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Author Topic: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015  (Read 5054 times)

Offline rashard2086

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Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« on: March 10, 2015, 10:55:24 PM »
Hey guys! This is my first post, so show me lots of love  :).
I basically have 2 areas of concern/interest.
1. I have read lots of blogs and webpages from volunteers discussing their time teaching in varies countries, but I would really love to hear more about the health sector of the peace corps. What were your experiences like? Were your volunteer projects heavy on the education aspect or was there lots of clinical 'hands on' volunteering. Was it a good mixture of both?  As a health volunteer, were you always in close proximity to a education volunteer?

2. Who is applying for Cambodia this year? Is it significantly more competitive in the health sector as opposed to other sectors? What type of experience did you have prior to applying? I'm still waiting for an interview and my know by date is about a week away. The wait is killing me, and I've literally already fallen in love with the country I'm under consideration for :-).    Anyone stationed or is a rpcv from cambodia?  I would love to hear about your experiences in the country.

Feel free to answer any or all of the questions that you can. I just love this forum and I'm super excited to hear from you guys.

Offline Jeff

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2015, 08:34:50 AM »
Welcome to the forum, and to the amazing (frustrating) process that is applying for the Peace Corps!

So, first off, I was not a PCV in Cambodia, but I was a health volunteer many years ago.  Things have probably changed a bit, but I can tell you about my experience.

In general, most of the health volunteers in my group were officially water and sanitation extensionist under the Community Health Extension sector.  That wasn't the title we were given, but that's what they called us.  NONE of us actually worked with water and sanitation, even though that's what we focused on during Pre-Service Training (PST).  We also had a huge focus on HIV/AIDS.

During PST we did have to go into schools and do activities/health education with classes as part of our practicums.  This was almost all HIV/AIDS related, and we used activities from a Johns Hopkins program called Journeys of Hope.  We were given all the supplies, but had to plan the sessions ourselves and coordinate with the schools ourselves.

When we got our site assignments, most volunteers were assigned to an NGO of some sort to help them with outreach.  No health volunteers in my country were actually assigned to schools, although a few were assigned to non-government hospitals that specialized in HIV/AIDS.  Me and another guy were given non-specific assignments (my project description literally said, "The village is aware you are coming").

With no actual projects or any NGO/organization to work on, it was pretty much up to me what I did.  Some of the stuff I did was education-related, working with the local schools, either doing sessions on HIV/AIDS prevention, basic hygiene, etc.  We also worked out a debate program between high schools that went really well.  While not classroom, it still fell under the 'education' umbrella.

Since the health sector is very broad (and usually not as formally laid out as some others, like Education), I also did projects like community cleanups and durbars - basically, village gatherings - that discussed different things about health and had special guests to speak to the villages.

There was no actual 'clinical' side of it, as in my country we were not allowed to go hands-on in the clinical sense.  However, all of us probably got involved at least a little bit.  For me, I sat in on consultations with patients as my counterpart was the village doctor, and I took part in the National Immunization Days Against Polio, first actually giving immunizations (oral) to village kids, then working at the supervisory level managing the community-based surveillance volunteers that were out and about.  NIDs were a big event for us, and despite the country's ban on providing direct service, even during PST we were encouraged to take part in our training villages by our trainers.

In a sense, as a PCV, even if you have a primary project unlike me, you can pick up all kinds of side projects.  Whether they are more education-based or more 'clinical' is really up to you and your counterpart based upon the needs of the place you are assigned.  A significant part of the 'education' for me was not in schools, though, but rather community-wide (again, depending on your country and site, that may be the opposite).  For us, it was extremely rare to have a site mate of any kind, regardless of sector, so no, you were not generally near an education volunteer.

We did do projects together sometimes, and I spent a few days in an education volunteer's site helping out with projects/presentations for her school that were health related.

This is already too long, but hopefully it helps.

Even if you don't get selected this time around, I highly encourage you to reapply!  PC is a great experience, and its starting to look like applying for PC multiple times is going to be the norm in the future...
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline rashard2086

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2015, 10:37:22 PM »
Thanks a lot Jeff! That info was very helpful! I pray I get the assignment I applied for. It seems like it would be a great fit for me and I can think of all sorts of things to do when I got there. waiting is killing me, but I haven't lost hope!

