Rural Community Health Volunteer

Currently, departure timelines are not available and the Peace Corps is not issuing invitations to serve. Once we begin issuing invitations, applicants will have a minimum of three to four months’ notice between invitation and departure.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change.

Project Description

Benin is a warm and welcoming country in which to serve in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. As a Rural Community Health Volunteer, you will work with your counterparts toward achieving the project goals of helping to end preventable child and maternal deaths and improving the health and well-being of youth in the community. You will connect with a combination of local partners, such as local health centers, social centers, and NGOs.

Your work will focus on the following four main objectives:
1. Maternal and Newborn Health: Increase the knowledge and skills of women to adopt practices that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery, good postpartum health, and a healthy newborn.
2. Child Health: Increase the knowledge and skills of child caregivers to keep children under 5 healthy.
3. Youth Health: Increase the knowledge and skills of youth to improve their health and well-being through health and life skills education and access to youth-friendly services.
4. Community Health Workers (CHW): Improve CHWs’ skills to deliver health education and behavior change messages.

You will work with your community on the follow types of activities:
• Developing care groups (women’s groups) to address specific community health issues by identifying, training, and following up with “mother leaders” who will expand outreach of health education in their communities.
• Implementing Amour & Vie (Love & Life) peer education projects to address youth health issues.
• Working with CHWs to promote balanced nutrition among pregnant and breast-feeding mothers and children under the age of 5.
• Providing malaria education to youth and influential community members so that they will initiate behavior change.
• Organizing cooking demonstrations for women of reproductive age to improve infant nutrition and highlight the merits of a diversified diet.
• Encouraging the community to improve hygiene and sanitation through more efficient use of water.
• Planting gardens with women’s groups to provide increased sources of nutrition.

Gender Activities
Peace Corps Benin promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment by providing training on gender challenges in Benin. You will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate, which may include programs and activities such as clubs, leadership programs, and sports teams.

Peace Corps Benin provides an 11-week Pre-Service Training (PST) to prepare you to work effectively in your community, and will show you how to translate your existing skills in order to be an effective Volunteer in Benin. This requires personal motivation, dedication, and resiliency to meet the needs of your community and accomplish your project goals. You will receive technical training in malaria awareness and prevention, maternal child health, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and facilitation skills.

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
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:
• Experience in supporting health initiatives focusing on women, adolescents, and children.
• Experience in program management and leadership.
• Experience working with youth.
• Demonstrated flexibility and resilience to address community needs in structured and unstructured settings.

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Satisfactorily completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
B. Satisfactorily completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework (or equivalent classes at Alliance Française, etc.) in a Romance language within the past 6 years
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker

The official language of Benin is French, and many local languages are also spoken, including Fon, Mina, Adja, Bariba, Yoruba, Dendi, etc. As a Volunteer, it will be important that you reach a certain level of proficiency in French and also in a local language. Language training will be a focus of your Pre-Service Training (PST) program, and you will receive support for your study of French and a local language during PST and during your service.

Although much of Volunteers’ work will be conducted in the local language of their community, the official language of Benin is French, and having a certain level of French will be necessary for success. Volunteer proficiency in French prior to arrival in country is strongly preferred. Candidates with no or low-level French language skills are strongly encouraged to participate in an intensive French course or make a commitment to intensive self‐study prior to departure. Please note that there are numerous free on-line French language resources available, and that many organizations offer French online. Volunteers are expected to learn French and achieve an intermediate-mid level by the end of Pre-Service Training before they can begin studying the local language, and to reach a higher level after a year of service. If you arrive in Benin with a high level of French, you will be able to begin studying a local language immediately.

Local language:
You will work directly with many community members, particularly women, who may not have finished school and therefore may not speak French. Speaking the local language will make your work more effective and your daily life easier. You will begin your study of the local language during PST, then you will be expected to improve your skills by continuing to study the local language spoken in your community throughout your service, and achieve at least an intermediate-high level by the end of your first year of service. Local language learning will require self-motivation, as it will mostly occur at your site in the form of self-study with support by a language tutor who has been trained by Peace Corps.

