Big Books, Big Fun!

By PCV Roberta Connors

Rwandan students use Big Books to learn about malaria prevention.

Rwandan students use Big Books to learn about malaria prevention.

After returning from Stomp Boot Camp X in June, I was inspired to do a project that was taught to us by Peace Corps Uganda.  “Big Books” are teaching aids made out of rice sacks. The best part about them is that you can make any topic into a big book!  I decided to start out by making the “Beware of Mrs. Mosquito” book that was available to me on the Stomp Google Drive.  I followed the template and made my book in a few hours.  It was actually really fun because my husband was at a meeting so I had the afternoon to myself.

The first day I used the book at school was really great.  I had the book next to my stuff in the teacher’s room and whenever teachers saw it they became curious and asked about it.  Once I explained what it was, they were amazed that I was so creative and asked about how they could make some too.  One thing I have learned over the past year is that kids also love when I use teaching aids.  I use magazines, comic books, and music with my lessons on a regular basis. When I brought the book to class they were very interested and excited.  I created some reading comprehension questions to go with the book as well as some new vocabulary words for their notebooks.  We read the book as a class, each kid reading a sentence out loud and afterward discussed the comprehension questions as a class.

Big Books not only teach students about malaria, they encourage student creativity, too!

Big Books not only teach students about malaria, they encourage student creativity, too!

My lesson was more of a reading lesson with a malaria message than anything else but some great things came out of it! Because my kids know I am on Stomp, they always come to me when they have a malaria related question or concern.  Beyond that, some of my younger students were inspired to create storybooks of their own in English.  What can I say, my kids are fabulous!

Next year I am hoping to start the Connors Comic Book Competition where students can submit a comic book they have written in English and compete against their peers.  Maybe when I judge, I can tell them they get a few extra points if their comic book is malaria themed.  If it all works out, I want the prize for the competition to be money for paying their school fees for the next term.

I would also love to get my book translated into the local language so I can read it to the primary students at my school.  I know that they would really get a kick out of it. Overall, the Big Book project is quick, easy, and fun!  Kids and adults alike are interested and it can be used in many different types of lessons.  So go buy some rice sacks and make your own Big Book today!!

Posted in Rwanda Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Togo Weekly Awesome: Small Scale Net Distribution

Even though a mass net distribution happened months before, when I came to Kaniamboua two years ago many families in my community didn’t have bed nets or didn’t have enough bed nets to cover all the sleeping spaces in their household. Bed nets were difficult to find, they were mostly in the capital and much too expensive for the average family in my community. I wanted to do something so I began talking to some friends who connected me to the Malaria Defense Project – Nets in Action.

PCV Katherine Racy with children from the orphanage selected to receive bed nets.

Nets for Action fundraised for months to bring nets to Togo, we found a pharmacy in Lomé that was able to get the 550 bed nets to country. By the time we got the systems and nets in place Togo was planning another national bed net distribution which would fill in the gaps I previously observed in my community but, the national distribution only looked at residential households and not at clinics, orphanages, prisons, or schools. So I decided  to switch my project and focus on distributing nets in Centrale region clinics that don’t have bed nets in their maternity wards and in orphanages. The new plan to distribute the nets at clinics and orphanages would help protect high-risk groups: children under 5 and pregnant women.

 

Unprotected sleeping spaces at the orphanage before they received the nets.

This past weekend I visited my first orphanage. The orphanage has about 20 children and maybe another 15 care takers (mamans) and nuns that live there. I had the pleasure of giving them 40 bed nets so that they can cover all of their beds and have a few extra for when new children arrive. Along with the bed nets, I was able to donate toothbrushes supplied by a family friend and 2 soccer balls that were remaining from another volunteer’s malaria project. The children were so excited to receive these gifts. I was able to talk to the older children (which were not many) about the importance of sleeping under the net every night and what causes malaria. Then in local language they told all the little ones that every night they have to sleep under the bed net even if it is really hot.

Children with their new bed nets.

The mamans and the nun opening up bed net so they can air out before hanging them up.

The mamans and the nun opening up bed net so they can air out before hanging them up.

