The Gambia Peace Corp Trainees First Malaria Drama

The Kumedegai Theatre and Culture Group performs a malaria related drama to community counterparts, Peace Corps staff, and new trainees.

The Kumedegai Theatre and Culture Group performs a malaria related drama to community counterparts, Peace Corps staff, and new trainees.

When the Kumedegai Theatre and Culture Group of Sankuya, a village in the Lower River Region of The Gambia, was reactivated during a Health and Drama Workshop, Health Volunteer Kathy Pope saw a collaboration opportunity for newest  group of Peace Corps Heath Trainees who were posted in a nearby village doing their Pre-Service Training,

The group was eager to create new dramas and songs on a wide variety of health issues. The Peace Corps training managers thought that a drama on the topic of malaria would be very relevant for the trainees and would be good way to also demonstrate the power of drama and song in learning and disseminating health information. The story they created was of a young man suffering with chills, aches, fever and lethargy.  A friend advised they go to the traditional healer called a maribout. The maribout performed a reading and ceremony (which was very entertaining) and sent the man home.  However, the man continued to be sick. Another friend came by and advised the young man be taken to the health center right away to be tested for malaria. He tested positive and received treatment and became well again.  At the end of the performance, a song was performed stressing the importance of prevention, the signs and symptoms, and to quickly seek testing and treatment if a person has symptoms of malaria.

During the drama, a young man attempts to be healed by a maribout.

During the drama, a young man attempts to be healed by a maribout.  Unsuccessfully, of course.

To help with their language training and up-coming health schools, a sheet was given to the trainees with Mandinka/English translations for what causes malaria, signs of malaria, prevention and how it is treated.

This was an enjoyable afternoon for all involved, and a wonderful opportunity to collaborate.

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Weekly Awesome Uganda: School Hosted Malaria Day

written by: Kate Roesch, PCV

I led several activities at my school during malaria month. The month started with a student reading a poem she had written about malaria at the weekly assembly. The following week, a group of students performed a drama about malaria at the weekly assembly. During the assembly I announced two competitions, one for writing about malaria and one for mural artwork depicting a malaria message. Students quickly began bringing in their submissions, we had to divide the writing competition into essays and poems, as many students wanted to write both. At the end, 45 mural ideas, 35 essays, and 53 poems were submitted. The judging teams comprised of local teachers had the task of choosing the top three submissions from each category. The mural winners were notified and started painting their murals within the school compound prior to the school malaria day on April 24. In addition to the competitions I led a mosquito net repair session with some student leaders who would co-teach with me later in the month.

Malaria Mural at a secondary school

The winning murals of the students in the malaria month contest.

The winning murals of the students in the malaria month contest.I am so grateful to have some excellent colleagues who were willing to step up and assist me execute the day. The teachers wrote pieces for DEAR (Drop Everything And Read), gave PowerPoint presentations, organized prizes and coordinated a visit from the District Health Officer. Teachers were provided with packets that contained a schedule for the day, lesson outlines, and activity materials. Since DEAR day had been popular, the activity was repeated with a malaria theme. There were also sessions on mosquito net repair facilitated by student teachers, a presentation with video clips on impact and prevention of malaria, and a game on the economic impact of malaria. The game reflected behaviors that families may have – sleeping under nets or not, seeking treatment of not – and those choices were reflected in the odds of getting malaria and the cost of those decisions.

The day concluded with an assembly, where the District Health Officer spoke about malaria and also assisted with presenting certificates and prizes to students. The writing winners received mosquito nets while the mural winners received art books. The new murals were officially unveiled and recognized. There were also prizes for the students who brought nets for repairing and the best class of the day.

Secondary school students repairing mosquito nets on World Malaria Day

Secondary school students repairing mosquito nets on World Malaria Day

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Weekly Awesome Ghana: Volunteers Ghana Do Some Data Collection

by Olesya Trakhimets, SWAT Malaria Northern Region Representative and Jane Ng

Ghana PCV Jane Ng supervises sample collection for the Anemia and Parasitemia Survey in her region.

Ghana PCV Jane Ng supervises sample collection for the Anemia and Parasitemia Survey in her region.

PCVs Jane Ng, Sam Fullen and Katelyn Keck and local researchers get ready to go into the field to collect samples for the Anemia and Parasitemia Survey.

