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Health Extension Volunteer

Project description

During President Nelson Mandela’s visit to the United States in October 1994, he invited the Peace Corps to South Africa to focus on two of South Africa’s highest priorities—HIV/AIDS and education. Since then, Volunteers have worked alongside community members on locally prioritized projects that build relationships, promote knowledge exchange, and make a lasting and measurable impact.

The HIV Awareness and Prevention Program for Youth (HAPPY) project seeks to work alongside host community counterparts with the goal of enabling Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Youth (OVCY) and their families lead healthy and productive lives that contribute to an AIDS-free generation.

As a Health Extension Volunteer, you will support and collaborate with host organizations and counterparts by working with vulnerable populations including: Youth, PLHIV (People Living with HIV), OVCs (Orphans and Vulnerable Children), and adults involved in their care and support. Volunteers will work with counterparts to co-develop and co-implement sustainable practices and evidence-based interventions to build the capacity of host organizations working in these areas.

Responsibilities with local counterparts could include:
• Co-creating and implementing community-based assessments to understand the local impact of the HIV epidemic
• Co-developing and implementing effective community practices to reduce HIV vulnerability and impact, specifically among youth
• Co-creating and promoting linkages between community and clinical services, especially among youth
• Co-developing and implementing sustainable practices that support growth and learning among organizational counterparts, leading to greater organizational effectiveness
• Promoting the growth of and access to gender-equitable, youth friendly HIV treatment
• Co-building awareness-raising events and projects to reduce community HIV related stigma and discrimination
• Collaboratively assisting organizations with data collection and reporting of program outcomes and successes

Volunteers will be placed with a community-based organization that is linked to a health facility in rural South Africa. These organizations can vary greatly from established, well-known international NGOs that receive sufficient funding, to small community-based or church-based charity organizations operating on a very limited budget.

Volunteers will have the opportunity to collaborate with local partners on educational and other community-identified secondary projects. Additionally, Peace Corps South Africa promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender dynamics in the South Africa context and will have the opportunity to co-implement culturally appropriate gender-related activities alongside community counterparts.

During Pre-Service Training (PST), Volunteers will begin learning and developing the skills and knowledge required for a successful service. PST is an intensive training period where Volunteers will live with a local family and receive training on key technical, intercultural, language, medical, and safety and security aspects within the context of South Africa’s diverse rural and urban settings.

NOTE: Due to the South African visa requirements, if you have you ever been cited for, arrested, charged with, or convicted of any offense, regardless of whether a citation, charge, arrest, or conviction has been sealed, dismissed, or expunged from your record (excluding minor traffic violations, traffic citations, and parking tickets), you should be aware that your visa application may be rejected.

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
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:

• Master of Public Health degree or Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Public Health
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing

Peace Corps South Africa prefers that candidates have experience working with vulnerable populations including women, youth and children. It is advantageous for candidates to have a demonstrated record of volunteerism that reflects a personal commitment to health and social services.

The most competitive candidates will have knowledge and experience working in one of more of the following fields:
• Youth health and/or youth development
• Women’s health and/or gender based violence
• HIV/AIDS, TB, sexual and reproductive health
• Alcohol/substance abuse prevention/mitigation

Required language skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. While you are not expected to know a South African language before arrival, earning the assigned South African language is critical to Volunteer success. By the end of Pre-Service Training, Trainees will be expected to meet language proficiency requirements measured at the end of PST and throughout service. Language possibilities include isiZulu, Sepedi, Setswana, isiNdebele.

Living conditions

After successfully completing Pre-Service Training, Volunteers will be assigned to work in a rural community. Typically, Volunteer housing is in the same community served by the organization. It is likely you will live within the compound of a host family but have your own room/dwelling separate from the main house, or in a room that is attached to the house with its own entrance. Peace Corps ensures that all Volunteer housing meets a minimum standard, but housing varies widely in South Africa. Some Volunteers have running water and electricity, while many do not. Volunteers with access to electricity often experience significant outages for hours or days at a time. Many Volunteers have access to the internet via smartphones, although the signal can be inconsistent and lapses in coverage are common.

Host organizations will provide basic furnishing, including a single bed, mattress, and dresser or closet. The Peace Corps will provide you with a settling-in allowance that will enable you to purchase sheets, blankets, pots and pans, water storage containers and other household necessities.

Personal appearance is important in South Africa. During PST, the dress code is business casual. Following PST, you are expected to adhere to professional dress standards for work situations in your community. Professional dress implies dress slacks (no jeans), collared shirts long skirts, dresses, or dress slacks. Volunteers are expected to always maintain a clean and groomed appearance as this does affect the community’s perception of the volunteer.

South Africa is a diverse country with a complex history that continues to affect the country politically, economically, and socially. South Africa lived under the Apartheid system of institutionalized racial segregation between 1948 and 1994. Living and working in South Africa means negotiating economic disparity daily. Volunteers must be aware of this and consider the resulting stress and challenges. The post-apartheid reality of South Africa means that Volunteers should be prepared to live, work, and navigate issues such as post-trauma stress, economic challenges, interpersonal/intercultural challenges, and unresolved conflict that still present barriers to day-to-day work. Challenges Volunteers may face include harassment related to gender, skin color, socioeconomic status, and language. Peace Corps staff will support Volunteers with training on strategies to integrate and adapt effectively and appropriately to living and working in this new intercultural context.

Volunteers who identify as an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service, may experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from South Africans. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers have been able to turn these encounters into learning experiences, sharing American values, and deepening local community members’ understanding of Americans.

South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage and the rights of LGBTQI+ community are enshrined in the Constitution. While South Africa is generally tolerant; values, morals, and judgements concerning sexual orientation and gender identity often differ across the country. This is especially true in rural communities where Volunteers will be placed. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. There are Peace Corps support networks and trainings in place for Volunteers navigating these challenges.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in South Africa: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and health/crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

South Africa can accommodate couples in the same sector and support them living together during the entirety of Pre-Service Training and two years of service. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for:

HIV Awareness and Prevention Coordinator

Couples may be asked to work in the same organization, with different defined roles, or may be placed with different organizations that are in close proximity. Couples will live together and will be in similar housing to other volunteers. Housing will be large enough to host two people.

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:

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