Looking at the past 2 years this has been the most rewarding project and I look forward to visiting other orphanages and clinics during my 3rd year to finish passing out the rest of the bed nets. For more information on Malaria Defense Project- Nets in Action you can visit them on  Facebook or at http://www.malariadefenseproject.org/ . Their next net distribution which will be held sometime in the Spring 2015, they will be teaming up with Peace Corps Ghana’s SWAT Malaria Team to deliver nets in Ghana.

written by: Katherine Racy, PCV

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

Togo Weekly Awesome: Country Wide Bed Net Distribution

Togo had a country wide bed net distribution in August and September to achieve 100% bed net coverage, defined as 1 net per 2 people in a household. About 25 Peace Corps volunteers participated in the distribution by attending and contributing suggestions at community health agent meetings/trainings, going on house visits with community health agents to distribute coupons that community members redeemed for nets and passing out bed nets the day of the distribution.

PCV Mokube Ewane counting empty bed net bags.

PCV Mokube Ewane counting empty bed net bags.

Community members lining up waiting to receive their bed nets in Nandjita

Community members lining up waiting to receive their bed nets in Nandjita

Community health workers of Atchankpade writing down names and number of nets for their records.

Community health workers of Atchankpade writing down names and number of nets for their records.

The community members of Atchankpade  waiting in line to receive their nets.

The community members of Atchankpade waiting in line to receive their nets.

PVC Elizabeth Gomes with community health workers.

PVC Elizabeth Gomes with community health workers.

Posted in Togo, Weekly Awesome Tagged with: , ,

Togo Weekly Awesome: What Can You Use Empty Cans For?

Last month PCV Chelsea Clarke put some empty tin cans to good use. Chelsea lives in a small village in northern Togo. Though she is an environmental volunteer, she knows that malaria affects EVERYBODY and she wanted to do something about it.

PCV Chelsea Clarke and her host sister.

PCV Chelsea Clarke and her host sister.

Chelsea got the idea for making portable mosquito net hanging posts while watching babies and toddlers in her host family sleep outside every evening during the prime hours of mosquito activity. Many Togolese families stay outside during the night to cook, socialize, and even sleep outside during hot weather. Additionally, she had heard people in village complain that it was hard to hang the nets when they don’t have a bed or bedposts; many villagers sleep on a mat on the floor.

She made a solution to these problems by anchoring one branch each in 4 tin cans, holding them in place with layers of rocks and sand (clay or cement are more solid but were harder to find.) This is an easy project, and it doesn’t cost a thing!

On the first try, she used empty powdered milk cans, but they were not sturdy enough. Next, she went into town and stopped at various cafeterias, asking for some of the economy-sized tomato cans that many eateries throw out every day. The mamma at her favorite fufu place readily gave her 8 giant tomato cans for free!

Back in village, she enlisted the help of her host family. Together, they put the initial small tin cans inside of the larger tomato cans, and filled up both with a stone and clay mixture. She kicked the cans to see if they would be sturdy enough to withstand the kids playing around the net and scurrying in and out of it.

Chelsea's host siblings making the posts. It is so easy that children can do it!

Chelsea’s host siblings making the posts. It is so easy that children can do it!

While they were making the bed net hanging posts, there was a group of neighbors next door enjoying some tchakpa, a local beer in northern Togo. The group all looked on while the kids cut branches and collected stones, and adults held the poles up and tied the net on at the end.

Chelsea said that there is one woman in her host family who speaks both French and Moba, and she translated to the curious onlookers to explain what was going on. When the women understood, they got very excited, and started calling over their friends and enthusiastically shaking Chelsea’s hand. She hopes that it will be the next big trend in village.

The family trying out the net.

The family trying out the net.

Options if you do not have 1 sturdy can for each post:

  1. Ask a mason if they can make a brick with a stick in the middle
  2. Dig holes in the ground for the sticks

Tips on collecting cans:

  1. Ask kids help you scavenge around for discarded cans
  2. Ask a cafeteria/restaurant
  3. Encourage people in village to collect their own cans, too!
When one tin can is not enough just double up and it will be sturdy enough

When one tin can is not enough just double up and it will be sturdy enough

 

Written by Chelsea Clarke & Katherine Racy

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

PMI and Peace Corps Collaboration in Malawi

PCV Dan Marthey with study nurses Losta Moyo and Vera Hara, and study clinician from Karonga District Hospital, Bright Zgambo.

