Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Educator
Rwanda has made enormous progress over the last twenty eight 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; and introducing 60,000 Community Health Workers (CHWs) into the health sector. 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 the 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.
To accomplish this, Volunteers are assigned to community health centers (CHCs) in small Rwandan villages. Through the CHC, Volunteers partner 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, acute respiratory infections, and malaria
• Engage/work with fathers and other relatives to support mothers and children in improving their health and wellbeing
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 12 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 the necessary 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 Rwanda and you will have the opportunity to co-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.
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
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
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.
You will 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 you will live, Kinyarwanda will be essential to 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.
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 solar lanterns for light, and charcoal and/or gas stoves for cooking. Volunteers receive a modest settling in allowance from the 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 on foot, by 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 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. In professional working environments in which the Peace Corps is invited to serve, Volunteers are held to the same standards as their Rwandan counterparts. Men keep their hair cut short and well-groomed. 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. Tattoos and body piercings are not common in Rwanda; males wearing earing may not be well recieved. 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. Locs are acceptable on women as long as they are in keeping with current in-country styles. 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.
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 counterparts 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.
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 country. While people in Rwanda may be generally tolerant, their values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be more conservative 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 are welcome. If both serving in the health sector, you will be assigned to the same health center or two neighboring health centers. However, you can extend your work into 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 primary or secondary school or a Teacher Training College.
During training and service, you will live with your partner. 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 couples are almost always questioned about their children, or lack of, as childbearing is one of the most important and normal aspects of married life in Rwanda. You may also face curiosity and/or judgment if you 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 their own position and be supervised and supported as an individual Volunteer. It is important that you realize and accept that you may have different work and/or training schedules. In-service trainings and other events may mean that you are away from site for a week or more while your partner 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.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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