Description of Service

Every Peace Corps Volunteer must write a Description of Service (DOS) before finishing up his or her service.  Since it’s pretty much a summary of all the important work I did as a PCV, I thought I’d share it all with you.  Enjoy!

DESCRIPTION OF VOLUNTEER SERVICE
LAUREN FREDA SPIGEL

DESCRIPTION OF TRAINING

Lauren Spigel began Peace Corps Nicaragua’s community-based training program in the town of La Paz, Carazo on January 17, 2011. The intensive 11-week program was decentralized and field-based.  This training model was designed to help trainees adapt to actual field situations, while living with Nicaraguan families.  The training program included formal sessions on Nicaraguan culture, customs and orienting to health education techniques and familiarity with governmental and non-governmental programs in Nicaragua.  It consisted of approximately 230 hours of Spanish language studies, 75 hours in technical aspects of community health   promotion, and 30 hours in cross cultural studies.  An additional 60 hours of non-formal self-directed activities were carried out in technical and cross-cultural themes at the community level.

After successful completion of training, Lauren Spigel was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua on April 1, 2011.

PRIMARY WORK ASSIGNMENT

Lauren Spigel served as a maternal and child health volunteer assigned to the local Ministry of Health (MINSA) in La Dalia, Matagalpa, which is located in the mountainous northern region of Nicaragua. In La Dalia, a high teen pregnancy rate is one of the municipality’s greatest challenges, as one in three adolescent girls will become pregnant by the age of nineteen.  In addition, intimate partner violence, while underreported, is also a grave issue.  Furthermore, due to long and heavy rainy seasons, La Dalia confronts several seasonal illnesses each year, such as high rates of dengue fever, as well as childhood pneumonia and diarrhea.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in the Maternal Child Health Promotion Project in La Dalia, Lauren’s primary role was to work with MINSA to build the capacity of community members and community health volunteers in maternal and child health-related themes, such as nutrition, hygiene, breastfeeding, risk factors during pregnancy, etc.  She also focused her educational activities on sexual and reproductive health-related themes, including HIVaids, gender, violence, and preventing teen pregnancy. Her target populations were primarily community health workers, women, young children, and youth.  Her area of work not only concentrated in the town’s limits but also frequently expanded to the 186 surrounding communities under the direction of the ministry of health and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

During her two-year assignment, Lauren led the following activities in Spanish:

  • Lauren collaborated with PCV colleagues and several local and international organizations to create ChatSalud, a nation-wide mobile health initiative that provided anonymous text-based sexual and reproductive health education to rural Nicaraguans. ChatSalud covered five main themes: HIVaids, STIs, safer sex, reproductive health, and domestic violence.
  • Lauren held a weekly radio show on Stereo Dalia 94.1 that reached over 60,000 people and covered themes such as women’s health, domestic violence, self-esteem, communication skills, sexual health and US and Nicaraguan culture for one and a half years. The show was called, Hablando un Mismo Idioma (Speaking the Same Language).
  • In November 2012, Lauren worked side-by-side a local NGO, Acción Médica Cristiana, to carry out a month-long educational campaign on cervical cancer. During the campaign, Lauren empowered over one hundred women from seven rural communities to take charge of their health by getting pap smears.
  • In February and March 2013, Lauren continued her work on cervical cancer with Acción Médica Cristiana by organizing and implementing two full-day workshops, in which she trained 24 community leaders to facilitate sessions on cervical cancer, thereby ensuring the sustainability of her work.  The workshop included lectures on non-formal education, cervical cancer, and a practical experience in which each participant led an educational session on cervical cancer to either patients in the hospital or to women in the maternity home. Afterwards, each participant picked a date in which they would give the educational session in their own community.
  • Lauren worked closely with a community health volunteer from a rural community to form a women’s group that met regularly for over a year.  They worked together to lead a series of educational sessions on themes ranging from breastfeeding and nutrition to self-esteem and domestic violence to a group of twenty women.
  • Lauren worked directly with MINSA to build the capacity of the 186 local community health volunteers by training them in maternal and child health best practices through monthly meetings. She also supported MINSA by delivering health education to rural communities through frequent community visits.
  • As part of a three-day conference in October 2012, Lauren designed and led an educational session on the relationship between gender, behavior, and HIV in Nicaragua for organizations that coordinate with migrant workers.

SECONDARY PROJECT ACTIVITIES

  • From September 2011 through August 2012, Lauren led a coloring group for primary school children in the La Dalia neighborhood, San Martin.  The coloring group promoted creativity, literacy, and improved hygienic practices amongst participating children.
  • From July 2011 to March 2013, Lauren was a lead writer, editor and contributor to the tri-annual Peace Corps Volunteer Nicaragua magazine, Va Pue.

COMPLETION OF SERVICE

Lauren Spigel completed her Peace Corps service on March 22, 2013. Upon completing her service, Lauren achieved Spanish language proficiency of Advanced-Mid, according to the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)/ (ETS).

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