PCVs Jane Ng, Sam Fullen and Katelyn Keck and staff from USAID, CDC, and Noguchi get ready to go into the field to collect samples for the Anemia and Parasitemia Survey.

Peace Corps Ghana’s Standing with Africa to Terminate Malaria (SWAT Malaria) committee is linking PCVs in the field with the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative to assist PMI with ongoing data collection and explore new areas for research and collaboration.

During October and November of last year, PCVs Sam Fullen, Katelyn Keck and Jane Ng assisted the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to complete a Malaria Anemia and Parasitemia Survey in the Bunkpurugu Yunyoo and Nakpanduri area in Northern Region of Ghana. The survey aimed at assessing the effectiveness of Indoor Residual Spray (IRS) by identifying cases of malaria and anemia in children under five in 50 different communities. Ten teams consisting of one interviewer and one technician went out into the field to test randomly-selected households with children under five for malaria antibodies, hemoglobin levels, body temperatures, parasite density and red blood cell counts. Sam, Katelyn and Jane assisted by supervising teams in the field and ensuring quality data collection. Long days, long nights and a long week allowed the teams to test over 1,400 children under five, to treat about 300 malaria and fever positive children, and to transport two children who were severely anemic to the Baptist Medical Hospital in Nalerigu. The Malaria AP Survey was an invaluable opportunity to learn, to work, and to build connections with people from PMI, Noguchi, and Abt Associates.

Currently, SWAT Malaria Northern region representative Olesya Trakhimets is working in coordination with PMI on a sleep study involving two small rural communities of Bong-naayili and Bihi-naayili in the Northern Region of Ghana. Earlier last year Olesya and her counterpart conducted a house-to-house demographics survey of the two villages in order to get a clear picture of the resident population and the current Long Lasting Insecticide-treated Net (LLIN) usage situation. Working off of the information gained from the demographics survey, a baseline doer/non-doer survey is being developed with help from other members of the SWAT Malaria committee. The survey will be administered to over 200 adults at the beginning of the dry season (February 2015), when people are normally transitioning to sleeping outdoors. Based on the results of the doer/non-doer survey and with the support of SWAT members, Olesya and her counterpart will develop novel solutions for outdoor LLIN coverage and then distribute nets and conduct net and malaria education in the two communities. At the end of the dry season (May 2015), the first follow-up doer/non-doer survey will be administered and a year later (March-April 2016) the final survey will be performed before Olesya completes her Peace Corps service. By doing this study we are hoping to gain a better understanding of the short and long-term effectiveness of malaria education and novel solutions for outdoor net coverage in the North of Ghana.


PCV Olesya Trakhimets and her survey partner.

PCV Olesya Trakhimets and her survey partner / counterpart.

Posted in Ghana, Weekly Awesome Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Weekly Awesome Ghana: Empowering Every Sector

By Lynda Mick, SWAT Malaria Chairman

Danielle Dunlap - PCV Ghana

Remembering former Ghana PCV Danielle Dunlap (1988 – 2013)

Far too many lives are lost to malaria each year, especially here in Ghana. As a health sector volunteer I was trained to educate my community on malaria prevention, treatment, and general awareness at various points thought my pre-service training (PST). However, I was not trained to handle the passing of my dear trainer and fellow volunteer Danielle Dunlap. Danielle contracted cerebral malaria my first week at site. This was a difficult loss to say the least, not just for myself and my fellow trainees but for Peace Corps Ghana staff as a whole. Her death brought up many questions, namely what more could we be doing to ensure that all of our volunteers, not just the health sector, feel equipped to keep themselves and their communities safe.

As the current chairman of Ghana’s Standing with Africa to Terminate (SWAT) Malaria Initiative, I am pleased to share that Peace Corps Ghana’s administrative staff have made it a priority to incorporate malaria education into PST for every sector: Health, Education and Agriculture. With the flexibility of all of our program staff, SWAT Malaria members have provided training and education to over 90 new volunteers this past year. The cross-sector trainings expand on a range of topics emphasized at the Stomp Bootcamp, including understanding the malaria burden in Ghana and what governments and NGOs are doing to combat the disease, and providing volunteers with educational tools to use in their communities such as the malaria life cycle rice sack activity, just to name a few.  Additionally, all volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their nearest SWAT committee representative for support and encouragement.

