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Maternal and Child Health Promoter

Project description

Since 1963, over 5,000 Volunteers have served in Guatemala making it one of the Peace Corps’ longest standing posts. Volunteers serve in municipalities in one of six departments in the Western Highlands. A country of striking features and a strong indigenous culture, Guatemala's natural beauty and powerful identity stand prominent in Central America. Indigenous populations make up about half of the population, with a high concentration in the Western Highlands. More than 20 indigenous languages are spoken alongside Spanish, the official tongue. Strategically located, with substantial natural resources and a young multi-ethnic population, Guatemala has enormous potential to generate growth and prosperity for its people. However, poverty and inequality in the country are persistently high. High rates of childhood stunting and lack of opportunities for youth, women and the indigenous populations threaten Guatemala’s ability to reach its full potential. Peace Corps Guatemala responds to these inequalities through strategic governmental collaborations and community empowerment within four program areas: Youth in Development, Maternal and Child Health, Community Economic Development, and Rural Extension.

The Maternal and Child Health program began in 2013 and Volunteers have collaborated with community health counterparts to train over 2,000 health workers in adult learning methodologies and over 5,000 women and family members in health practices. In 2018, the Maternal and Child Health program was reviewed by local stakeholders to include an additional focus in promoting behavior change. Volunteers work directly with health workers, mothers, women in reproductive age, family members and community leaders who are receptive to new approaches and demonstrate use of acquired methodologies designed to address undernutrition, maternal mortality, and child mortality.

The goal of the Maternal and Child Health program is to decrease preventable maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Volunteer and counterpart activities work toward three, overarching objectives:

1. Increase the capacity of community health service providers to support mothers and family members in adopting key maternal and child health behaviors;
2. Increase the capacity of women and family members to adopt key maternal and child health behaviors; and
3. Increase the capacity of key actors and organizations to strengthen community systems that enable the adoption of maternal and child health behaviors.

Community health workers promote healthy behaviors for mothers, pregnant women, and their family members through classes and one on one education in clinics and house visits. Volunteers assist by training and guiding community health workers to use adult education methodologies, participating in outreach activities, and providing feedback. Together, health workers and Volunteers track educational outcomes by assessing the adoption of healthy behaviors.

Volunteers also work with the community to identify and address social factors that influence behavior change and support the mobilization of community leaders to address social enablers to health behaviors. Volunteers work together with community members to connect key leaders and organizations in the assessment of community needs and to co-facilitate the design of joint work plans. Together, they collaborate to implement campaigns, activities, and projects that support the adoption of healthy behaviors. Examples of activities include organizing parades to promote better nutrition, hosting workshops to empower women and girls on health care and writing grants for small scale infrastructure that improve health services or family homes.

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:

•Master of Public Health degree or Master of Arts/Master of Science degree in Public Health.
• Certified Physician Assistant or Public Health Nurse with expressed interest in public/community health.
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition, Health, or Nursing.
• Experience in adult health education and behavior change promotion.
• Experience working with adults with low literacy levels.
• Experience in teaching or training facilitation.
• Strong communication and interpersonal skills.
• 2-3 years of professional work experience.

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). Volunteers need to demonstrate an Intermediate Mid level of oral and written proficiency in Spanish by the end of Pre-Service Training. Most Volunteers will work directly in Spanish, and some will work in communities with Mayan languages with support from a Spanish/Mayan speaking community member. Volunteers serving in areas where Mayan languages are spoken may study the local language once they arrive to their community to assist with integration into the community and basic communication.

Living conditions

Work Site and Housing
Most Volunteers live in medium-sized to larger rural communities (3,000 - 40,000 people). Most communities have electricity and running water, but the supply may be intermittent. Fruits, vegetables, and meats are available within the community or in nearby communities. Housing typically consists of cement block structures with a private bedroom and shared kitchen, bathroom, and living rooms. The phone plan Peace Corps provides includes credit for some local calls and limited internet. Most Volunteers have access to internet in their communities either in a local internet café or by purchasing additional internet data.

Host Family Situation
Volunteers are required to live with a host family during the 10-week Pre-Service Training and during the two years of service to increase integration and for continuous orientation to the local safety and security concerns. Many Volunteers cook for themselves during service, but some opt to eat with their host family or in small local restaurants.

Diversity Challenges
While Guatemala is generally tolerant, values concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in the U.S. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgement to determine the best way to approach communicating sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address these topics during Pre-Service Training, and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Volunteers are placed in Guatemalan communities which may be quite mountainous and, due to the altitude, can be cool to cold at night. Dressing in layers is the best way to deal with the daily temperature variations. The sunlight is strong, even during colder temperatures.

Personal appearance is important to people in Guatemala, so professional or business casual dress is expected. Dressing appropriately helps Volunteers to gain respect in their host community, facilitate integration, and increase credibility and effectiveness. It is advised to take cues from Guatemalan colleagues, and dress to meet/exceed their standards of professionalism.

Volunteers with visible body piercings must remove them before arriving to Guatemala. Those with tattoos will need strategies to conceal them. In Guatemala, tattoos may be associated with criminal activity. Likewise, having visible body piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into the host community. Keep in mind that Peace Corps/Guatemala staff ask Volunteers to be flexible regarding personal appearance to facilitate integration in training and during service. Remaining flexible is the key to Peace Corps service in any country.

Cultural Considerations
Guatemala is a very traditional and religious society. People’s roles in regard to gender, work, and the community are much more clearly defined along gender roles than in the U.S. Volunteers must be aware, tolerant, and respectful of their practices, customs, and way of life and they may need to adapt certain behaviors to demonstrate that respect.

The cultural and security considerations for alcohol use differ greatly in Guatemala and the United States. Volunteers must understand and evaluate the social and cultural implications of alcohol use in their communities. Peace Corps service has many stressors and it is important for applicants to bring healthy self-care practices and coping strategies that will help them serve positively within country. Additional conversations and guidance on coping strategies will be shared during the Pre-Service Training period.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Guatemala: 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

Peace Corps Guatemala is happy to accommodate cross-sector couples. Staff will identify communities with sufficient work opportunities for both Volunteers. Your partner can apply and must qualify for service as a:

Food Security Extension Facilitator.

Couples will not live together during the ten weeks of Pre-Service Training. Guatemala’s community-based training model places Trainees in communities based on their technical program and Spanish level. Special considerations are given to couples so that they live in nearby communities, offering them more flexibility to see each other during training (e.g., on weekends). Peace Corps Guatemala has also found that language acquisition and cultural integration increase when each member of the couple lives with a separate host family. After training, couples will live together for the duration of their service.

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 couples 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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