I’m Dan Marthey and I’m a Peace Corps volunteer in the health sector posted in the Karonga district of northern Malawi. I arrived in Malawi in March, 2013. The following September I attended Stomping-Out Malaria in Africa “Boot-Camp” in Thies, Senegal. From that point my work as a volunteer has been mostly malaria focused at my site and assisting with Peace Corps programming throughout the country.

Most of our work concerns behavior change communication in the villages, however, I recently had the opportunity to take part in assisting to conduct a therapeutic efficacy trial in collaboration with Center Disease Control (CDC), National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and Malaria Alert Centre (MAC). This therapeutic efficacy study is a two-arm randomized clinical trial testing first-line treatment, artemether-lumefantrine (AL), and second-line, co-formulated artesunate-amodiaquine (ASAQ), for the treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in children between the ages of 6-59 months. The outcome of this trial will also assist Ministry of Health (MoH) and NMCP in their guidelines for treatment of uncomplicated malaria and is recommended by World Health Organization to track/measure resistance of P. falciparum, the dominant Plasmodium species in Malawi.

Dan jokes around with two of his coworkers.

Dan jokes around with two of his coworkers.

During the data collection phase of the study I was  the Site Coordinator for Karonga, one of the three study sites, the others sites were Nkhotakota and Machinga district hospitals. My main duties as Site Coordinator was to participate in the initial staff training, maintain enrollment records, maintain observance of standard operating procedures for enrollment and follow-up, maintain thorough patient files, report weekly progress to the study coordinator and principle investigators, adhere to our timeline for patient enrollment, ensure other procedures were followed by study staff and to keep open communication between the study coordinator, investigation team, and Karonga staff to prevent other unforeseen issues from arising.

Bright and Jonathan

Bright and Jonathan

Working closely with the investigation team has been such an outstanding experience. The level of support I have received throughout the process has been incredible thanks to principle investigator Magdalena Paczkowski (CDC), co- investigator/study coordinator Dyson Mwandama (MAC), the PMI Malawi Team, co-investigator Julie Gutman (CDC) and other supporting team members. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss Peace Corps and PMI collaboration in depth with the PMI Malawi Team on a few occasions and it’s clear that PMI is a strong advocate for that relationship. The PMI Malawi Team was also a strong initial supporter of my involvement with this study. This has been an incredible learning experience for me but it has also been a great foundation for what will hopefully become an even stronger relationship between Peace Corps and PMI.

Posted in Malawi Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Help Me Map My Village!

The hot season is starting here in Botswana bringing with it brutal 100 degrees and up heat and a lot of mosquitoes.  This season we are gearing up our efforts to prevent malaria across the country.

Botswana is lucky to be in the elimination phase, we have a lower number of symptomatic cases of malaria and malaria related deaths and a greater need for surveillance and case management in hopes of eliminating malaria completely in Botswana. To increase surveillance we’re using a targeted localized approach which relies on accurate mapping.

OpenStreetMap is a new technology where the public can contribute to better map the world which is an incredible benefit to Peace Corps volunteers in more remote areas. Our request? Those living in or familiar with Chobe District (listed by priority Kachikau, Kazungula, Kasane, Mabele, Parakarungu, Kavimba, Satau, Lesoma, Pandamatenga) in Botswana, help us map these areas.

Screen shot 2014-09-28 at 12.59.00 PM

With this information we can better ensure that each and every household is covered by IRS (indoor residual spraying), or a LLIN (long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito net), that every positive case is located, followed up, and categorized as local or imported and treated. This mapping has the potential to also help with  tracking TB cases, water and sanitation issues, and more

With your fast internet and our on-the-ground knowledge, together we can help Botswana eradicate malaria by 2018. Nyeletsa Malaria!


