Youth Health Promoter

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

Youth Health Promoters in Paraguay will work under a newly-designed project framework with the Community Health Worker (CHW) from the local health post to support health promotion activities related to adolescent well-being within the health post, the school(s) and the community at-large. The project is designed to have a 6-year presence in the community; meaning three consecutive generations of Volunteers, each serving for two years, to implement the project by building on the work of the previous Volunteers. Volunteers arriving in the Spring of 2022 will be Generation 1 and will be the first group of Volunteers working under the new Youth Health framework. Volunteers will work directly with the CHW two to three days/week. The other days per week, Volunteers work with other stakeholders in the community on activities within the project framework as well as activities that may not be directly in the Youth Health framework. All Youth Health Volunteers are expected to honor Peace Corps’ approach to development and policies for working with youth.

The Youth Health project promotes youth leadership and well-being through:
• leadership & life skills;
• non-communicable disease prevention (i.e. diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc.) through sports and healthy recreation (also supports mental health) and nutrition;
• sexual and reproductive health and
• other areas (e.g. vector control, transportation security, etc.)

Youth Health Volunteers work with middle and high school students. Volunteers will be expected to participate in community integration activities with the CHW in order to get to know the students and build relationships with teachers, the school principal(s) and the local health post. After the integration period, the Volunteer will work with the CHW on a community diagnosis to understand the main challenges to youth well-being. This will be done through activities such as community meetings, house visits, a community map and youth census, informal interviews, etc. The Volunteer will co-facilitate classes and/or sessions with teachers and the CHW. Later in the first year of service, the Volunteer and CHW will form a youth health club outside of the school, a summer Youth Health camp and during the second year of service, a peer education program which will serve as the foundation for the following years; including Generations 2 & 3. The Volunteer and CHW are expected to support peer educators through their formation as leaders and their own analysis of local youth health issues; and the design and implementation of at least one peer educator-led youth health initiative.

The Volunteer and CHW will also work with parents and service providers through trainings and discussion groups during their second year of service in order to increase their capacity to support youth well-being in the community.

Youth Health Volunteers work with youth both in-school and out of school. This is done in tandem with the community through:

• Planning with the CHW and community leaders
• Co-facilitating sessions with the CHW in the classroom, and in informal settings with youth groups and peer educators, parent & caregiver groups, school-based staff and other healthcare workers
• Creating and/or strengthening youth groups
• Identifying and training peer educators in conjunction with the CHW, supporting peer educators in implementing a youth health community assessment and designing and implementing a youth health initiative
• Organizing community events or small group gatherings

In addition to the primary activities described above, secondary activities outside of the sector framework may be started/proposed by the community and carried out with the Volunteer’s help depending on the community’s interest.

Volunteers can play the catalyst role on a wide range of activities, limited only by their ability to integrate into the community, build trust and adapt to the varying needs, ideas and work styles of community members.

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

Competitive candidates will have:
• Experience working with youth, especially within the topics of leadership development, sexual and reproductive health, healthy lifestyles and/or life skills education
• Experience with health promotion and health education and the ability to work with community members/groups to assess community health needs
• Experience in organizing and working with youth groups
• Classroom management and/or experience working in a school setting - middle school and high school
• At least one year of experience working in a rural area under challenging conditions
• At least one year of experience serving others
• Demonstrated flexibility in work assignments
• At least one life experience as the ‘new person’ moving into a community and successfully building positive relationships with others
• Demonstrated successful experience in organizing and/or planning community meetings or events with adults and/or working with parent groups, such as a PTA

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position:

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

A candidate who does not meet the language proficiency levels above can take a language placement exam to demonstrate proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages exam (ACTFL OPI).

Candidates should also exhibit a strong interest to learn an indigenous language as Paraguay is an officially bi-lingual country and learning both languages, Spanish and Guarani, are critical for Volunteer effectiveness.

