Youth Leadership Development Facilitator
Panama is commonly referred to as “puente del mundo, corazón del universo” (bridge of the world, heart of the universe). It is also a land of mixed realities. Its strategic geographic location influenced the construction of the canal, which accelerated immigration and contributed to Panama’s diverse population. Panama is known as an international logistics, banking, and tourism hub. For this and other reasons, the isthmus holds distinct social and economic realities which impact structural inequalities.
Panamanian youth are facing heightened socio-economic instability, few professional and personal development opportunities, and low civic and educational engagement. To ensure lasting change, Panamanian institutions, local organizations, and civil society are putting special emphasis on supporting youth development initiatives.
Youth Leadership Development (YLD) Facilitators collaborate with the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) in secondary schools to support counselors, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and students with initiatives relevant to the project framework. Through collaborating with a Panamanian community member, Volunteers will take part in a mutually beneficial capacity-building experience and ensure that all activities comply with community interests, desires, and beliefs.
During their first three months in the community, Volunteers learn about the Panamanian education system, the culture of the school, youth priorities, and opportunities to implement and strengthen positive youth development programs. In collaboration with local professionals, youth service providers, and community leaders, Volunteers will perform a participatory community analysis to assess school/community resources and, based on the findings, will create a plan for service. YLD Facilitators will support ongoing youth-oriented programs in schools and the community, bringing new ideas, approaches and/or techniques to those spaces while incorporating youth and counterpart’s assets to ensure relevance and durability.
An important component of the job will be promoting inclusion through considering the dynamics of gender and accessibility. Youth Leadership Development Facilitators (local counterparts and Volunteers) co-plan and co-facilitate activities that address the following: positive self-concept, communication, conflict resolution, goal setting, leadership, employability skills, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for employment, and gender equity and inclusion.
Below are activities that may be identified by the school and/or community as part of their priorities:
• Co-plan and co-facilitate youth clubs and camps that incorporate life skills development
• Promote leadership and life skills among youth through co-planning and co-facilitating extra-curricular activities like organized sports groups, performing arts events, and other events
• Co-teach life and employability skills development curricula developed by the Ministry of Education with school counselors
• Co-plan and co-facilitate youth participation in activities or events related to awareness days (i.e. World AIDS Day, International Youth Day, etc.)
• Co-plan and co-facilitate youth participation in a service-learning project as part of a school activity, club, or youth program
• Co-plan and co-facilitate Digital Literacy workshops for youth
• Guide youth on Digital Literacy skills
• Mentor/coach youth on life skills and/or employability skills
• Sharing information and feedback with youth service providers to promote positive youth development programs
COVID-19 Volunteer Activities
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.
Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience
• Master’s degree in Social Work, Psychology, Education, Youth Development, Applied Behavioral Science or related field.
• Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Social Studies, Psychology, Education, Youth Development, Applied Behavioral Science or other related field and at least 3 months of experience working with youth and/or families
• 3 years’ of professional experience working with youth and/or families, preferably from under-resourced communities.
• Experience working with children/youth in formal/non-formal educational settings (camps, clubs, extra-curricular activities, service-learning projects, etc.)
• Experience teaching, coaching, or mentoring adults and youth in formal and informal settings
• Experience with mutual collaboration in a service setting
• Experience with public speaking, facilitating classes/workshops/presentations or the performing arts, both in person and virtually
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 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).
Pre-Service Training (PST) will have an emphasis on language acquisition through structured and unstructured language-building learning experiences, while also focusing on strengthening intercultural competence. These critical skills will help create a foundation for the ability to serve as a Volunteer in Panama. The technical knowledge and skills that you arrive with and/or gain during your training will not be effective if you do not have the necessary communication and intercultural skills. You will be assigned to a Language and Culture Facilitator (LCF) who will facilitate the resources and opportunities you need to build your language competence.
You will receive three Language Proficiency Interviews (LPI) during PST. By the final LPI you will be required to achieve a Mid-Intermediate level of Spanish as outlined by ACTFL Guidelines to qualify for service. Your LCF will do all they can to support you to achieve the required level. They will provide well-rounded support as you adapt to a new method of language-learning and will persistently challenge you to speak out loud, make mistakes, converse with, and build relationships native speakers, such as members of your host training community. Your LCF will also be an important cultural informant and guide as you adapt to the local culture.
Volunteers must demonstrate an Intermediate-mid level of oral and written proficiency in Spanish for community placement by the end of the 10-week Pre-Service Training. Intermediate-mid level speakers are expected to be able to: start, sustain, and close simple conversations at the sentence level and connect them. Ask and answer simple questions.
Youth Volunteers are placed in small to large-sized communities. Housing in Panama varies among communities and may include concrete block walls and cement floors; stilted wood houses; adobe structures with mud floors; and/or furnished apartments. Communities generally have basic utilities and infrastructure, including cell phone signal, treatable water, and sometimes electricity. The reliability of these services varies from community to community; and may be impacted by seasonal changes. All Volunteers receive training on how to treat their water should they need to. Volunteers may have to use solar panels or pay a small fee at stores with generators to charge or run electronics. Personal solar panels and generators can be acquired in Panama. Peace Corps/Panama assesses 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. After three months, Volunteers may opt to live in pre-approved local housing that meets Peace Corps/Panama’s housing criteria.
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 a staple dish. Corn is served in many stews but is usually ground, boiled, or fried. Sancocho is a traditional soup prepared with root vegetables and chicken. Most rural areas have many fruits available, including mangos, papayas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, and guanábanas (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, pork, and beef, which are often deep-fried or stewed. Fish is available sporadically in coastal regions and riverside communities.
Panamanians frequently follow diets based on their region, culture, and seasonally available produce. Depending on the Volunteer’s diet, they may be inclined to start a garden, plan for trips to larger cities to acquire products at supermarkets or adjust to locally available options. Larger towns and cities have at least one chain restaurant that will be familiar.
Computer, Phone, and Internet Access.
All Volunteer communities must have reliable cell phone signal. The availability of internet access (Wi-Fi) will vary in speed and reliability depending on the geographic location of the community. Volunteers may access Wi-Fi through the local public school, a community internet center, or a private internet café in a larger town. In Panama City, Volunteers have access to Wi-Fi, desktop computers and printers at the Peace Corps/Panama office. All Volunteers will need to bring an unlocked cell phone from the United States or buy one in country, which can be more expensive. Volunteers will be required to use a local Panamanian service provider to communicate with Staff and PC will not reimburse or pay for international plan. Phone service will be set up upon arrival. Should you choose to bring electronics, it is your responsibility to maintain and insure them.
Serving in Panama
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Panama: 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.
Peace Corps Panama cannot accommodate cross-sector couples. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for the following positions: Youth Leadership Development Facilitator.
During Pre-Service Training, couples live in the same home and are requested to speak Spanish with each other and the host family to improve language learning. During their service, they may live together first with a host family and then on their own or be placed with a family guide and living on their own upon arriving in the community. Couples will be placed in medium to large communities, to ensure sufficient work is available for both Volunteers.
The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.
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