HOW TO HELP IN EIGHT SIMPLE STEPS

(links to a youtube video if you want to see how its done)

1. Go to openstreetmap.org and register
2. Confirm the email address in your inbox
3. Login
4. Search Kachikau, Botswana (or Kazungula, Kasane, Mabele, Parakarungu, Kavimba, Satau, Lesome, Pandamatenga)
5. Click “Edit”
6. Use the “Area” tool to start outlining house (we need to outline both traditional and modern structures)
7. SAVE! Tah-dah
8. Feel good about having done your part in helping to end malaria in our lifetime.

For some awesome people who are passionate about mapping Botswana check them out on Facebook. Technology can be fun…!

Posted in Botswana Tagged with: , , , ,

Senegal PCVs Assist CDC with Entomology & Malaria Research

Dr. Ellen Dotson, Research Entomologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), visited Peace Corps Volunteers engaged in malaria prevention and entomology research in Senegal’s Tambacounda, Kedougou and Kolda regions 24-27 September 2014.

The CDC trains PCVs to collect and prepare mosquito samples for research purposes. During her tour Dr. Dotson coached PCVs through malaria and mosquito physiology presentations they’ll deliver to at-risk communities. Community members were trained in the ‘spray and capture’ technique as well.

More than 20 PCVs have been trained for and participated in entomology research since Peace Corps began its collaboration with the CDC in Senegal. More trainings are planned for 2015.

“The hope is to find out how the malaria parasite, and other parasites, work within the mosquito’s stomach,” Dr. Dotson said. “Once we know how to create a malaria nullifying mosquito parasite, we may begin to make progress.”

Originally published on Peace Corps Senegal Website.

Ellen Dotson, CDC Research Entomologist, collects mosquito samples with Aliou Souré in Bambaya, Kédougou region, Senegal. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Ellen Dotson, CDC Research Entomologist, collects mosquito samples with Aliou Souré in Bambaya, Kédougou region, Senegal. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Ellen Dotson, CDC Research Entomologist, teaches PCV Tess Komarek. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Ellen Dotson, CDC Research Entomologist, teaches PCV Tess Komarek. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Ellen Dotson, CDC Research Entomologist, inspects a sheet used to collect mosquito samples. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Ellen Dotson, CDC Research Entomologist, inspects a sheet used to collect mosquito samples. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

PCV Jenny Cobb sprays the windows of a hut, a critical first step in the research sample collection process during the CDC Entomology training in Senegal’s Kolda region. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

PCV Jenny Cobb sprays the windows of a hut, a critical first step in the research sample collection process during the CDC Entomology training in Senegal’s Kolda region. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Twenty PCVs currently participate in the CDC’s Entomology research in Senegal. More trainings are planned for 2015. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Twenty PCVs currently participate in the CDC’s Entomology research in Senegal. More trainings are planned for 2015. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Khaby Diallo, a member of PCV Arielle Kempinsky’s host family, learns to identify mosquitoes in the village of Bambaya in Senegal’s Kédougou region. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Khaby Diallo, a member of PCV Arielle Kempinsky’s host family, learns to identify mosquitoes in the village of Bambaya in Senegal’s Kédougou region. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

A team of PCVs assist with an Entomology demonstration in a small village outside of Kolda, Senegal. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

A team of PCVs assist with an Entomology demonstration in a small village outside of Kolda, Senegal. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Demonstrations in the Kolda region. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

Demonstrations in the Kolda region. Photo by PCV Chris Uller & Teneasha Pierson, September 2014

 

Posted in Senegal Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Benin Weekly Awesome: Training Mothers to be Leaders in Malaria Prevention

Leader Mother, Louise Gandeme, presenting to the health staff about the causes of Malaria.

Leader Mother, Louise Gandeme, presenting to the health staff about the causes of Malaria.

My Care Group is one of my favorite projects because it involves empowering women to better take care of themselves, their families, and their communities. We call these volunteers Leader Mothers. After receiving training, each of our Leader Mothers educates ten other women in the community on those same topics.