I anxiously await my interview invitation.

Offline Jeff

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2015, 07:26:59 AM »
My pleasure!

One piece of unsolicited advice - it sounds like you already applied, but one thing I would suggest is talking to a recruiter about the position you applied for, sharing your resume, and seeing what 'improvements' they might suggest.  Not just in gaining more experience, but in actually how you phrased things and what you did and did not discuss from your jobs.

Even after application, this can help as you can always upload (or directly email, once you have a placement officer) an updated resume.  For me, it actually REALLY helped.

Under the new system, I was placed under consideration for my 3rd choice country (albeit in a sector I was excited about).  I did not include a couple of things that I had done with some of my volunteer and paid work with at-risk youth (as I was applying for NGO development), but it came up anyway during my interview, and I provided, unsolicited, an updated resume highlighting some of the things I had done.

As a result, I was actually invited not to the country I interviewed for, but to a different country that required youth experience (but still under Org. Development) which was actually my first choice country for years!  I NEVER would have been considered for that country without that update.

Also, I want to say again, don't get discouraged if you don't make it through the first time.  PC now is more like applying for any job with the federal government - multiple applications are the NORM, and says absolutely nothing bad about the applicant....I must have put in over 100 applications before I actually got my federal position.
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline Jeff

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2015, 07:40:05 AM »
I'm bored at work - so here's another piece of unsolicited advice.

When I joined PC the first time, one thing I was told that stuck with me was this, "The only expectation you should have of Peace Corps service that will come true is that none of your other expectations will."

This is good advice - I would try to NOT have any expectations or pre-plans of what you want to do and accomplish from a work sense before going over there.  I realize that's much easier to say than to do, but it really will help.  In my opinion, having too much pre-thought out (referring to your comment of thinking of all sorts of things to do while there) is actually a bad thing, and, from my experience, not something that PC staff like to hear.

One of the best aspects of the Peace Corps in my opinion (I say that a lot, don't I?) is that the Peace Corps is a grass roots agency whose focus is on actually taking the needs of the site/village and the people who live there and helping them achieve their goals within the means they have available.  It is NOT about spreading western ideals or ideas of what is best.  Any project you do will have to be based upon a needs assessment of the site you are assigned to, and developed with your local counterparts at THEIR request.

What that means, is that any idea we have about what we can do will probably be out the window once we actually arrive in country.  For the interview, talk about how you are looking forward to the challenge of assessing the needs of the community and helping them to plan projects that meet them.  I would not talk about having pre-determined tasks you want to implement.

On the flip side, the bigger goals and 'selfish' accomplishments are important - the international experience, learning a language, experiencing a new culture, gaining related experience for a future career, etc.

The great thing about that comment that I referred to above is that it shows how excited you are about PC; which will come across in the interview, and I don't mean to shoot that down!  Pre-conceived notions were the downfall of many a PCV in my group.

You WILL get to do some great stuff when you serve, it just probably won't be the great stuff you expect!
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Lori

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2015, 11:27:30 AM »
Hey,

I was a volunteer in Cambodia from 2009-2011, as only the 3rd group of volunteers to serve there. The PC health program didn't officially start, with designated health volunteers, until 2010 with the 4th group of volunteers. Since the program was so new back then, things have changed a lot when you compare what my group was doing with what the actual health volunteers are doing in country now. We had about 11 volunteers in my group that were interested in or had a background in healthcare or public health, and we mostly did secondary projects at our sites on our own. It was really on us to develop relationships with NGOs and host country nationals working in the health sector.

I was able to go back to Cambodia in 2013, as part of a grad school project, and it was quite different regarding the pc health sector. I'm hoping a more recent volunteer will respond to your post, as I don't want to give you any misinformation, but I think some volunteers were partnered with NGOs at their sites and some were partnered with education volunteers as well...meaning they lived in the same town. This is basically the opposite of my experience, the closest volunteer to me was about 35km away. From what I know now about the program, the health volunteers do a lot of education with village health volunteers and village health centers. I'm not sure about "hands on" experience, other than weighing lots and lots of babies and taking some blood pressures. I was fortunate enough to live with a Cambodian midwife for the entire 2 years, so I got to witness a lot of births and talk with new mothers on a regular basis. It's really on you and the community to decide where you will offer the most help and what kind of 'jobs' you will be doing.

