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2 years, 3 months
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Health Extension Volunteer

Project description

Eswatini prides itself with a vibrant culture and stunning landscapes. It has a rich history and warm-hearted people. As a potential applicant / Volunteer, the allure of Eswatini lies in its opportunity to immerse oneself in a community that values tradition and embraces change. Volunteering in Eswatini promises not only to make a difference, but also to leave an indelible mark on the heart of the volunteer, fostering connections that transcend borders and enrich lives as well.
Despite its small population size, the Kingdom of Eswatini (formally the Kingdom of Swaziland) has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. In 2003, Peace Corps reopened the Eswatini program to focus on halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and combatting its devastating impact on the Eswatini society.
Eswatini’s HIV prevalence rate is currently sitting at 27%, and adolescent girls and young women reported to be twice as likely to contract HIV when compared to their male counterparts (ENSF, 2018). This is against the major milestone that the country has met of being one of the first 2 countries that have met and surpassed the UNAIDS fast track targets (The Global Fund, 2021). Regardless of such a major milestone, the country continues to struggle with new HIV infections amongst certain key populations, particularly AGYW between the ages of 15-24 years and necessitates the need for more interventions targeting this population.
This achievement was largely made possible by rapidly scaling up the number of people accessing antiretroviral treatment.

However, the huge number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Eswatini means this is still the country’s biggest public health concern. The good news is that the country is at a historic moment in their HIV/AIDS response. Eswatini has achieved HIV/AIDS epidemic control by ensuring that 95% of people living with HIV know their status, 95% of people who know their status access treatment, and 95% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads across all ages, genders, and at-risk groups. Over the course of the next few years, the country is at its last mile of intensifying its efforts on the fight against HIV. Working in concert with the government, international and local organizations, Volunteers in Eswatini are working toward maintaining and improving the gains that the country has achieved particularly by keeping vulnerable groups at the center of HIV response.

Community HIV/AIDS Mitigation Officers support comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation activities by working with youth ages 9-24; this includes orphans, other vulnerable children, and out-of-school youth. Through the direct provision of health promotion, education, and referral services, Volunteers partner with clinics, community centers, and community-based health workers, utilizing evidence-based prevention and mitigation programming. Within community clinics, Volunteers will work to improve the supply chain process to deliver and manage commodities for HIV/AIDS.

Volunteers address the key health challenges in Eswatini through the following main objectives:
Objective 1: Individual prevention of new HIV infection
• Increase knowledge and skills of youth ages 9-24 years- including in and out-of-school youth – to remain HIV-free
• Improve the community environment to enable youth to remain HIV-free

Objective 2: Care, treatment, and support for youth living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and their families
• Improve and strengthen support groups for youth living with HIV/AIDS
• Increase the knowledge and skills of vulnerable youth and their families living with or affected by HIV/AIDS to improve their wellbeing and resiliency

Objective 3: Improve the community health system to better support people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS
• Improve the supply chain processes needed to deliver and manage commodities for HIV/AIDS

PCVs will gain relevant work experience/skills in: facilitation, teaching, coaching, conflict management, community development, youth development, project management, grant writing & management, monitoring & evaluation, and cross-cultural communication.
During the first three months in country, Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) will engage in a newly designed Pre-Service Training (PST) which invites trainees to partner with our post staff to participate in comprehensive learning experiences to prepare trainees for swearing in and community integration. Trainees will experience an intense, fast paced learning environment comprised of self-directed learning, classroom, and blended learning experiences. Trainees will receive a basic (beginner) understanding of the local language, norms and culture, which include a strong emphasis on gender equity as Peace Corps Eswatini promotes gender awareness and girls’ empowerment as an educational initiative infused within our youth development work.
Additionally, trainees will come to understand the value of Inter-cultural Competence, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (ICDEIA) and how this affects all aspects of Peace Corps service. Trainees will fully engage in the principles and practices which explain the Peace Corps approach to development known as PACA. This methodology places the community at the center of a PCVs term of service. Trainees will receive comprehensive safety, security, personal health, and resiliency training. Finally, trainees will receive the fundamentals of technical (programmatic) training, which will be bolstered by in-service trainings scheduled after swearing-in. Trainees must successfully complete the full training package and achieve the minimum standards for language proficiency to be sworn-in for 24 months of Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) service.

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

Highly competitive candidates will possess a strong desire to address community health needs for both adults and children and meet one or more of the following criteria:

1) Experience working at a health clinic or community health center.
2) Experience co-teaching or co-facilitating health training sessions or workshops for adults and youth.
3) Experience designing, implementing, or evaluating community development projects in any context.
4) Experience working on HIV/AIDS projects or with sexual and reproductive health projects.
5) Experience working with summer camps, after-school clubs, implementing mentorship programs or working with orphans, vulnerable children, and/or at-risk youth.
6) Demonstrated leadership experience, including being a “self-starter” and creating structure in informal settings.
7) Experience working in pharmacies, hospitals, hospices, or related.
8) Proven experience learning a language is a plus. For social and work-related purposes, developing strong local language skills helps immensely in community integration process.
9) Former AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA, or Teach for America alumni, are encouraged to apply.

Required language skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. There are no pre-requisite language requirements to qualify for this position. However, all Volunteers are required to achieve some level of local language competency during their PST. Please take a moment to explore the Language Skills Comments section below to find out more about the language expectations during training and at site.

Living conditions

The Kingdom of Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with an immensely kind, caring and giving population. The mountainous country is the only absolute monarchy in Africa. Volunteers often easily feel at home in the rural areas, as community members display humor and generosity.

In Eswatini, the distance between homes in a community is often no greater than 1 mile. All Volunteers must be willing and able to walk up to 5 miles a day in some form of mountainous terrain to get to and from work and conduct errands. Bicycles are allowable in Eswatini, if they are used with a helmet, which is required by policy.

The weather across the mountainous nation varies greatly, from very cold winters (with average temperatures as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit) in houses with little insulation, to extremely hot summers (with temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit). All applicants should be prepared to serve in either extreme and should bring appropriate clothing for both cold and warm weather.

Volunteer houses are provided by the local communities, and you are expected to live at the same standard as residents in your host community. Volunteers should be prepared to live without electricity or running water and use a pit-toilet as that is the norm in rural communities. Some Volunteers may live in houses with more modern conveniences, while others live in single room detached huts with a grass roof within a family homestead.
Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone. Peace Corps will help you buy your phone during PST if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the States.

Host Family:
To promote cultural integration, language acquisition, and safety and security, all Volunteers will live with a home-stay family during their Pre-Service Training period. Permeant host families (assigned after swearing-in) are asked to treat Volunteers as a member of the family, which means that you will be expected to follow the rules of the household regardless of your age. Volunteers must be open and willing to take part in this experience and participate in the daily life of their family.

Other Considerations:
Living and working in Eswatini can be an enriching experience but it will certainly be challenging in ways that are different from anything you've experienced stateside.
Eswatini has some restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Staff will address this topic during PST and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Peace Corps works diligently to identify and train host country partners on the rich diversity and gender norms the United States. Still, when engaging with some individuals, Volunteers who are of an American racial or ethnic minority, have visible disabilities, or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from most of their country of service may experience discrimination or a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Additionally, women may experience a high degree of unwanted attention from men when traveling outside of their assigned communities. Peace Corps staff will address the topic of unwanted attention and steps PCVs can take to enhance their own personal safety during PST.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Eswatini: 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

Couples will live together with a host family for the duration of their assignment in their own separate house.

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