Public 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

Peace Corps has a rich and diverse history in Guinea. Though the first Volunteers arrived in Guinea in 1963, the Public Health (PH) program was launched in 1990. The program was recently renewed to broaden its scope and bolster efforts to improve Maternal Child Health (MCH) in Guinea. Public Health Educators are now working with youth, caregivers, pregnant mothers, fathers, and all who are involved in promoting the health of young children and mothers. The priority focus areas of the PH program include family planning and gender equity, sexual and reproductive health, prevention of transmissible diseases (including malaria), prenatal and postnatal health care for pregnant mothers and newborn children and nutrition.

Maternal Child and Neonatal Health alone encompasses a large number of related topics which allows Volunteers to work on the area they have come to understand is the most needed in their community. Volunteer projects have included: health care for young and pregnant women, breastfeeding up to 6 months, prevention of transmissible diseases from pneumonia and malaria to sexually transmissible infections, hygiene beginning with handwashing and continuing to trash collection projects as essential to good health, as well as the promotion of reproductive health and family planning among youth and families, home gardening for nutrition and food security and good nutrition accompanied by the preparation of balanced diets and more.

As a Public Health Educator, you will partner with and work to empower local healthcare workers, individuals and communities in work that ultimately leads to the reduction of maternal, neonatal, and child morbidity and mortality. Volunteer work is dependent on behavior change, for which Volunteers design projects to reach out to a primary group such as: mothers, fathers, youth and other child caregivers. The work reflects the essential roles of each group in MCH, each of which represents a large portion of the population in need of this knowledge and training. Thus the primary goal of the Public Health program is to increase the knowledge and skills of all these groups to improve maternal child health in Guinea.

Public Health Educators live in communities that are located near rural health posts and within a reasonable distance from a health center. At this time, in order to maximize the safety of Volunteers during COVID-19, all Volunteers are placed in sites within 6 hours driving time from the capital (Conakry).

One of the primary goals for Volunteers is to encourage use of local health care facilities by community members. As a Volunteer, you will form strong collaborative partnerships with community members to provide information and training on health issues ultimately related to preventative maternal and child health. This can be done through individual home visits, group meetings, working with a youth group, and/or school presentations.

Public Health Educators will also have the opportunity to pursue secondary projects based on the needs and resources available in your community. Cross-sector collaboration with Agroforestry Volunteers is highly encouraged, particularly in the area of Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture. This includes teaching gardening skills and encouraging local preparation and consumption of nutrition-rich vegetables not commonly eaten in the community. Collaboration with Education Volunteers is also encouraged, as school garden projects and youth groups and classes are great venues for outreach on a variety of public health topics (e.g., sexual and reproductive health, malaria).

Peace Corps Guinea 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. Part of your work in this area will include reporting on your 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

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

The following additional skills are preferred:

• Studies, as part of a major or minor, related to Public Health: Anatomy, Anthropology, Sociology, Social Work, Public Health, Physiology, Biochemistry, Nutrition, Community Health, and/or Environmental Health
• Any work experience in Public Health/Community Health/Social Services related programs
• Familiarity with health work, particularly maternal and child health
• Any experience working in a Public Health related endeavor such as HIV/AIDS outreach, sex education, contraception and family planning, counseling, youth outreach, community health programs
• Desire to work at the community/rural level to meet the communities’ health needs
• Demonstrated leadership experience or experience in community organizing
• A strong willingness to learn a local language of Guinea and a basic level of French.

Required Language Skills

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

Public Health Volunteers will be taught to speak a local language based on their assignment – Malinke, Susu, and Fula (Pular) are the most common of these. During the time that sites will be located within the 6-hour distance from Conakry, Susu will be the predominant language with some sites speaking Fula or Pular. You will receive 120+ hours of local language training during Pre-Service Training.

Volunteers will also be provided with an introduction to French, but it is highly recommended that you participate in an intensive French course (online or in-person class before leaving the US. Between 10-20 hours of French will be taught during Pre-Service Training to provide you the basic language needed to navigate transportation and see to your own basic needs. Optional French tutoring will be offered two nights per week during the second half of the training.

*For working with the community and the Community Health Worker (CHW), local language will be sufficient. However, many of the professionals assigned to health centers around the country are not from the region and often do not speak French. If the Volunteer is truly collaborating with the CHW, the CHW can serve as the link to the Health Centers as they are already required to report in there. However, many Volunteers enjoy working directly with the professionals in the health center and thus need to speak French. Site placements nearest health centers are based on levels of French. Thus, all Invitees are encouraged to take a French course prior to arrival in country and to continue with tutoring during the pre-service training and afterward once at site. Volunteers are provided with a monthly allowance for tutoring.

Living Conditions

In an effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to assure your safety, Volunteers are assigned to rural villages located within a 6 hour drive from Conakry. These villages can range in size from several hundred to a few thousand people. Prior to your arrival, the villagers will be sensitized to the realities of COVID-19 and the precautionary measures that Peace Corps has made mandatory.

Peace Corps works with communities to prepare housing and ensure that it is safe and secure, near a source of water, accessible to a market, and within walking distance of clear cell phone reception. Extra precautions will be made to ensure that host families and Volunteers have the appropriate understanding and space for social distancing along with identified locations for isolation in the case of any detection of COVID.

Houses are typically a simple round hut, in one to three room structures, with either metal or thatched roofs. Many are situated within a family compound and, in consideration of COVID, will be situated at a distance from the other houses. Most Volunteer houses do not have electricity or running water. Houses may have inside toilet and shower areas but most have a nearby or attached access to a private pit latrine and bathing area.

Cell phone services improve each year, but fluctuate by location. Phones work in almost all areas of the country, but internet access can be limited at the village level. Peace Corps recommends that Volunteers bring their own laptop for use at site or at the regional office. Regional offices are also equipped with computers with internet access but, to respect COVID-19 safe considerations, guidelines for proper use will be provided.

Personal appearance is important to the people of Guinea. During pre-service training (PST), the standard professional dress code is business casual. Following PST, when you are placed in the community, you will need to dress appropriately for socializing in the community and for working. Respecting Guinean culture and tradition by dressing appropriately helps you gain respect in your host community, facilitates integration and increases your credibility and effectiveness.

Volunteers are provided bikes for transport should you choose; however, many Volunteer sites are within walking distance. For longer distances, Volunteers use small passenger vehicles to go into the regional capital or to gain access to public transportation.

Rice, maize, cassava or a local grain “fonio” is eaten for most main meals, along with leaves (like spinach), with a peanut or tomato based sauce served with vegetables, meat or fish. Fruits such as mangoes, avocado, pineapples, papaya, oranges, and limes are available seasonally. Guineans do not eat many vegetables and they are usually cooked into sauces. One of your goals is to assist Guineans to educate community members on the importance of eating these vegetables in new ways.

Though people in Guinea are generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity are much defined and there are restrictive laws that target certain sexual behaviors. 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 host countries. Staff and other currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

During your two year service, you will have an incredible experience that will have its many challenges, but will undoubtedly bring incredible rewards as you develop social and working relationships with a variety of people, learn to communicate in local languages, develop an understanding of local expectations and customs along with an appreciation of local foods, and learn to live and work in Guinea where the concepts of comfort and necessity get redefined.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Guinea: 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

Your partner must qualify and apply for the following position:

• Agroforestry Volunteer

Couples will likely be separated during the ten weeks of Pre-Service Training and live in different dormitory or host family accommodations. Once at site, couples will share a home that meets the same standards as for all Volunteers. There will be times during service when couples will spend days and nights apart, such as when one is attending a specialized in-service training, a committee meeting, routine medical appointments, etc.

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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