Community Health Specialist – Peace Corps Malawi

The Community Health and HIV and AIDS project is designed to improve family health conditions of Malawians, particularly those living in rural communities. Your main role as a Health Specialist will be to work as a facilitator, and mentor to assist health workers strengthen systems for improved service delivery and to build staff capacity. Your work will entail engaging community members to adopt healthy behaviors and practices to decrease the spread of HIV and mitigate its impact. You will also contribute to improved maternal, and child health outcomes.

Health Volunteers contribute to national efforts to address some of the most pressing public health issues in Malawi including preventing and mitigating HIV, malaria prevention and nutritional improvement using evidence-based interventions in a resource limited environment. Volunteers will work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who support health facilities to improve service delivery and referral systems and to strengthen capacity of health facility staff. Volunteers will also promote health seeking behavior of community members including girls. 

While you will be based at the health center, initial tasks include leading community assessments to understand the local HIV epidemic and resources, identifying local counterparts to implement interventions to reduce HIV vulnerability and impact, and raise awareness to the community about clinical services available. Once you have identified prior areas, capacity building support will include community mobilization, data analysis and use for informed decision making, report writing, record keeping, budget preparation, proposal writing and resource mobilization. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to train staff in technical areas, and develop or build stronger health systems and tools for monitoring and evaluation. Volunteers will work with counterparts to implement interventions to improve access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment and reduce stigma and gender based violence. 

Malawi is one of the Peace Corps countries participating in Let Girls Learn, an important initiative promoting gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive in-depth training on incorporating methods of gender analysis into community assessment and development efforts. During your service you will find culturally appropriate ways to incorporate gender awareness and the promotion of youth- especially girls- into your work. As part of the initiative, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
•Master’s degree in Public Health
•Certified Physician’s assistant or Public Health Nurse
•BA/BS in Nutrition, Health or Nursing

Desired Skills

Volunteers will work with a diverse team of health and medical professionals and with non-governmental organization staff at health facilities to implement public health interventions including HIV and AIDS, nutrition, malaria, and systems strengthening. 

Previous experience in the following is preferred:
•Experience working with or coaching/training health staff and facilitating health outreach sessions. 
•Experience with community mobilization and/or outreach campaigns.
•Knowledge and experience working in HIV/AIDS. 
•A degree in community health, nursing, nutrition, public health, youth development or community development.

Ideal candidates will have some or all of the following skills:
•Coordinating or implementing individual, group or community level trainings or interventions
• Hands-on training and facilitation experience 
• Monitoring and evaluation experience
• Volunteer coordination, teaching/mentoring and/or counseling
• Flexibility and adaptability
• Strong interpersonal skills, creative, outgoing and ability to use locally available resources.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. Please take a moment to explore the Language Comments section below to find out more on how local language(s) will be utilized during service.

Additional Language Information

•Trainees in this assignment will be trained in the local language used in their assignment area such as Chichewa or Chiyao languages (in the Central and South) and Chitumbuka, Lambya or Tonga languages (in the North) 
•All volunteers are required to learn a local language and attain fluency level of Intermediate-Mid by the end of Pre-Service Training (PST). Midway through PST volunteers are given a mock language proficiency oral interview using the guidelines of American Council for Testing Foreign Languages to prepare for the final language proficiency interview towards the end of PST
•Continuing language support is provided at site through tutors and language skills are assessed at Mid- Service and Close of Service.

Living Conditions

As a Health Volunteer, you will be assigned to a government supported health facility. You will work five days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with health staff, community members and/or counterparts. Community-based work often demands a commitment after-hours and on weekends. Volunteers will be expected to set an example of excellent workplace values and adopt positive behaviors.

Most Volunteer houses are constructed of bricks with concrete flooring, and corrugated metal roofs. Most Volunteer housing does not have electricity and running water. However, electricity, when available, is 220 volt, 50 hertz (220v, 50 cycles). Volunteers should expect to use hurricane lamps and candles, solar lights and wood/charcoal stoves for cooking/heating. In areas without running water, water sources are available from community taps or boreholes. All sites have the access basic necessities such as locally grown staples, vegetables, household goods and mobile phone coverage. 

Many parts of Malawi enjoy mild weather due to its high elevation, although lower regions around the lake are usually 10-15 degrees hotter. The main roads connecting the larger cities and towns are very good. Volunteers should be willing and able to live in rural and low resourced conditions. Cell phone coverage is improving throughout the country but remains inconsistent in some remote volunteers’ sites. For charging phones, most villages have charging booths for a modest fee and solar chargers are becoming more common. If you are lucky, you can also get 3G internet connectivity at your site or your nearest trading center or town.

Peace Corps Malawi strives to create an inclusive environment for all. We support individuals from many different backgrounds and staff have been trained in diversity, inclusion and LGBT issues. LGBT applicants should be advised that the current Malawi cultural and legal norms do not support an open and transparent LGBT community.

Medical Considerations in Malawi

  • Malawi may not be able to support Volunteers  with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; cardiology; dermatology; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; insulin-dependent diabetes; mammography; ongoing behavioral health support; seizure disorder; urology.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal, cultural or religious reasons: none identified.
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: eggs and peanuts.
  • After arrival in Malawi, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

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