Our goal is to make malaria awareness and education a priority for every volunteer by empowering them with the knowledge and resources they need to easily share life saving information regardless of their sector.

Newly sworn in Agriculture Volunteer draws the malaria lifecycle on a rice sack

A newly sworn in Agriculture Volunteer draws the malaria lifecycle on a rice sack

Education volunteers show off the life cycle rice sacks they made during training, which they then took home to use in their communities.

Education volunteers show off the life cycle rice sacks they made during training, which they then took home to use in their communities.

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Weekly Awesome Ghana: GLOW Get Those Mosquitoes, Girls!

by Lynda Mick, SWAT Malaria Chairman

PCV Gary Slate leads a malaria session at the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camp in Eastern Region, Ghana

PCV Gary Slate leads a malaria session at the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camp in Eastern Region, Ghana

There’s no question that the take home message at this year’s Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp will live on. This past April the stage was set for success as Peace Corps Volunteers poured their sweat, fanta, and lots of coffee into preparing for the arrival of 29 girls from 11 different communities in the Eastern Region of Ghana at the Koforidua School for the Deaf. The girls, many of whom had never been to a large city, were invited to attend the camp centered on a batch of well-­rounded educational sessions aimed at empowering them to become role models and leaders within their communities. The five-day event covered topics ranging from reproductive health to malaria awareness and prevention and everything in between.

Health Volunteer, Gary Slate, led the malaria education sessions. He sought to  make the sessions not only informative but also enjoyable, incorporating media on the history of malaria, the malaria life cycle, and music videos depicting flash mobs under large-scale bed nets. But the fun didn’t stop there! Gary closed his sessions leaving the girls with the challenge to take the information they learned at the GLOW camp back to their communities. He told the girls that they have the power to save lives and decrease the malaria burden in their communities and in Ghana as a whole. The challenge was well received and 14 of the girls went on to start health clubs in their communities, all of which continue to meet regularly.

From the GLOW Camp, messages regarding sleeping under long- lasting insecticide (LLIN) treated bed nets and treating malaria promptly will continue to spread. GLOW events are an invaluable tool in the fight to address community health issues and we hope to build on the success of this camp to hold more GLOW camps around Ghana in 2015.

Posted in Camps GLOW/BE, Ghana, Weekly Awesome Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Weekly Awesome Ghana: Malaria Defense Project Brings Baby Nets to Ghana

by Stephanie Potts, SWAT Malaria Financial Officer

baby nets in Ghana

PCV Carol Gramm distributes baby nets to new and expectant mothers in her community.

Peace Corps Ghana’s Standing With Africa to Terminate Malaria (SWAT) committee partnered with Malaria Defense Project to bring 50 baby pop-up nets to newborns and expectant mothers in two communities in the Central Region. Babies are more likely to have a fatal outcome if they contract malaria and the nets will ensure they are protected from mosquito bites day and night.

PCV Carol Gramm (pictured above) held a bed net distribution and testing event in her community of Gomoa Abonko. During the event, 138 bed nets were distributed to community members, along with 25 of the baby bed nets for those new- and soon-to-be mothers that attend the health clinic. Carol gave instructions on airing out and hanging bed nets and The Malaria Defense Project brought a nurse and a nutritionist to the event to check vitals and give talks on proper nutrition.

Gwen Boden, a recent Stomp Boot Camp alum,  distributed baby nets to women in a support group for People Living with HIV. Targeting community members at risk for malaria co-infection will ensure that the most vulnerable people in Gwen’s town are protected from malaria.

Malaria Defense Project had previously partnered with Peace Corps Togo volunteers to distribute nets to orphanages in Togo. Thanks to a friendship that started at the June Stomping Out Malaria Boot Camp, we were informed of opportunities to work with this awesome organization to bring nets to Ghana. Thanks Malaria Defense Project and Peace Corps Togo for working with us to keep our babies safe and healthy!

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Weekly Awesome Senegal: Kaolack Malaria Fair Tour

In October 2014, PCV Tina Bryant held a Malaria Fair Tour in 11 villages over four days in the Kaolack region in central Senegal. This event was beautifully timed because it was in October, just before the period of time where malaria is most prevalent and right before the universal coverage bed net distribution. Prior to the main event, she conducted a bed net photo project in her village to understand net sleeping and care habits to better tailor the content of the tour.

