Health Extension Volunteer

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 Belize is proud to celebrate our 58th consecutive year providing support and resources through grassroots volunteer assignments throughout Belize. Over 2,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Belize since the program began in 1962, and we continue to work shoulder to shoulder with our Belizean host agencies, communities, and counterparts in the spirit of promoting world peace and friendship. The Youth Health and Well-Being Project in Belize is unique in that it gives Volunteers the opportunity to work in Belizean communities with various community leaders, addressing pressing youth health-related issues in areas where resources are scarce and need is great. These working relationships often become the foundation from which successful projects and activities are implemented and which have ultimately had proven impacts in the lives of community members.

Peace Corps Belize's Youth Health and Well-Being Project has one goal: Belizean youth lead healthy and empowered lives to realize their full potential into adulthood.

Peace Corps Youth Health and Well-Being Volunteers coordinate with primary schools and local community partners to carry out health education and promotion activities. With a focus on youth ranging in age from 6 to 14, Volunteers work alongside teachers and other community leaders in classroom and community settings to provide increased access to information and skills development opportunities in support of the healthy lifestyles of young people.

Specific activities a Volunteer will engage in include:
• Co-facilitating the national health and life skills curriculum, physical education, and other primary school-based health and well-being activities
• Co-facilitating gender-equitable clubs and camps for youth ages 6-14
• Co-facilitating health youth education with families and caregivers
• Coaching and co-facilitating training of school-based staff to use innovative and gender equitable techniques to deliver health, life skills, and physical education
• Coaching community leaders to facilitate gender equitable clubs and camps for youth ages 6-14

Belize is arguably the most culturally diverse country in Central America, and Volunteers will have the unique opportunity to learn about and interact with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Belize is also home to incredible flora, fauna, land and seascapes. Although Volunteers from the United States may be most familiar with Belize as a tourist destination, applicants should not apply with expectations of spending their time at the beach or touring the country. While you will certainly have the opportunity to experience the natural wonder Belize has to offer, it is expected that all Volunteers maintain focus on meeting the Youth Health and Well-Being project objectives in schools, through community based projects, and with community integration throughout their entire service. PC/Belize Volunteers are dedicated, competent, responsible, respectful and motivated professionals and as such we have enjoyed a high level of community, counterpart and government support. Those individuals willing to commit and dedicate the time, effort and energy to their service will be welcomed and ultimately successful throughout their time in Belize.

Please note that if selected to serve, you are expected to prepare your personal and professional life to make a commitment to serve for the full 27 months.

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

Our most competitive candidates will meet one or more of the following criteria:

• A degree in Social Science, Education, Nutrition, Health, or Kinesiology
• Certified primary school teacher
• Volunteer or work experience in promoting healthy lifestyles; health education; development of nutrition and health education materials; gender equality; youth life skills; developing and implementing behavior change strategies related to non-communicable diseases (NCD); and organizing groups to address health concerns in under-served communities
• Teaching or training experience
• Motivation to live and work in diverse communities with limited resources
• Background working with children and youth in schools and after school programs
• Willingness to live under physical hardship if required
• Comfort in working in an unstructured environment and demonstrated ability to take great individual initiative
• Knowledge of non-communicable disease (NCD), specifically NCD risk factors

Required Language Skills

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

Although Belize is a small country, it has a rich and diverse ethnic, cultural, and language environment. Trainees will be trained in one of two local languages: Kriol and Spanish. Volunteers should be flexible and open to learning any one of the two languages required for training. Trainees and Volunteers will be tested at intervals during Pre-Service Training (PST) and at specific intervals during their service. Trainees will be required to meet the established standards of the language(s) being taught during PST in order to be sworn in as a Volunteer. Learning the local language is important and necessary to integrate and carry out health-related work assignments as a Volunteer. Language is also critical for personal safety and cultural integration purposes. Post will support a Volunteer’s language acquisition throughout their service. Any prior Spanish knowledge and training can a benefit but is not a requirement.

Living Conditions

Belize is a tropical country with two seasons: dry season and rainy season. Please be aware that Volunteers often work in hot and humid conditions with little or no access to air conditioned facilities. Volunteers live and work in small communities that range in population from 150 to 5000 inhabitants. Some communities may have modern amenities but many are remote and exhibit limited, if any, modern comforts and conveniences. Many communities do not have access to electricity or centralized water supplies. Volunteers may have to do laundry in rivers, and many communities do not have indoor plumbing and rely on outdoor latrines.

Communication with the U.S. can be a challenge for Volunteers. Some communities are unlikely to have easily accessible internet service, and phone coverage is not necessarily reliable. Travel conditions can be rough both during Pre-Service Training (PST) and during a Volunteer’s service. Many work sites are accessed through dirt or uneven terrain prone to flooding during the rainy season. Public transportation in some parts of Belize may require long travel hours on school busses and smaller busses called busitos. Bus schedules can vary, and there are abbreviated schedules, especially on weekends and holidays.

Volunteers in Belize live with host families for the duration of their 27 month service, which provides them with many benefits. Living with a host family can be a highlight of service, as it can help with cultural integration, language learning, building trust in the community and increased safety and security. It is important to remember, however, that living with a host family will require an open mind, cultural sensitivity, patience and great flexibility. It also means a loss of personal independence, adhering to curfews and living in a home with a range of immediate and/or extended family members. Volunteers may be exposed to methods of disciplining children different from what they are accustomed to in the U.S. In many homes, especially in rural communities, gender roles are well defined and different from those in the U.S. Volunteers are expected to be sensitive to these differences. Volunteers will receive support from PC/Belize staff if gender-based challenges arise.

Peace Corps Belize seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the U.S. and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues in Belize. Once Volunteers arrive on site, diversity and inclusion principles remain the same but take on a different shape, in which your host community may share a common culture and you are the outsider. You may be in the minority, if not the sole foreigner at your site. During PST, multiple sessions and guidance will be provided to discuss diversity and inclusion. Belize recently decriminalized homosexuality. However, Belize continues to be a conservative country and Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and use their best judgment to determine how and if to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. For more specific information about serving as a Volunteer in Belize and the support networks in place, please visit https://www.peacecorps.gov/belize/preparing-to-volunteer/diversity-and-inclusion/.

Volunteers should be flexible and willing to adapt to the local foods available and vegetarians may encounter difficulties in maintaining a vegetarian diet. Volunteers should not expect host families to cater foods outside of what is typically eaten in a Belizean home, and many Volunteers find that the basic diet of Belizean families is sufficient. In Belize, tattoos may be associated with criminal activity. Likewise, having visible body piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your host community. Peace Corps/Belize staff will recommend for you to adhere to personal appearance and attire based on Belizean norms for all work and official activities. This is generally conservative.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Belize: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

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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