The purpose of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) project is to work with Panamanians (community members, youth, teachers, health promoters and partner agencies) in capacity building that promotes a healthier lifestyle in regards to water, sanitation, health and hygiene.
We aim to help these groups gain skills and promote individual and collective efforts at achieving and maintaining an improved quality of life through empowerment, education, organization and peer support.
Volunteers will accomplish this by working in partnership with their community members and Panamanian government agencies, such as Ministry of Health staff.
Volunteers will conduct formal workshops as well as informal household-level trainings to develop the critical leadership, organizational and technical skills community members need to effectively address water, sanitation and health needs in their community.
Volunteers will also work to build the capacity of local water and health committees to become legalized and trained as per the Panamanian Government Ministry of Health’s strategy for rural water resource management and public health in Panama.
A main component of the Volunteer’s work will be to identify community leaders to work with in the areas of health promotion and sanitation-
related capacity building initiatives. Through a variety of campaigns, activities, and events, Volunteers will raise awareness and train community members on prevention of water-
borne illness and effective water, sanitation, and hygiene practices in addition to supporting local efforts in addressing other priority health areas such as nutrition and HIV / AIDS prevention.
Volunteers may also have the opportunity to collaborate with local technicians from host country agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the water, sanitation and health sectors.
This work will focus on training community members on proper water storage and treatment, natural resource management, and techniques for the construction, maintenance, and repair of appropriate water and sanitation technologies.
In addition, with the main focus of building local capacity, Volunteers will ensure sustainability by supporting community groups and households so they can construct, maintain and repair locally appropriate water and sanitation systems.
Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in public health, sanitation, and hygiene education in communities, and one or more of the following criteria :
Competitive candidates will demonstrate the following skills :
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 level of oral and written proficiency in Spanish for site placement by the end of Pre-Service Training.
General Living Conditions
WASH communities are generally remote, rustic, and a truly rural living experience. The communities are approximately 25% Latino (Spanish speaking) and 75% indigenous.
Indigenous communities can be more challenging in many ways and Volunteers need to respect and adapt to strict cultural practices and be willing to learn both Spanish and the indigenous language.
WASH communities will likely be remote, and as a result, the Volunteer will have limited and infrequent access to resources, such as medical facilities.
In addition, these communities have limited cell service and may not have internet. Volunteers can expect to have internet access one to two times a month when they travel out of their community.
Some communities will not have electricity but solar panels can be purchased in Panama or from a community member or the local store may offer them at an affordable price.
Living in these communities will frequently require the Volunteer to hike long distances in a hot and humid climate. Communities are at least one hour from a paved road, often through very muddy, mountainous terrain with steep hills where walking is the only option.
Volunteers should expect frequent strenuous hikes, long boat rides, and / or long bumpy car rides on unpaved roads to get in and out of their communities.
Volunteers may live in a rural Panamanian-style home made of concrete block and cement floors or in a wood structure with palm-
thatched roof and dirt floors. Volunteers in indigenous areas may live in a wood hut with a dirt floor or in a bamboo, thatch-
roofed hut raised on stilts close to a river. Services such as electricity, running or potable water and sanitation systems may be rudimentary or non-existent.
Peace Corps / Panama examines each community before selection to ensure that basic health and safety criteria are met. Volunteers will be required to live with a host-
family during their first three months of service in their community.
Food and Diet
The Panamanian diet varies according to the region and the ethnic makeup of the population. Most often the diet consists of rice, beans, bananas or plantains, yucca (cassava), and corn.
Rice and beans (kidney beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas) is the staple dish. Corn is served in many ways but is usually ground, boiled, or fried.
Sancocho is a traditional dish (somewhere between a soup and a stew) prepared with a variety of vegetables and chicken. Most rural areas have an array of fruits available, including mangoes, papayas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, and guanabanas (soursops).
The availability of garden vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers, varies according to the region and the season.
The most common meats are chicken and beef, which are often deep-fried or stewed. Fish is available sporadically in coastal regions and riverside communities.
Some Volunteers are vegetarians, but very few Panamanians follow this diet. Many volunteers start a garden at their sites, and buy food in a provincial capital.
Internet access in Panama is spreading. All provincial capitals and other large towns have internet cafes. There is a program that is installing free Wi-
Fi access in most rural schools powered with solar energy. Connection speeds tend to be slow, but the service is reasonably priced and otherwise reliable.
Internet access for Volunteers is available at the Peace Corps / Panama office.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Panama : Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety including crime statistics PDF in order to make a well-
informed decision about serving.
Panama is happy to accommodate cross-sector couples. We will identify communities with sufficient work opportunities for both volunteers.
Therefore, your partner can apply and must qualify for :
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education Volunteer, or
Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer, or
Business Advising Agriculture Volunteer.
During Pre-Service Training, couples will live in separate homes, which will help improve language learning as well as cultural integration.
During their service, they will live together first with a host family and then on their own. Couples will be placed in medium to large communities, to ensure sufficient work is available for both volunteers.
Medical Considerations in Panama
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.