Competitive candidates will have conversational Spanish language skills. Paraguay is a bilingual nation where both Spanish and Guaraní are official national languages. In order to communicate in the capital city of Asunción (and other large urban areas), Spanish is most commonly spoken. However, in most semi-urban to rural areas where Health Volunteers are placed, Guaraní or “Jopara” (a mixture of Guaraní and Spanish) is the most common way to communicate. Therefore, Volunteers will need to learn both languages in order to be able to communicate and be effective in their work. Volunteers who enter training with minimal Spanish language skills may struggle to learn the two new languages which can be a source of frustration. Successful Volunteers have an open and positive attitude about language learning and dedicate a substantial amount of time outside of class to studying and practicing both languages, especially with their host family. Volunteers will not be able to swear-in unless they meet both language benchmarks. Additionally, during training, Volunteers will be taught basic competence in Spanish, but the focus of language training will be in Guaraní. If perfecting or becoming fluent in Spanish is a main goal of your Peace Corps service, Paraguay may not be the best fit.

Living Conditions

Communities for Youth Health Volunteers will be rural, semi-rural and/or small towns (200-5,000). For this group it is anticipated that the majority or all Volunteers will be placed in communities in the states (or departments) of Paraguari and Cordillera, and are located approximately 1 to 4 hours from the capital city of Asunción by bus. Final community selection will be done in conjunction with the Ministry of Health of Paraguay. The communities where Youth Health Volunteers will be placed can experience challenges of accessibility due to inexistent or bad road conditions and limited access to public transportation. Health Volunteers typically have access to electricity and cell service in the community, but not necessarily directly in their house. Internet is very limited, and in some communities is almost non-existent. People in rural Paraguay use messaging apps that are capable of many functions without requiring access to the Wi-Fi as a main channel of communication.

Volunteers are often placed within 2-3 hours of Volunteers from the same or another sector.

Volunteers may need to bike or walk up to 10 km in extreme heat and humidity, often in the 90s with 70% humidity. Buses to Asunción from most communities are available, although depending on the size of the community, may have infrequent service. Additionally, heavy rain can cause roads to close, which would mean walking or waiting until the road opens in order to leave a community.

Volunteers live with a host family for the 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST) and the first three months of service, for a total of six months of required homestay experience. Homes may be very basic, with outdoor latrines and no modern plumbing. Most Volunteer housing has access to running water within the property line, if not in the house itself. In the cases where there is no running water, wells are available to be shared.

The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat, therefore it can be challenging for vegetarians. The diet is also very high in carbohydrates and many meals involve more than one starch at a time
(e.g. manioc and pasta or manioc and rice). In many Paraguayan families, manioc and meat are eaten almost every day. Fruits are available seasonally. Most communities have access to tomatoes, onions and green peppers, however some have limited access to other vegetables. Many Volunteers plant gardens in order to increase access to vegetables.

Generally speaking, Paraguayans place high importance on personal appearance, including cleanliness. Paraguayans may get offended by visitors to their homes or offices who have body odor or an unkempt appearance. Therefore, cleanliness and neat personal appearance are very important for Volunteers who represent Peace Corps and host country agencies throughout Paraguay. This is a valuable concept to remember as showing respect for Paraguayan values related to cleanliness and appearance will help with integrating into your community. It is expected that Volunteers wear business casual clothing as a working professional would in the U.S. Most Paraguayans dress up for special occasions. In schools and offices - including the Peace Corps office in Asunción - “office casual” is appropriate (nice jeans, khakis, and knee-length skirts; button-down shirts or nice pull-over blouses; closed-toed shoes or dressy sandals). Shorts, flip-flops, and tank tops are inappropriate except around the house or for recreational activities.

The pace of life is much slower than in the U.S. and simple decisions may take longer than one may have previously been accustomed to. Language barriers coupled with indirect communication styles can also pose challenges; however the vast majority of Volunteers are able to overcome these with effort and dedication. In general, Paraguayan communities are very welcoming to Volunteers and the program has an overall positive reputation in the country.

Serving in Paraguay

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Paraguay: 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

Paraguay is happy to accept same-sector couples. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for:
Youth Health Promoter

Couples will live together with the same host family during Pre-Service Training (PST) and for the first three months of service; but may be separated for certain field-based activities during PST.

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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