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Urban Youth Development 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 also 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 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 Swati 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.
Peace Corps Eswatini also launched the HIV/AIDS prevention focused Youth Development program in 2011 to strengthen the capacity of young people to live healthier and more productive lives.

With more than 50 percent of Eswatini’s population under the age of 25, Youth Development work is more pressing than ever before. In many areas of the country, traditional family and community systems are unable to meet the changing needs of Swati youth; additionally, schools struggle to equip youth with the critical life skills needed to thrive in today’s rapidly modernizing world. There is tremendous opportunity within Eswatini to actively engage young people in planning for their future and the future of their communities.

Youth Development Volunteers empower Swati youth, ranging in age from 9-24 years old, to become healthy, productive, and civically engaged adults. Volunteer’s support the goals of the Ministry of Education by:
1) Planning and teaching life skills classes using the Ministry’s Life Skills Curriculum four days per week in both secondary and high schools settings.
2) Building the capacity of schools and individual teachers to teach the Life Skills Curriculum through co-planning and co-facilitation.
3) Working in partnership with teachers and school committees to form “youth friendly” welcoming school environments.
4) Building the capacity of community service providers – including teachers, religious leaders, and coaches – to implement youth programming focused on sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS risk mitigation, job skills, healthy relationships, and life skills.
5) Establish new and strengthen existing Peace Corps youth clubs to support after school “youth friendly” programming.
Volunteers will be based in rural communities and partner with school colleagues and community partners to achieve the following objectives:

1) Increase the knowledge and skills of in-school & out-of-school youth to improve their sexual and reproductive health and to reduce their risk of HIV/AIDS infection
2) Increase the knowledge and skills of out-of-school youth to better prepare them for the workforce and adulthood
3) Expand opportunities for youth to be civically engaged in non-political activities that benefit their community
4) Increase the knowledge and skills of service providers to implement positive Youth Development activities focused on HIV/AIDS risk mitigation, sexual and reproductive health, job skills, and civic engagement.

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 (ICDEI &A) 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 Participatory Analysis for Community Action (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 during the Pre-Service Training (PST), which will be bolstered by in-service trainings (IST) 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

Competitive candidates will have an expressed interest in working directly with adolescents (10-14) and youth (15-24) and one or more of the following criteria:
• Master's degree in Social Work, Psychology, Education, Youth Development, Applied Behavioral Science or related field
OR
• 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
OR
• 3 years of professional experience working with youth and/or families, preferably from under-resourced communities

Desired skills

Highly competitive candidates will possess a strong desire to work with youth and young adults (both in and out of school) and have one or more of the following criteria:

1) Teaching experience.
2) Experience co-teaching in schools or co-facilitating training sessions or workshops for youth and young adults.
3) Experience designing, implementing or evaluating community development projects in any context.
4) Experience working in summer camps, after-school clubs, implementing mentorship programs, or working with orphans, vulnerable children and/or at-risk youth.
5) Demonstrated leadership experience, including being a “self-starter” and creating structure in informal settings.
6) Experience working on HIV/AIDS projects or sexual reproductive health projects.
7) Proven experience learning a language. For social and work-related purposes, developing strong local language skills helps immensely in the community integration process.
8) 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. End of Pre-Service Training benchmark at Intermediate Low. The local language is siSwati. SiSwati is the national language in Eswatini and evidence indicates that developing local language skills is key to successful community integration. Trainees must achieve an intermediate level of fluency at the end of the Pre-Service Training (PST) to swear-in as a Volunteer. This means that individuals must actively pursue their language learning during training and will be expected to continue language lessons throughout their term of service through individual tutoring. Individuals who do not successfully meet the language standard of Intermediate Low will not become Volunteers. Invitees will be expected to complete introductory language training modules online prior to arriving in Eswatini.
A pre-departure online training will be uploaded in our Peace Corps Eswatini learning space page for introduction to the language. Language learning and interaction has proven to be one of important investments a volunteer can make for relationship building and understanding the people they will serve alongside with for successful project implementation and sustainable community development. On-going language learning support is offered at post to support individual Volunteer language needs.

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. 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.

Climate:
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.

Housing:
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. (Note, this experience has been modified for the intake in FY22 due to COVID and will resume in FY23). Permanent 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. All Volunteers live within a shared family compound within individual living quarters.

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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