Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education Facilitator
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Volunteers also work to build the capacity of local water and health committees to become legalized and trained as per the Panamanian Government Ministry of Health’s strategy for rural water resource management and public health in Panama. A main component of the Volunteer’s work is to identify community leaders to work within the areas of health promotion and sanitation-related capacity building initiatives. Through a variety of educational activities and events, Volunteers raise awareness and train community members on prevention of water-borne illnesses and effective water, sanitation, and hygiene practices in addition to supporting local efforts in addressing other priority health areas such as nutrition and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Volunteers may also have the opportunity to collaborate with local government or private donors on infrastructure improvements. This work will focus on training and supporting community members on developing proper water storage and treatment, natural resource management, and techniques for the construction, maintenance, and repair of appropriate water and sanitation technologies, such as gravity fed aqueduct systems, rainwater catchment systems, pit latrines or composting latrines. In addition, with the main focus of building local capacity, Volunteers will ensure sustainability by supporting community groups and households so they can construct, maintain and repair locally appropriate water and sanitation solutions on their own.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Civil, Environmental or Sanitary Engineering, or other relevant field,
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Education, Sustainable Development, Sociology, Anthropology or other relevant field
• Certification in water/waste water treatment plant operation or hazardous materials
• Experience in community-level health education and promotion
• Experience teaching adults and children formally and informally
• Willingness to live in an indigenous area (cultural adaptation can be more challenging) or a site that requires boat travel to access
• Ability and willingness to hike long distances on a regular basis
• Conversational Spanish Language Skills
• Public speaking and presentation skills
• High level of self-initiative and self-direction, mixed with a good sense of humor
Required Language Skills
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish
Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).
WASH communities are generally remote, rustic, and a truly rural living experience. The majority of these communities are indigenous, where Ngobere is primarily spoken, but we also have about 25% of sites that are Latino where Spanish is primarily spoken. Indigenous communities can be more challenging in many ways and Volunteers need to respect and adapt to strict cultural practices and be willing to learn both Spanish and Ngobere.
WASH communities will likely be remote, and as a result, the Volunteer will have limited and infrequent access to resources, such as medical facilities. In addition, these communities have limited cell service and may not have internet. Volunteers can expect to have internet access one to two times a month when they travel out of their community. The majority of communities will not have electricity but solar panels can be purchased locally and are widely available.
Living in these remote communities will frequently require the Volunteer to hike long distances in a hot and humid climate. Communities may be up to one hour from a paved road, often through very muddy, mountainous terrain with steep hills where walking is the only option. Volunteers should expect frequent strenuous hikes, long boat rides, and/or long bumpy car rides on unpaved roads to get in and out of their communities.
Volunteers may live in a rural Panamanian-style home made of concrete block and cement floors or in a wood structure with palm-thatched roof and dirt floors. Volunteers in indigenous areas may live in a wood hut with a dirt floor or in a bamboo, thatch-roofed hut raised on stilts close to a river. Services such as electricity, running or potable water and sanitation systems may be rudimentary or non-existent.
Peace Corps/Panama examines each community before selection to ensure that basic health and safety criteria are met. Volunteers will be required to live with a host-family during their first three months of service in their community.
Food and Diet
The Panamanian diet varies according to the region and the ethnic makeup of the population. Most often the diet consists of rice, beans, bananas or plantains, yucca (cassava), and corn. Rice and beans (kidney beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas) is the staple dish. Corn is served in many ways but is usually ground, boiled, or fried. Sancocho is a traditional dish (somewhere between a soup and a stew) prepared with a variety of vegetables and chicken. Most rural areas have an array of fruits available, including mangoes, papayas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, and guanabanas (soursops). The availability of garden vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers, varies according to the region and the season. The most common meats are chicken and beef, which are often deep-fried or stewed. Fish is available sporadically in coastal regions and riverside communities.
Some Volunteers are vegetarians, but very few Panamanians follow this diet. Many volunteers start a garden at their sites, and can buy food in a provincial capital.
Internet access in Panama is spreading. All provincial capitals and other large towns have internet cafes. There is a program that is installing free Wi-Fi access in most rural schools powered with solar energy. Connection speeds tend to be slow, but the service is reasonably priced and otherwise reliable. Internet access for Volunteers is available at the Peace Corps/Panama office.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Panama: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education Volunteer, or
Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer, or
Business Advising Agriculture Volunteer.
Medical Considerations in Panama
- Panama may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: ongoing counseling.
- The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified.
- Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified.
- After arrival in Panama, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.
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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