country that has seen significant change over the last several decades since its transition from communism. Albania’s natural resources and strategic location at the Western edge of the Balkan peninsula, has allowed for rapid development in some sectors. However, this growth has not been distributed equally across communities, as demonstrated by a growing wealth gap, and many communities in need of services better tailored to meet local needs.
Youth health and well-being is an increasingly important area in Albania, as the government seeks to empower youth to be civically engaged and lead healthy and productive lives. As a Youth Health and Well-being Volunteer, you will contribute to these goals by teaching and co-teaching life skills and sexual health education to individual grade levels ranging from primary to high school. You will work closely with teachers to develop four types of curricula: biology, physical education, natural science, and elementary education. You will also collaborate with teachers during primary classes, free education hours, project classes, or on school level projects.
Co-teaching and training comprise a significant part of Peace Corps Albania’s Youth Health and Well-being project. You will work alongside an Albanian teacher in the classroom, as well as help train teachers regarding youth sexual and reproductive health. Outside of your work in the classroom, you will have opportunities to collaborate with students and teachers in several schools within a region to organize locally prioritized projects, clubs, and camps addressing life skills and health education topics. You will coordinate your work with available services in your community, such as: health care workers, local NGOs, Child Protection Units, Police, parental committees, and community leaders. This will allow you to build relationships and plan collaborative activities to effectively support the health and well-being of children and youth. This could involve providing basic health education, raising awareness of safe and healthy sexual and reproductive health practices, HIV/AIDS prevention, and other emerging health issues, and working with children and youth to develop the life skills necessary to make responsible and healthy decisions that positively impact their lives and the lives of those around them.
During the summer, you will have the opportunity to lead camps and other youth development activities in partnership with schools and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or facilitate youth-centered projects such as, Girl Scouts, Outdoor Ambassadors (an environmental-themed afterschool program begun by Volunteers), and Girls Leading our World (GLOW) camps. You may also develop summer youth camps on your own utilizing the Peace Corps Albania Life Skills Manual, tutor students in school subjects (possibly English), help develop student government in schools, and/or contribute to projects that foster youth employability. Many Volunteers have found success in collaborating across sectors with Volunteers who live in nearby sites, however, this may not be possible for all Volunteers depending on the geographic location of your site.
You will likely have more than one primary counterpart, depending on the projects or activities you are involved in. You will work with a number of schoolteachers who lead health education classes, and sometimes with representatives of NGOs in the community, as well as government public health representatives. Locating motivated community members to collaborate on these diverse projects will demand a concerted effort on your part. For this reason, it is important that you develop strong relationships in your community and commit yourself to improving your language skills, as well as bring a high level of self-initiative, determination, and a positive attitude.
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.
Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in the health education and life skills area, working with children and youth, AND meet one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline and a strong desire to work as a Health Education Teacher
• 5 years professional work experience
• Strong desire to work with, develop and coach children and youth, as well as work in the classroom and collaborate with other service providers and community partners
• Bachelor of Arts/Science Degree in Education, Nutrition, Health, Public Health, or Nursing
• Teaching, co-teaching, or tutoring primary, middle, high school students, or adults
• Developing and implementing clubs and camps for children, students, or young adults
• Ability to network and develop partnerships in small communities
Required Language Skills
There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.
Pre-Service Training (PST) will focus on language and cross-cultural adaptation. Albanian (Shqip) is a unique language, not closely related to any other. It is also a challenging language to learn. Your language training will focus on developing your competency as a communicator, not grammar skills. Language acquisition is difficult and will consume a substantial part of your time and energy during training.
You will speak in Albanian for the majority of your service. PST will give you the basis for continuing to develop your language skills on your own. Diligent commitment to learning Albanian during PST and throughout your service will help you acquire language skills that will be critical to building relationships within your communities and the success of your projects.
Following PST, all Volunteers are required to retain a tutor for at least the initial 6 months of service.
Volunteers are placed across the entirety of Albania except for a limited number of areas designated as off-limits due to historic security concerns. Peace Corps Albania strives to serve underserved communities, which is why as a Volunteer you should be prepared to serve in a small community with less services and conveniences than you may be used to.
All Volunteers in Albania will live with host families during their initial Pre-Service Training (PST) and for an additional six months at a minimum during their service. Some Volunteers may live with a host family for their entire 27-month service for several reasons, including, convenience, better social integration and personal security, or a lack of other housing options.
Homestay arrangements are facilitated by Peace Corps Staff in coordination with your Host Agency to ensure that housing meets Peace Corps health, safety and security criteria. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection of host families will be based on the provision of adequate space for social distancing and host family vaccination. You will have your own room with good ventilation. Requirements for extra hygiene will be emphasized, and your host family will be within walking distance from your place of work in order to avoid public transportation. Host Families will go through extra training about additional precautions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Housing options in Albania are generally small in scale. You should anticipate living in less space with fewer amenities and less privacy than you are used to. Maintaining a good relationship built on mutual respect with your host family will be critical for your successful service. While Peace Corps staff provide host families with trainings on how to host Volunteers, you will primarily be responsible for communicating with your host family and setting mutually agreed upon expectations.
Most Albanian villages and towns have electricity and running water, but power and water outages may occur. Houses are not centrally heated and most Albanian families heat only one room with a gas, wood, or electric heater. Peace Corps will provide you a small space heater for your bedroom, but many Volunteers still spend most of the evening with host family members in the one heated room. Some homes may have squat toilets.
Volunteers often face challenges around the expectations of community members who perceive Americans as wealthy. These expectations are sometimes reinforced by smart phones, tablets, and wearable technology that Volunteers often use during service. As a Volunteer, you will need to be careful in how you carry yourself or use electronics that are not widely accessible to Albanians.
Temperatures in Albania range from 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to below freezing during the winter. Conditions, especially in winter, may be uncomfortable at sites, particularly in mountainous regions where snow can accumulate. Volunteers should be prepared for a wide spectrum of climates throughout their service.
Cigarette-smoking indoors and outdoors is very common in Albania. In addition to cigarette smoking, there can be heavy amounts of smoke from coal-burning and woodstoves for heating during the winter.
During your service, you will spend most of your time in your community but may travel periodically to the closest larger town to access supplies and services (including an ATM). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, further travel will be initially limited to essential trips only following pre-approval from programming and/or medical staff. You should be prepared to walk long distances (several miles) regularly, often on uneven ground. Peace Corps will provide you with several items related to health and safety (water filter, smoke alarm, fire extinguisher, medical kit, and other items).
Volunteers are not permitted to take leave during PST, as well as during their first 3 three months and last 3 months in their community.
Serving in Albania
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Albania: 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.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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