Living Conditions

Volunteers in Benin live in semi-urban centers, rural towns, and villages. Housing is provided by the host organization and may vary in size and amenities. Houses are normally located in a compound with other families. A typical house for a Volunteer has one main room, a bedroom, a kitchen area, and a private bathing area and latrine. In more rural areas, you may not have running water or electricity.

Access to Western foods may be limited and Volunteers will have to adapt their diet to local foods such as rice and "pâte", with various leaf and peanut sauces, local vegetables such as okra, eggplant, tomatoes, and various kinds of meat. Other protein sources are local cheese, beans, and soy products. Peanuts and tree nuts are part of the staple diet. Couscous, pasta, and bread are readily available. Access to fruits, vegetables, and proteins will also vary by region and season.

Many of Benin’s roads and means of public transportation are in poor condition, with car taxis or motorcycle taxis used as the main transportation for many people. Approved in-country transportation options for Volunteers may be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you will be advised on the safest options during training and throughout service.

Many Volunteers use a bicycle as their principal means of local transportation. If you need a bicycle, Peace Corps will provide one or the means to purchase one, and you will need to be in decent shape or be willing to improve your physical fitness.

You are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop to complete required reports and assignments offline to upload later. Tablets and smart phones are not great alternatives due to software issues. In your community, internet is generally through cell signal and connection quality varies in rural areas. There are regional workstations with computers and Wi-Fi access for Volunteers.

Your behavior and attire will be judged according to Benin’s cultural norms. Long pants, blouses/shirts, skirts and dresses (below the knee) and nice sandals or shoes are appropriate for work. Dressing inappropriately (shorts, halters tops, short skirts, tight or low-cut blouses, spaghetti straps, dirty/torn clothing), will make it difficult to be accepted in your community, while appropriate dress will earn you respect, facilitate integration, increase professional effectiveness and decrease unwanted attention.

In Benin, beards, braids (corn row type), locs, and long hair on men are unusual. All men are encouraged to adjust to the local hairstyle (low cut/short). Many male Volunteers have chosen to shave their facial hair or cut their hair to facilitate integration. Many female Volunteers wear their hair back in a ponytail or bun, short, or in braids or locs. Regardless of gender, Volunteers should keep their hair clean, neat and well groomed.

Religious tolerance is respected in Benin. Benin has three main religions: Islam is primarily in the north, Christianity is primarily in the south, and the religious and cultural practice of Animism (Voodoo) traditional religion is common throughout the country. Many Beninese maintain a strong belief in both Voodoo and another major religion. Voodoo in Benin is very different from how it is represented by Hollywood.

While people in Benin may be generally tolerant, values and norms concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in some parts of the U.S. There are laws in Benin that target certain acts with individuals of the same sex. People in the LGBTQ community in Benin continue to face widespread persecution and are rarely open about their sexuality. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and laws and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and current Volunteers will address this topic during training and identify support mechanisms for Volunteers.

Serving in Benin

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Benin: 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

Benin is happy to accommodate couples, as long as each person is in a different sector program. Your partner must qualify and apply for either:

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher
Sustainable Agricultural Systems Volunteer

During the 11-week Pre-Service Training, couples will live and train in separate villages. Couples will see each other once a week during core curriculum days (joint sector training days) where all trainees will participate in full group training sessions. Once at their permanent site, couples will live in the same house and will work in the same community.

Going through the Peace Corps experience as a couple poses unique opportunities and challenges, and success will require trust, confidence, and communication. There will be times when you will both need each other’s support. Understand that you will need to put in an extra effort to be an ally to your partner. Although you will not be able to eliminate many of these challenges for each other, they can be coped with and overcome with time, patience, and most importantly, a good sense of humor.

Medical Considerations

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

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