Monday, July 9, 2012

Hot Off the Presses!

Hey, I know we just posted yesterday, but this is big news!

We just learned some important news about our work and Peace Corps Belize! Our Country Director called us to give us this news, then sent out an email telling the rest of the PCVs.

I am pasting our Country Director's announcement below. If you don't want to read the whole thing, skip down to the section in BLUE! We're proud and excited.

Program Direction 2013
In the fall of 2011 we embarked on a very comprehensive program review to determine the strongest programming potential for Peace Corps Belize. As you know, after years of focusing on 3 plus projects, like most other posts, we decided it was necessary to scale down. Our intent was to focus in on one key sector where we could target our resources for optimal results.

Throughout the nearly month-long program review, approximately 100 stakeholders provided us with feedback. We conducted surveys of work partners and reached out to many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and presently serving Volunteers. We carried out focus groups throughout Belize and met with numerous top government representatives from nearly every ministry and community leaders from the NGO and business sectors.

Through it all, we heard many common themes expressed by stakeholders. Certainly our evaluation reaffirmed the need for Peace Corps in Belize where Volunteers can add significant value. Engaging young people and strengthening business and organizational systems at all levels were identified as pressing needs in Belize, as were continued improvements in health and education.

“To Collaborate:  to work together to realize shared goals; it is a deep collective determination to reach an identical objective.”

As part of our review we also looked very closely at the strongest possibility for establishing the type of meaningful partnership that would promote a positive foundation for the work of Volunteers. We know that our work simply cannot happen without the support of Belizeans. Yes, that support has to manifest itself at the grassroots level, but it also needs to be guided by a deep-rooted commitment at the very top. Successful Peace Corps programs have to have authentic government level buy-in. What we have been searching for is a tangible commitment, a shared vision, joint planning, collective resource allocation, and equal excitement for the program.  After much searching, I am thrilled to announce that we have found a strong partner.

Beginning in 2013 Peace Corps Belize will collaborate with the Ministry of Health to implement a health project primarily in rural communities throughout the country!

Our twenty incoming Trainees will be assigned to rural communities and work alongside a cadre of co-champions, including the community health worker, rural health nurse and school leadership to promote health education. This program is currently being designed with great care and in true alliance with key Ministry of Health representatives who are just as excited as we are and who are actively engaged in giving life to this initiative. We believe resolutely that this type of collaboration marks a new beginning for Peace Corps in Belize. It will ultimately translate into a more rewarding experience for Volunteers, who will now work at the grassroots level in communities identified as those most in need. We also believe that this will increase the probability of success and impact in the communities.

Global Peace Corps health project activities now fall under four project areas: 1) support to HIV prevention and care; 2) fostering improved maternal, neonatal, and child health; 3) promoting healthy homes and communities; and 4) promoting healthy living. Peace Corps Belize and the Ministry of Health are in the process of defining the activities, which will ultimately be dependent upon local conditions and priorities, and host country public health strategies.

What about the youth?
While some of you may be disappointed that our future project is not focused on youth, you should know that our work in health will directly impact young people in every community where Volunteers serve.

A New National Health Training Manual
Two Volunteers are already working effectively with Ministry of Health representatives on a very exciting project—the development of the new national training manual for over 250 of the country’s Community Health Workers. Given our new program direction, this health training manual will be crucial to our more streamlined approach. It will provide Volunteers and Community Health Workers with an updated and standardized source of information. The manual will be used during Pre-Service Training where Ministry of Health officials will play an important role delivering PST sessions throughout the eleven weeks of training. This will ensure that Volunteers have a broad cultural and technical context from which to draw.

I really want to thank Cathy and Dr. Steve Burnham for their tireless work on the national health manual. Up to now the Burnhams have been working only with the Ministry of Health. I invite those of you with education or health backgrounds interested in supporting this effort to reach out directly to Cathy or Steve. It is not often that Volunteers have a chance to be part of such a landmark initiative. The document represents not only the earliest positive example of collaboration between Peace Corps and the Ministry, but it also symbolizes a joint venture that will serve as the foundation for future work assignments of all Peace Corps Volunteers in Belize.  I hope you will lend your talents to the National Health Manual Task Team!

We will be celebrating the official signing of the MOU with Belize for the new health project on Wednesday, September 26th during a ceremony to take place at the Ambassador’s residence.  We sincerely look forward to seeing you all there!


Lorenzo said...

It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in neighboring Honduras back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.

Yihana von Ritter said...

Hello Cathy and Steve, my name is Yihana and I am a rural health PCV in Paraguay. A friend of mine directed me to this blog post because we very much would like to do something similar here in Paraguay! We want to strengthen PC's relationship with the Ministries of Health and Education, perhaps by joining an already existing Escuelas Saludables program, and we are working on putting together a manual for interactive health education in the schools and communities. So in any case, I would love to get some insight from your end on the process of signing an MOU with the Ministry of Health and how you are working on the health educator manual. Would you be willing to share some insight? If so, please email me at Thanks very much and I looked forward to hearing from you!