I will echo Jeff's comments about expectations though...the less you have the better your experience will be. If you come in with certain ideas of how you think your experience should be, I guarantee you will disappointed. Take each experience as it comes with an open mind and sense of humor and remember you are there for the community, not the other way around. 

Offline rashard2086

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2015, 05:21:39 PM »
Thanks Lori and Jeff. I really appreciate you guys input and perspective. I'm a little sad right now though. I received that devastating email telling me I wasn't chosen for the assignment in Cambodia  :'(. I called the recruiting office and asked about what I could do to be more competitive and if there were things in my application that made me look less appealing as a pcv. I think they're going to pull my file and try to go over it with me tomorrow. I won't lie, I'm a little crushed about the decision, but I also wonder if that's the last word.  Is it uncommon for them to try to keep me in mind if someone drops from the program or can't volunteer? I'm still holding out a little hope just in case. I'm prepared to apply again, but all of the current assignments on the site are so far away in terms of time. I think the earliest ones are jan 2016. I was applying to Medical school during this first pc application, but stopped because I really want to do peace corps before med school. I just really hate being on hold like this not knowing what's next. Like I said, I want to do peace corps, but not at the expense of waiting in limbo for the next 2 years with no guarantee that I'll even be chosen! I hope that doesn't sound selfish, these are just my concerns...  :-\

Offline Jeff

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2015, 06:25:11 PM »
I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get invited this time around.  Unfortunately, I think you will have to reapply, as they actually have a 'waitlist invitation' for those on the waiting list.

That being said, I definitely encourage you to do so.  As I've said before, I think having to apply more than once is going to be the norm rather than the exception.  I wouldn't look at it as a rejection from PC, but rather just that you weren't as competitive for the specific position in the specific country you were under consideration for as the other people who applied at this specific time.

I would HIGHLY encourage you to reapply immediately, actually, if there's something that interests you, and especially if you are willing to put, "Go Anywhere, Any Sector."

You're making good strides by communicating with PC recruiters, and if possible, I would even encourage you to visit a recruiter in person and sit down with them.

They're not kidding when they say PC takes patience and perseverance.  The first time I went through the process it was three years from application to when I was finally offered an invite.  I was literally applying and in the process for longer than I served!

I wish you good luck, and if you are passionate about PC, I would keep trying until you get it!
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17

Offline rashard2086

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2015, 10:42:35 PM »
The ladies in the peace corps office were extremely helpful. I spoke with 2 different recruiters and they both walked through my application with me and gave me pointers on how to present the information in my cv in a way that would be more appealing when looked at by a placement officer. Turns out that I kind of omitted some really helpful stuff on my cv. They also told me that I was competitive, but that I was applying for a very popular assignment and that there were only about 6 positions which made it extremely competitive. They then suggested other assignments that I may be interested in and even offered to take a look at my revised cv when I was finished. I really was bummed about not being chosen this time around, but they made that experience quite pleasant because of their willingness to take a little time helping me be a better applicant. I will be applying for health positions in Gambia and Ethiopia.   Anyone ever served in either of these two countries?  Gambia seems a little more appealing to me right now just because there is more interaction between volunteers since it's such a small country. Wish me luck  :)

Offline Jeff

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Re: Health volunteer/Cambodia 2015
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2015, 06:54:40 AM »
Glad to hear the recruiters were so helpful!  Like I said, I've always had a great experience working with them.

While I haven't served in either of those places, I did know someone who served in Gambia and loved it.  Of course, I'm sure there are people who've served in Ethiopia and loved that, too!

As a couple of us have said, it might be worth your time (as long as you are willing), to put your third choice as, "Anywhere, Any Sector."  This would open up some additional possibilities for you.

I've said this before, but I really do think that having to apply multiple times before getting a placement is going to be the norm nowadays.

Good luck, and post any other questions!
Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17