Health Extension Volunteer

Project Description

The Gambia’s Ministry of Health is mandated by law to oversee all health activities in the Gambia. For more than five decades, Community Health Facilitator Volunteers have supported it in delivering this noble goal and by extension improving the country’s health outlook.

The Peace Corps The Gambia’s Community Health program seeks to continue to improve the health status and quality of life of Gambian communities, particularly of youth, women, and children, by promoting positive health-related practices using behavior change principles.

Volunteers work to support this goal by:
• Co-training community members on behaviors and best practices that promote maternal, neonatal, and children’s health.
• Co-teaching community members appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, including the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.
• Raising awareness for the prevention of malaria, including promoting the use of insecticide treated bed nets.
• Promoting Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH), including the improvement or construction of community water and sanitation systems.
• Creating linkages to youth-friendly services.
• Sharing best practices on non-communicable disease prevention; and
• Co-teaching youth health and life-skills

The Peace Corps The Gambia promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in country 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 in a culturally appropriate way to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of their work, Volunteers will monitor and report on their efforts and impact.

The Peace Corps enjoys a long and positive history with The Gambia. The first Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in 1967, and since then more than 1,800 Volunteers have worked with Gambian men and women to build strong relationships and make a lasting impact on their communities.

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
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Preferred candidates will have one or more of the following:
• Strong knowledge of a range of community health issues (maternal, child and neonatal health, malaria, nutrition, non-commutable diseases, and water sanitation and hygiene.
• Experience teaching life-skills and behavior change
• Experience working with youth-focused programs.
• Competency in Intercultural Competency Diversity and Inclusion will be an added advantage.
• Community health work experience with an international development organization or U.S. organization
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing.
• Master of Public Health degree or Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Public Health.
• Certified Physician Assistant or Public Health Nurse with expressed interest in public/community health.

Required Language Skills

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

While the official language of The Gambia is English, Volunteers are expected to learn the predominant local language of the village to which they will be assigned. Instruction in a local language will be provided during Pre-Service Training and additional language support will be available at your work site if needed. Most of the people Volunteers will work with may not speak English, so it is extremely important to understand and be able to communicate in the local language. Languages taught at Pre-Service Training are: Pularr, Mandinka, Wollof, Jola and Serrahulleh.

Living Conditions

Most Volunteers are assigned to remote, rural communities, without electricity, and where transportation can be infrequent and unreliable. Volunteers will live with local families identified by the community and Peace Corps staff. You will live in private quarters of local standard on the property of a host family for your entire service. Houses in rural areas are usually made of mud block and are round with thatched roofs. They are generally situated in or near a family compound which contains several other such houses. You will have a private pit latrine and will likely need to fetch water from the village water source, up to 300 yards away. You may need to walk or bike up to 3 miles to access public transportation and may cycle up to 6 miles to a larger town for shopping. All incoming Volunteers are placed in rural environments, so you must be prepared and able to live in these conditions.

There are a few internet cafes in some of the larger towns, but access is slow, patchy and depends on unreliable electricity. There is internet access at the three Peace Corps offices; the main office near the capital, the Massembeh Training Center and in the regional office in Basse, upper River Region of the country. Communication between staff and Volunteers, as well as among Volunteers, is mainly by phone and text. You will receive a SIM card on arrival and will be able to call or text other Volunteers or staff without charge. The Gambia is a small country. Contact between staff and Volunteers is high and this is well appreciated by the Volunteer community.

Many vegetarians have managed to maintain a healthy diet here. However, as the supply and range of vegetables in the country is limited, this can present challenges and requires some flexibility. Volunteers have started backyard gardens in the past to supplement their dietary needs.

The Gambia 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 the host country at large. Staff will address this topic during Pre-Service Training and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees and throughout a Volunteer’s service.

The influence of colonialism and other countries in The Gambia shapes perceptions Gambians may have of outsiders. Americans may be assumed to be wealthy. Black/African-Americans may blend in and initially be seen as Gambians; people may assume that they know local languages and culture. Asian-Americans may be confused as Chinese citizens working in The Gambia. Peace Corps staff are aware of many of the challenges faced by Volunteers and strive to find meaningful ways to support Volunteers to navigate the complexity of living and working in The Gambia.

Serving in The Gambia

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in The Gambia: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

The Gambia cannot accommodate couples within the same sector. Therefore, your partner must qualify and apply to the Community Food Security and Nutrition Facilitator position in The Gambia.

Couples will live and serve together in a common site that might be in either a larger community or in a village where one would focus work in a neighboring village.

In the past, this arrangement has worked well especially when the going gets tough. Couples serve in different sectors. They motivate each other and supplement each other’s work at their respective communities and have been model Volunteers.

Peace Corps The Gambia cannot place same-sex couple’s because there are anti-LGTBQI+ laws in The Gambia. The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit:
https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/

Medical Considerations

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

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