Written by: Devyn Lee, Education Volunteer 2014-2016
From December 14-17, 2014, 15 Peace Corps Volunteers and 15 Malawian counterparts from the Southern and Central regions attended Malawi’s first ever regional Mini-Malaria Bootcamp. The training took place in Blantyre, Malawi’s Southern Region, and provided opportunities for volunteers and their counterparts from all Peace Corps Malawi sectors (Health, Environment and Education) to learn from each other and the trainers.
Led by PCV Rachel Ricciardi (Southern Region Malaria Coordinator), Rachel’s health clinic counterpart Billiat Frezzer, and PCRV Brooke Mancuso (National Malaria Coordinator), the trainers facilitated sessions on disease epidemiology, prevention, treatment, HIV/AIDS-malaria co infection, behavior change, and malaria awareness/education initiatives of the Malawian Ministry of Health and other collaborating partners. Furthermore, Health PCVs Beccy Burleson and Emma Bussard, who had already attended a nationwide Mini-Malaria Bootcamp in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, facilitated sessions on malaria-related activities being implemented in Malawi, as well as other Sub-Saharan Africa Peace Corps countries.
Mr. McDonald Billiati, the Deputy Head Teacher at Goliati Community Day Secondary School in Thyolo District, attended the training as my counterpart. After the training, I asked Mr. Billiati a few questions about the Bootcamp:
Lee: Mr. Billiati, what did you learn at the Mini-Malaria Bootcamp?
Billiati: I learned so many things about malaria. I learned how to mobilize the community about the problem of malaria, and I learned how to mend a net that has holes in it. Once a net is torn, many people in the villages will just use it as a garden fence instead of repairing it. Many people also do not know how to properly hang a net, and when they receive it they just keep it in their house.
Lee: Great! So how will you use what you learned in your community? What will we do together in Goliati?
Billiati: We will work to incorporate malaria education into our classes at school. We came up with the idea of starting in Life Skills classes, spending one period each week focusing on malaria prevention and awareness. We will then have students write dramas to share what they have learned. They can start performing their dramas at our school assembly, and then move on to other venues in the community such as schools and churches.
Lee: Excellent, I am really excited about working with the students at school. What other people could we work with in the community?
Billiati: I am a member of a community group called CCJP [Catholic Commission for Justice], and we work to sensitize the community about child abuse, gender equality, and other issues. We could use this existing group as a vehicle for malaria education.
Lee: That sounds like a great idea. One last question: what do you think is the most important thing you learned at the training?
Billiati: People really do not understand the importance of using bed nets, especially for children. So many children suffer from malaria, it could all be prevented if they slept under nets.
In the coming months, Mr. Billiati and I are looking forward to implementing more malaria programming in our community, beginning with the students at our school. In addition to the dramas, we will work on creating lesson plans for other teachers to use in the future. We are eager to get started using all the information and materials we gained from the Southern Region Mini-Malaria bootcamp!