Maternal and Child Health Educator

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Project Description

Rwanda has made enormous progress over the last twenty years in its economic, political and social development. Great strides have been made in maternal and child health in the last decade, in large part due to a strong commitment on the part of the Government of Rwanda to strengthen health systems, make quality services available, and introduce approximately 45,000 Community Health Workers throughout the country. Despite significant gains, recent data still shows that 38% of children under five years of age are stunted due to chronic malnutrition; resulting in increased mortality and morbidity, decreased educational achievement and lost productivity.

The Government of Rwanda has requested the assistance of Peace Corps in developing the capacity of local health centers and community-based health workers to plan, coordinate, deliver, monitor and evaluate services in the areas of maternal and child health. Specifically there is a focus on hygiene, nutrition, and prevention of childhood diseases including malaria, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections (ARI). The primary goal of the Maternal and Child Health Project is to increase the number of mothers/caregivers adopting practices that improve maternal and child health across the first 1,000 days of life. This project supports the Government of Rwanda's efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 6 and to reduce the number of children suffering from stunting and the resulting developmental disadvantages.

To accomplish this, Volunteers are assigned to community health centers (CHCs) in small Rwandan villages. Through the CHC, Volunteers work with their Rwandan counterparts (head of the community health workers, nutritionist, and social worker), "titulaire" (supervisor), and community health workers on a broad range of public health initiatives including those aimed at improving maternal and child health outcomes. Volunteers work with expectant mothers, their children, and their families on a variety of interventions to ensure a healthy start to life for Rwandan children.

To conduct this work, they coordinate with their local colleagues on programs and educational initiatives to:
• Improve maternal and child health and nutrition
• Support families to adopt improved hygiene and safe water practices at the household level
• Encourage families to prevent and appropriately respond to childhood illnesses, such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, malaria and HIV.

Along with their primary work assignment, Volunteers are involved with school clubs, youth programs and extracurricular activities. Maternal and Child Health Volunteers integrate Peace Corps Rwanda’s Cross Sectoral Program Priorities into their health and secondary activities, which can include gender equity, HIV/AIDS, STI prevention, malaria mitigation and food security.

During Pre-Service Training, Maternal Child Health Volunteers will spend 11 weeks living with a local family and participate in training on technical, cross-cultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the rural Rwandan context. As a Trainee, Peace Corps staff will support you throughout PST and assess your progress to determine if you have successfully achieved competencies before swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have:

•BA/BS degree in any discipline
•Demonstrated interest in working and promoting public health initiatives in under-served communities;
•Ability and desire to work in low-resource environment to assess needs and develop creative solutions

Desired Skills

The most competitive candidates will have:

•Master's Degree in Public Health
•Volunteer or work experience in a health related field (e.g. nutrition, hygiene, sexual education, contraception or family planning counseling; AIDS education and outreach);
•Demonstrated capacity to develop and deliver instructional materials in both small and large group settings to a diverse range of individuals;
•Familiarity and comfort in clinical settings and working with infants, young children and mothers

Required Language Skills

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

All trainees learn Kinyarwanda during training. In 2008, Rwanda changed its official language from French to English, thus some Rwandans will not speak much English. In the rural areas where Volunteers live, Kinyarwanda will be essential to daily life and work as a Volunteer. Visit to have a look.

Living Conditions

Volunteers live in modest accommodations provided by their health center. These accommodations vary both in size and resources depending on what is available in their host community. Some housing will have running water and electricity, some will not. Normally the floors and walls are cemented. Volunteers might use kerosene lanterns for light, and charcoal stoves for cooking. Volunteers receive a modest settling in allowance from Peace Corps so they can acquire basic household furnishings and accessories. Housing will be identified and approved according to Peace Corps safety and security standards prior to your arrival at your site.

Volunteers primarily travel by foot, bicycle, or public transportation. Public transportation is available near most sites and in most cases goes several times a day to and from the nearest regional town with markets and banks. Public transportation is run by various companies and is relatively cheap, but it can be crowded, uncomfortable and unreliable. Volunteers traveling by bike are required to wear a Peace Corps provided helmet.

The climate of Rwanda is made up of two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The lowest nighttime temperature is around 10° C (50° F) and the highest daytime temperature is about 34° C (94° F).

Rwandans are conservative in attire and grooming. Men keep their hair short and neat--long hair, including locs, on men is unusual. Facial hair is also kept neat and short. In most cases, Volunteers have chosen to shave their facial hair or cut their hair to facilitate integration. Men never have visible piercings. In terms of dress, men wear trousers such as chinos and button-down shirts in work settings. Jackets and ties are occasional requirements. Women wear long dresses and skirts that fall below the knee or trouser suits with tunic style tops in both work and leisure environments. Volunteers are expected to conceal tattoos, remove body piercings and maintain conservative hair styles to align with local standards and ease integration in the community.

Volunteers will encounter very different cultural and social norms that require flexibility and understanding. For example, communication in Rwanda tends to be very indirect, which can be difficult for Americans who have been taught to value direct communication—especially in a work environment.

Women, particularly young women, and younger Volunteers need to be aware of very different gender and age dynamics in Rwanda. Gaining the respect of colleagues and traditional leaders may require more effort than you expect.

Normal working hours for most public institutions are 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, from Monday to Friday. Based on this, the work schedules are developed in collaboration with your Rwandan counterpart and supervisor, and will include work in the health center and outreach in the larger community. It will require that Volunteers are self-starters and proactive in identifying meaningful activities. Interacting with community groups and clients will mean that weekends and holidays are potential prime working times.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Rwanda: 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

Couples are welcome. They will be assigned to the same Community Health Center. However, they can extend their work in the neighboring communities (outside their health center’s catchment area).

It is also possible to accept couples working across sectors (Peace Corps Rwanda's health and education projects), in which one Volunteer will work at a Community Health Center and another Volunteer will work at a primary or secondary school.

In all cases, while couples are warmly welcome, each partner will work in his or her own position and be supervised and supported as an individual Volunteer. It is important that couples realize and accept that they may have different work and/or training schedules. In-service trainings and other events may mean that one person is away from site for a week or more while the other stays at site. Requests to travel or miss work in order to accompany a partner cannot be accommodated, just as they are not approved for single Volunteers.

During training and service, couples will stay together. Married couples have served very successfully in Rwanda. They tend to be well accepted as the social norm is to be married by the time you are an adult. Married Volunteers are almost always questioned about their lack of children, as childbearing is one of the most important and normal aspects of married life in Rwanda. Married couples may also face curiosity and/or judgment if they perform different gender roles than are culturally expected. Non-married couples should be prepared to present themselves to their communities as legally married for the length of their service.

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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