Each day of the tour Tina and her counterparts held a talk on the importance of using nets; keeping the community clean and free of weeds and standing water; care, maintenance, and repair of nets; and information on what to do with a new net after the upcoming universal bed net distribution. Five of the talks included a demonstration on how to wash and repair the nets.

Several days after the talks, one of the communities held a clean-up day where members of the community brought tools and weeded the entire area around the health hut, which had been plowed a month earlier but many weeds had grown back.

A few days later they held a social mobilization event and invited the head nurse at the health post, several local government representatives, and other doctors from the district health center.   Unfortunately, the nurse and the other doctors were busy, but the government officials, community health workers from neighboring villages, and an NGO named ASBEF attended the event. Tina and her counterparts held a public question and answer evaluation of the village talks. Community members were asked to come to the front and publicly answer questions, like “what is the cause of malaria?”, “what are some ways to help prevent it?”, and “how many different types of malaria are there?”.

Overall, 275 people attended the village talks, community clean-up day, and social mobilization. Nearly 100 children were also present, participating in soccer events with breaks for a malaria discussion during halftime, and creating a storybook about malaria.


Clearing weeds around the health hut.


A local health worker leads a malaria talk.


Women dance and sing at the social mobilization event.


A Senegalese man shows off his mosquito net during PCV Tina Bryant’s bed net photo project.


PCV Tina Bryant helping distribute nets as part of the universal net distribution campaign.

Posted in Senegal, Weekly Awesome Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Zambia PCVs Armed with High Heels

Written By: Kathryn Meagley, Zambia Health Volunteer

Photo taken by Kathryn Meagley.

Photo taken by Kathryn Meagley.

High heels and business attire are not usually the first things you pack when you are preparing for a two-year service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. For me, it was a pair of Keens and a ton of quick dry shirts. That seems like the logical packing list of someone preparing to live in a rural Zambian village in a mud hut with a thatched roof, no electricity, or running water. Little did I know that those heels would come to define my service. I have needed them more and more as I find myself collaborating and networking with partners to increase access to services, rather than just working within an isolated community. We are challenging what it means to be a rural health volunteer and changing the way in which we approach our service in the village.

It all started with an idea and moved to something so much bigger. One fateful day early in our service when my PCV neighbor, Lindsay Martin, and I were reflecting on our experiences:

“I see my service as connecting my community to services rather than just giving health education,” she said to me. Whipping my head around to her, I exclaimed, “No way! Me too!” We have not looked back since.

Lindsay and I had found that most individuals know what malaria is, how to prevent it, and that they SHOULD go to the clinic if they think they have malaria. So, why was malaria still such an issue? Why were individuals in our communities still not visiting the clinic for malaria treatment? There was one thing that everyone kept saying when we asked why they were not going to the clinic;

“Ah, but the clinic is just too far.” We said, “You can’t get to the clinic because it is 25k away and you have no energy because you are sick? Ok. We will bring the clinic to you!”

In order to do this, we have begun fostering more collaborative relationships with various organizations and stakeholders involved in malaria control these last few months. In addition to a training of trainers within our villages on numerous health issues and strengthening our Neighborhood Health Committees, Lindsay and I are working to link our communities to malaria services that otherwise have been inaccessible to those more remote areas. During this process we discovered a program called PECADOM+ and thought that it would be a solution to increase access in remote areas. It operates similarly to a test and treat program, except there is also an active detection component where community volunteers sweep villages trying to detect people sick with malaria that have not sought out clinical assistance.

Kathryn Meagley and Lindsay Martin

Kathryn Meagley and Lindsay Martin

With the blessings of our District Medical Office and the support of our PC Programming and Training Specialist, Simon Banda, and National STOMP Out Malaria PCV Coordinator, Julie Polumbo, we’ve been able to network with partners. After meeting with the Supply Chain Manager at the Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) and the Resident Advisor for the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), our project has evolved and taken a different angle. Our focus is now building up more of a preliminary foundation – increase the overall number of Community Health Workers and those trained in Home Management of Malaria and Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses, while incorporating a more active detection training component.

Our project evolved and became more informed with the consultation and involvement of partner organizations. For a project of this scale with so many moving components it is critical to ensure a project fits within the local and national strategy. We hope to strengthen the existing healthcare system in our district by training local healthcare volunteers and increasing rural access to malaria testing and treatment. Peace Corps’ strength is having Volunteers at the local level. We can serve as a voice that connects our villages with the organizations that are working to serve them. We started with just an idea and a pair of high heels.

