Youth Development Volunteer

Project Description

Despite its small population size, the Kingdom of Eswatini (formally the Kingdom of Swaziland) has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. In 2003, Peace Corps reopened the Eswatini program to focus on halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and combatting its devastating impact on Swati society. Since then, the country has made significant strides in addressing the epidemic; HIV/AIDS prevalence is now stabilizing and the number of new infections among adults has nearly halved since 2011. Peace Corps Eswatini also launched the Youth Development program in 2011 to strengthen the capacity of young people to live healthier and more productive lives, focusing efforts on HIV/AIDs prevention.

With more than 50 percent of Eswatini’s population under the age of 25, Youth Development work is more pressing than ever before. In many areas of the country, traditional family and community systems are unable to meet the changing needs of Swati youth; additionally, schools struggle to equip youth with the critical life skills needed to thrive in today’s rapidly modernizing world. There is tremendous opportunity within Eswatini to actively engage young people in planning for their future and the future of their communities.

Youth Development Volunteers empower Swati youth, ranging in age from 9-24 years old, to become healthy, productive, and civically engaged adults. Volunteers support the goals of the Ministry of Education by:

1) Planning and teaching life skills classes using the ministries Life Skills Curriculum four days per week in both secondary and high schools settings.
2) Building the capacity of schools and individual teachers to teach the Life Skills Curriculum through co-planning and co-facilitation.
3) Working in partnership with teachers and school committees to form “youth friendly” welcoming school environments.
4) Building the capacity of community service providers – including teachers, religious leaders, and coaches – to implement youth programming focused on sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS risk mitigation, job skills, healthy relationships, and life skills.
5) Strengthening already existing BRO & GLOW clubs and forming new ones to support after-school “youth friendly” programming.

Volunteers will be based in rural communities and partner with school colleagues and community partners to achieve the following objectives:

1) Increase the knowledge and skills of in-school & out-of-school youth to improve their sexual and reproductive health and to reduce their risk of HIV/AIDS infection;
2) Increase the knowledge and skills of out-of-school youth to better prepare them for the workforce and adulthood;
3) Expand opportunities for youth to be civically engaged in non-political activities that benefit their community; and
4) Increase the knowledge and skills of service providers to implement positive youth development activities focused on HIV/AIDS risk mitigation, sexual and reproductive health, job skills, and civic engagement.

During the first three months in country, Volunteers will undergo a comprehensive Pre-Service Training (PST) which will include local language, cross-cultural sensitivity, diversity & inclusion, safety & security, technical & programmatic, and personal health & resiliency training. Volunteers must successfully complete the full training package and fulfill the language requirements to be sworn-in for your 24 months of service. Please come prepared to fully commit to the 11 week training program.

Peace Corps Eswatini promotes gender awareness and girls’ empowerment as an educational initiative infused within our youth development work. During pre-service training (PST) Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges and biases in Eswatini and will have the opportunity to incorporate gender-related activities into their work, where contextually appropriate.

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 with Youth in Development 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

Highly competitive candidates will possess a strong desire to work with youth and young adults (both in and out of school) and have one or more of the following criteria:

1) Teaching experience.
2) Experience co-teaching in schools or co-facilitating training sessions or workshops for youth and young adults.
3) Experience working in summer camps, after-school clubs, implementing mentorship programs, or working with orphans, vulnerable children and/or at-risk youth.
4) Experience working on HIV/AIDS projects or sexual reproductive health projects.
5) Experience working on income generation projects.
6) Proven experience learning a language. For social and work-related purposes, developing strong local language skills helps immensely in the community integration process.
7) Candidates with a Bachelors or Masters of Education or Social Work degrees.
8) Former AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, or Teach for America alumni are encouraged to apply.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements to qualify for this position. However, all Volunteers are required to learn the local language during their 11-week Pre-Service Training (PST). Please take a moment to explore the Language Skills Comments section below to find out more about the language expectations during training and at site.

SiSwati is the national language in Eswatini and developing local language skills is the key to successful community integration. Trainees must achieve an intermediate level of fluency at the end of the 11-week Pre-Service Training (PST) in order to swear-in as a Volunteer. This means that individuals must actively pursue their language learning during training. Individuals who do not successfully meet the language standard of Intermediate Low will not become Volunteers. Invitees will be expected to complete introductory language training modules online prior to arriving in Eswatini.

Living Conditions

The Kingdom of Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with an immensely kind, caring and giving population. The mountainous country is the only absolute monarchy in Africa. Volunteers often easily feel at home in the rural areas, as community members display humor and generosity.

Moving Around Communities:
In Eswatini, the distance between homes in a community is often greater than 1 mile. All Volunteers must be willing and able to walk at least 5 miles a day in mountainous terrain to get to work and do daily errands. Volunteers often carry large jugs of water 1 mile in these same conditions from the community well.

The weather across the mountainous nation varies greatly, from very cold winters (with average temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit) in houses with little insulation, to extremely hot summers (with temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit). All applicants should be prepared to serve in either extreme and should bring appropriate clothing for both cold and warm weather.

Volunteer houses are provided by the local communities and you are expected to live at the same standard as residents in your host community. Volunteers should be prepared to live without electricity or running water and use a pit-toilet as that is the norm in rural communities. Some Volunteers may live in houses with more modern conveniences, while others live in single-room detached huts with a grass roof within a family homestead.

Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone. Peace Corps will help you buy your phone during Pre-Service Training if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the States. Call costs are based on the amount of minutes used and texts sent and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls and texts, even from the US, are free. It is possible for many to access very slow Internet or messaging apps through the purchase of small and expensive data plans for smartphones.

Host Family:
In order to promote cultural integration, language acquisition, and safety and security, all Volunteers will live with a home-stay family during their 11 weeks of training. Host families are asked to treat Volunteers as a member of the family, which means that you will be expected to follow the rules of the household regardless of your age. Volunteers must be open and willing to take part in this experience and participate in the daily life of their family. All Volunteers live within a shared family compound within individual living quarters. This experience is often the most enjoyable and rewarding part of Volunteer service in Eswatini.

Other Considerations:
Living and working in Eswatini can be an enriching experience but it will certainly be challenging in ways that are different from anything you've experienced stateside.

Eswatini has some restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. 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 currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during pre-service training, and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the US. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Peace Corps works diligently to identify and train host country partners on the rich diversity of the US. Still, Volunteers who are of an American racial or ethnic minority, may have visible disabilities or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may experience discrimination or a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals.

Serving in Eswatini

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Eswatini: 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

Your partner must apply and qualify for the following position in Eswatini:

- Community HIV/AIDS Mitigation Officer

Couples will live together with a host family for the duration of their assignment in their own separate house. Please note, Trainees should be prepared to be separated for the first 11 weeks of pre-service training.

Medical Considerations

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

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