Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Educator

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

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 recently, in part due to a strong commitment on the part of the Government of Rwanda in strengthening health systems and quality services; while introducing 60,000 Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Rwanda. Despite significant gains, data from the Rwanda Demographic Health Survey (RDHS) 2019-2020 shows that 33% of children under five are stunted due to malnourishment. This has resulted in increased mortality, morbidity, decreased educational achievement and lost productivity.

The Government of Rwanda has requested the aid of Peace Corps in developing the capacity of local health centers and community-based health workers to plan, 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, and acute respiratory infections (ARI). The primary goal of the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) 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 (community and environmental health officer, nutritionist, and/or social worker), "Titulaire" (supervisor), and CHWs on a broad range of public health initiatives including those aimed at improving maternal and child health outcomes. Volunteers work with expectant mothers, mothers and their children, as well as their families on a variety of interventions to ensure a healthy start to life for Rwandan children.

To conduct this work, Volunteers 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, and ARI

The specific goals for your site will be determined by your supervisor, your counterpart(s), your community leaders and Peace Corps staff before your arrival in Rwanda, and you will work on progress towards those goals throughout your service.

Along with their primary work assignment, Volunteers may be involved with school clubs, youth programs and extracurricular activities. MNCH Volunteers integrate Peace Corps Rwanda’s Cross Sectoral Program Priorities into their health and secondary activities, which, depending on the needs of the community, can include gender equity, HIV/AIDS & STI prevention, malaria mitigation and food security.

During Pre-Service Training (PST), MNCH 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.

Peace Corps Rwanda promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.

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

Competitive 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.
• 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
• Certified Physician Assistant or Public Health Nurse with expressed interest in public/community health
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing
• 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
• Ability and desire to work in low-resource environment to assess needs and develop creative solutions

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, though some Rwandans do speak English and/or French. In the rural areas where Volunteers live, Kinyarwanda will be essential for daily life and work as a Volunteer. Visit www.kinyarwanda.net to become familiar with this language. Continuing to improve your language skills beyond training and through your service will be extremely important for your success, both at your health center and in your community.

Living Conditions

You will live in modest accommodations. These accommodations vary in size and resources. Some houses will have running water and electricity, some will not. Normally the floors and walls are cemented. You might use kerosene lanterns for light or charcoal stoves for cooking. You will receive a modest settling in allowance from Peace Corps so you can acquire basic furnishings. Housing will be identified and approved according to Peace Corps safety and security standards prior to your arrival at your site.

You will primarily travel by foot, bicycle, or public transportation. Public transportation is available near most sites, and in most cases frequents the nearest regional town. Public transportation is relatively cheap, but it can be crowded, 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. In professional working environments in which Peace Corps is invited to serve, Volunteers are held to the same standards as their Rwandan counterparts. Men keep their hair cut short and neat. Long hair, including locs, on men is not accepted in the environments in which Volunteers work and, as such, is not permitted for male Volunteers. Facial hair is also kept neat and short. 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 for certain activities.

Rwandan women may wear their hair long, but keep it styled conservatively. 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 will encounter 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.

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.

Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. While people in Rwanda may be generally tolerant, their values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be more than those in some parts of the U.S. Although homosexuality in Rwanda is not illegal, it is a taboo subject and generally not accepted. In Rwanda, making known a sexual orientation other than heterosexual can result in ostracism. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify support mechanisms for Volunteers throughout service.

Serving in Rwanda

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Rwanda: 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

Couples are welcome. Your partner must also qualify and apply for a position in either the Health or the Education sector in Rwanda.

Couples working in the Health sector will be assigned to the same health center or two neighboring health centers. However, they can extend their work in the neighboring communities (normally in the same 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 nearby primary or secondary school or a Teacher Training College.

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.

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.

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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