Posted in Zambia Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Weekly Awesome Senegal: Universal Bed Net Distribution Continues in Senegal

In December 2014, the Kaffrine, Kaolack, and Fatick regions in central Senegal held a universal bed net distribution. After being trained in census-taking, community health workers went to every household in their community to check if each sleeping space has a useable mosquito net. Any nets that were more than five years old, damaged beyond repair, or not treated with insecticide were not counted. Each household received a net voucher to take to a distribution center on a specific day. Leading up to distribution day, health workers spread malaria prevention and transmission messages through large social mobilizations, small group talks, and home visits. After the census, health workers counted and divided nets into households, labeling each batch of nets to make sure they were delivered to the right families. On distribution day, families came to the assigned location, exchanged their vouchers and picked up their nets. While they waited, local health workers put on malaria skits and demonstrated how to properly hang and tuck in nets. A few days after the distribution, health workers conducted home visits to make sure people were hanging their new nets and to reinforce messages about malaria prevention and net care.

PCVs in these regions participated in a variety of activities supporting the distribution. PCV Emily Tissot conducted group talks and home visits, and helped organize the distribution of the nets. PCV Camille Dollinger helped conduct the household census in several neighborhoods, labeled nets, and distributed nets at her health hut. After the distribution she conducted home visits to make sure that people were hanging their new nets correctly and know how to take care of their nets. PCV Hannah Mills, along with local health workers, surveyed household sleeping spaces and painted a malaria care and repair mural at the local health center where the distribution was held.

Universal bed net distribution is a huge undertaking but it was an incredible learning experience for the PCVs involved. Now that the nets are distributed, the real work begins–making sure everyone continues to sleep under them every night and take care of them so they last for years to come!


Senegal PCV Camille Dollinger participating in the Recensement ?in Karang with health worker Khady Coly.


Bed nets for distribution.


Community health workers Alassane N’Diaye and Mama NDour look for the right set of bed nets during distribution day at the Dassilami Soce health hut, in Fatick, Senegal.


Dassilami Soce villagers crowd the entry to the health hut during distribution day.

sworker checking net

Health worker Fatoumata Faye inspects a net to see if it needs to be replaced in Malem Hodar, Senegal.

sMalaria mural

PCV Hannah Mills painted a malaria care and repair mural that includes the national malaria slogan, “All the family, all year year round, every night.”


Posted in Senegal, Weekly Awesome Tagged with: , ,

Weekly Awesome Senegal: 18 Village Tour to Teach Net Care and Repair

In October and November, PCVs Kimberly Boland and Courtney Ruble, with help from PCV Lexi Merrick, held a bed net care, repair and transformation community training tour, riding their bikes to 18 sites in their region of Kolda. The PCVs chose to conduct a net care tour to extend new practices and reinforce old ones. Washing nets, for example, is an old practice that a lot of people don’t do or don’t do right. Nets should be washed using ordinary soap, i.e. not detergent, which surprisingly few people know, and they have to be hung in the shade to dry. Both practices help to keep the insecticide in the fibers of the net and to maintain the life expectancy of the net. With all three practices, materials are the main problem and this tour aimed to remove that barrier. In the 18 villages where the program was implemented, 468 nets were washed, 157 nets were sewed, and 175 nets were transformed, with approximately 155 people attending a malaria sensitization.

Mornings were dedicated to washing dirty nets, sewing holes, and transforming square nets into circular nets. In the afternoon community members would put on a malaria related theater skit or attend a malaria awareness causerie run by a community health worker. The theater sketches had varying success. Everyone who prepared a sketch did a great job, but sometimes the draw could be too much. Too many kids, too much talking, and no one would be able to hear anything, which was the whole point! The theater sketches were part of a larger contest and the top three sketches are going to be recorded and played on the radio in January!

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Peace Corps Senegal Volunteer Courtney Ruble repairs a mosquito net with work partner Tidiane Diao, in Kolda Senegal.

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A Senegalese man demonstrates how to properly wash a mosquito net.

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Peace Corps Senegal Volunteers Kimberly Boland (left) and Lexi Merrick (right) gear up for their ride to villages in the Kolda region for their net care and repair tour.

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A Senegalese woman proudly displays her newly transformed conical mosquito net.


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