Youth Health Advisor

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

In addition to being known as the Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi may soon be known as one of the first countries to achieve control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But currently, youth between the ages of nine and nineteen remain vulnerable to HIV infection, other sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy. Furthermore, children under the age of five face the risks of malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and malaria. Being healthy and disease-free is an important component of a stable and productive life. We invite you to address these critical health issues in Malawi by serving as a Youth Health Advisor.

As a Youth Health Advisor, you will work in a rural health center on a variety of health activities that support children and youth. You will engage youth on HIV prevention and reproductive health programs that are creative, fun, and provide a safe space for youth to discuss ways to keep themselves healthy. Your compassionate approach will help youth to gain the confidence to seek HIV tests and access other services that are beneficial to their health. You will also work with people who are HIV+, especially youth, on health strategies through support groups and teen clubs.

Many youth in Malawi may feel too intimidated to access important services at their health center. This is mainly due to the negative attitudes of Health Workers toward Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and the perception that youth who ask for condoms and/or family planning services are “promiscuous.” Unfortunately, this encourages insensitivity toward shy teens and young adults which leaves them feeling disempowered and unable to express themselves. As a result, they are often not assessed for pertinent health issues. Therefore, you will work with the health center staff to analyze and improve services and confidentiality practices to make the health center welcoming and supportive to youth.

In your work as a Youth Health Advisor, you will also work directly with pregnant women as well as parents of young children to promote essential practices that can keep their young children protected from various health threats. You will conduct home visits to help implement and monitor these health measures.

As a Youth Health Advisor, you will be assigned to a rural health facility. This may be a clinic or a rural hospital. You will work five days a week from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM with health staff, community-based organizations, support groups, community members, and others. Youth Health Advisors are not permitted to perform any medical services. Community-based work often includes a commitment after-hours and on weekends. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to set an example of excellent professional values and adopt positive health behaviors.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and health centers have minimal resources. This means that your work as a Youth Health Advisor may come with unique challenges. Some of these challenges may include: equipment may be limited or in disrepair, low or unavailability of basic supplies like condoms and teaching aids, narrow community perceptions about engaging health services, lack of designated areas for youth education activities, and high rates of staff turnover. Youth Health Advisors in Malawi need to be creative and learn to improvise in order to be successful with few resources. Despite this, you will have a tremendous opportunity to engage youth over a sustained period of time and watch them grow. The training you receive from Peace Corps combined with your expertise, experiences, and the relationships you build in your community will aid you in being flexible and creative when approaching your work. Be prepared to commit yourself to two years of challenging yet highly rewarding work, and to take part in the important effort of supporting the health of youth in Malawi. Volunteers must conduct themselves as a model citizen in their community, setting an example for coworkers, youth, and caregivers.

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

Previous experience in coaching or training people and/or facilitating health outreach sessions is desirable. Experience in youth programs, community mobilization, and/or outreach campaigns is preferred. Knowledge and experience working on HIV/AIDS prevention and/or with people living with HIV/AIDS is desirable.

Ideal applicants will have some or all of the following skills:

• Coordinating or implementing individual, group, or community level trainings or interventions
• Hands-on training and facilitation experience
• Monitoring and evaluation experience
• Volunteer coordination, teaching/mentoring, and/or counseling

Required Language Skills

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

During pre-service training, Volunteers will receive training by Malawian language instructors to communicate in the local language used in their assigned community. At the end of pre-service training, Trainees must achieve a functional level of the local language ability before being sworn-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Living Conditions

Youth Health Advisors typically live in housing provided by the health center. Most of these houses are constructed of bricks with concrete flooring and corrugated metal roofs. Homes are often located on the health center’s compound or nearby in the surrounding community. Like most rural residences in Malawi, the homes of Peace Corps Volunteers typically do not have electricity or running water. Volunteers utilize candles and solar lamps for lighting, cook with wood/charcoal stoves, and collect water from a nearby communal pump. Toilets are typically in the form of outdoor latrines, or squat toilets, and bathing is done using a bucket. Mobile phone coverage is available, but spotty in some areas. Basic necessities such as vegetables, grains, and household goods can be purchased in the community or at a nearby market town.

Travel in Malawi can be strenuous, involving long bus rides on dirt roads. Peace Corps Volunteers may need to walk long distances on a regular basis or cycle between villages for their work. Peace Corps can provide a bike to assist with these daily routines.

Cultural Attitudes and Customs in the Workplace: It is important that you respect and earn the trust of the people in your community and be open minded, motivated, patient, and flexible in ambiguous situations. An important aspect of your work will be your ability to communicate with your community members. It is also essential that Peace Corps Volunteers work within the hierarchical structure of the community to conduct their work in a culturally appropriate way. Your professional appearance and work habits, along with the respect and deference you demonstrate for your fellow Malawians, will go a long way toward gaining respect and credibility in the workplace.

Dress Code: Personal appearance is very important in Malawi. During pre-service training, the dress code is business casual. Following pre-service training, you will need to dress professionally for work situations in your community. Dressing appropriately will help you gain respect in your host community, facilitate integration, and increase your credibility and effectiveness. Peace Corps will provide dress guidance, and more importantly Volunteers are advised to take cues from Malawian colleagues and dress to their standards of professionalism.

Serving in Malawi

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Malawi: 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

Peace Corps Malawi welcomes couples. Your partner must apply and qualify for one of the following positions in Malawi:

- High School English Educator

or

- Environment and Food Security Educator

Couples have the same living conditions as single Volunteers.

Medical Considerations

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


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