By Chad Anderson
PCV Chad Anderson worked with local artists to create this vibrant, and catchy malaria music video. Below he writes about his experiences; from learning about malaria, to his transition from Mali to Botswana, and finally the process of creating the music video. Chad, closed-out his service, but his music video continues to inspire us to sing, dance and stomp out malaria.
Before I arrived in Mali, West Africa, as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) I knew next to nothing about malaria. Malaria? That’s some exotic disease that other people on other continents get; something that I might hear about, and remember only vaguely, from a church campaign or fundraiser. Nothing that had anything to do with me or people I knew.
That soon changed after I moved to my site in Mali and I attended my first local funeral and learned that the person had died of malaria. I didn’t know people were still dying from malaria. Especially since the Peace Corps had supplied me and my fellow volunteers with nets and mosquito repellants. Very soon after I learned of another death from malaria, this time the young man was around my own age. It hit me really hard. I couldn’t stop thinking about the unfairness of it all: Here I am taking pills that will help prevent malaria, but the people in my village didn’t have anything—medicine or nets. The realization almost made me depressed and hurt my heart, especially when I realized that every time I went to the local clinic where I was volunteering, someone one was being treated for malaria. I think a turning point for me was when a child of one of the nurses got sick with malaria. Although he pulled through, I had many sleepless nights worrying about him. And the others. It was almost as if a decision had been made for me: Nothing was more important than working on malaria projects.
I started thinking and talking to others about possible projects that I could do focused on malaria. But suddenly my time in Mali was cut short by a government coup. Peace Corps evacuated us, but luckily I was accepted as a PCV in Botswana. I learned that HIV/AIDS, not malaria, was the focus on Peace Corps efforts in Botswana (which still has the second highest infection rate in the world). I was happy to still be a PCV, but saddened at leaving my malaria projects behind.
But soon after being placed in a small village in northern Botswana, I learned that my village, as well as many other areas in the country, were still considered high risk for malaria. My passion to do something to reduce the impact of malaria was rekindled. I often sat at the local clinic, meeting staff and patients, asking questions, and wondering how I might help. And then, in a quiet moment, I remembered! In Mali, I had heard local artists on the radio one night, reminding people to use their nets. Why not here in Botswana? Why not work with local artists here to design an educational video that both entertains and educates people? Why not?
I reached out to a local artist I had met and he thought the idea was great. It also fit for him because he wanted to give something back to not only Botswana but to all of Africa.
We threw around different ideas: maybe a parody on a popular song but with the lyrics changed to focus on malaria education? Maybe an original song? A few months after our initial conversation we met and the artist said he’d talked to friends and colleagues in the studio and they wanted to make their own beats. So they got started! I supplied some statistics that could be incorporated in the lyrics (originally written with fellow PCV and Stomp Coordinator Jessica Hall). In one week, the song was written.
But now, it was to be more than a song; we were going to write and produce a music video! I really wanted the video shot in my village because so many members of community had been in my classes where I talked about malaria. People were very interested; this was particularly gratifying to me because these are the people who are affected by malaria. They wanted to be a part of the video. My passion became their passion, just as their needs had become the focal point of all my volunteer work.
People got involved and we shot the video, and then a documentary about making the video, but focusing on what people had learned about malaria and what they wanted others in Africa to know about it.
Our goal was to showcase it at the first- ever All Volunteer Conference (February 2014) where Peace Corps was celebrating 10 years in Botswana. Not only did I and everyone involved in this receive warm and outstanding support from other PCVs, but the National Malaria Coordinator Mma Mosweunyane also attended, and spoke warmly about the video and documentary. She now wants the video shown on television in Botswana.
This project has been a dream come true. It has taken time, patience, and many hours of work not just from me, but from all involved. This work will always have a special place in my heart because of all the people I’ve met who died from malaria. I was hit especially hard the night of the premier showing for Peace Corps when I learned that my host family in Mali had lost a son—my host brother—from malaria. My heart felt truly broken, almost as if I had let him down.
My wish for this video is very simple: I want it to help educate people; I want malaria to be prevented and eradicated. I want no one else in Africa or anywhere to die from malaria.