In the month of April, in honor of World Malaria Day, we trained the Leader Mothers on malaria symptoms, prevention and treatment. The Leader Mothers have rarely reached secondary school levels in education and are able to learn, retain and teach complicated health subjects. I give all the credit of accomplishing this feat to my counterpart, Damienne, she is a trained community health educator for the social services and an expert at making complicated health topics easily understandable in rural communities.

We focused on using visual aids and songs to train our Leader Mothers. With Damienne’s guidance, the women composed songs in Fon, their local language, about prompt care seeking, recognizing the symptoms of malaria in their children and sleeping under a mosquito net.

At the end of April, their malaria training culminated in the women giving a practice presentation to the staff of our local health center. During the session, the staff enthusiastically gave feedback and in turn, refreshed their own knowledge about malaria. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, it was fulfilling to have helped facilitate a dialogue between highly educated health workers and well-informed, but illiterate Leader Mothers.

Peace Corps Volunteer Sandy Noel (back row, left) and Damienne Akpako (back row, third from the left) with Leader Mothers who earned their certificates.

Peace Corps Volunteer Sandy Noel (back row, left) and Damienne Akpako (back row, third from the left) with Leader Mothers who earned their certificates.

I organized an opening ceremony to officially present the Leader Mothers to the community authorities. The adjunct mayor, the village chief, the region’s doctor, the health center staff, and the police chief attended. During the ceremony, the women gave a presentation about malaria, proving their legitimacy and knowledge on community education to the village’s authorities.

After the women’s presentation, Damienne and I distributed certificates to the women. Though it was a simple certificate easily made at the printer’s office, it was hard earned for Leader Mothers and the first diploma any of them had ever earned. The women were so energized and excited to display their certificates that they led a spontaneous march around the entire village, singing the malaria prevention songs to show that were ready to serve their community. And it will only get better from here!

written by: Sandy Noel

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

Benin Weekly Awesome: Integrating Malaria Education into English-Language Curriculum

Peace Corps Volunteer, Ron Walters, with some of his students during a malaria lesson.

Peace Corps Volunteer, Ron Walters, with some of his students during a malaria lesson.

Like countless other Peace Corps volunteers, my work interests during my service have wandered far beyond my assigned primary sector. As a teacher in Northern Benin, I regularly see the ravages of malaria on a personal level. Students would go missing for weeks, and when I asked where they were, I would always receive the same, ubiquitous response – “Il est malade” (He is sick). An interview with the head nurse at my village health center revealed that the vast majority of the cases she saw on a daily basis were malaria related. Even more distressing, however, was the lack of basic knowledge about malaria among my students. Malaria, apparently, can come from the sun, green vegetables, peanuts, or oil, but mosquitoes were nowhere to be found on the list of malaria transmission methods gathered from my 50 or so 7th grade students. Fortunately, as a teacher, I had a perfect target group, who had no choice but to listen to me ramble on and on about malaria for four hours a week: my students.

The first challenge I faced was how to carry out malaria trainings for several weeks while still ensuring that my students were learning the same material as their classmates, primarily because one teacher writes the test for an entire grade level. Each grade level is broken into four “learning situations” (units) with a general theme – “Our Environment”, “On Holiday”, “The Future”, etc., and subsequently divided into “Situations”, or chapters. In a turn of good luck, my class had just reached the situation entitled “health”. While the chapter contains numerous illnesses relevant to a Beninese middle school student; rheumatism, backaches, high and low blood pressure, I saw a chance to insert malaria into the curriculum and still ensure my students would be on track for future examinations.

Keeping in place the same grammar and much of the same vocabulary, such as hospital, doctor, patient, nurse, etc., I rewrote or modified the existing texts to focus on the numerous aspects of malaria, including prevention, symptoms, and environmental control. The first lesson was delivered using a tool issued by Peace Corps Benin called a “boite à image”, a large flip book with pictures highlighting desirable behavior, myths, and prevention of malaria used throughout the country’s health centers, and the next lessons followed the modified English program. To finish the unit, I gave a quiz to my students that tested both their retention of the English concepts and of their general malaria knowledge.

The most rewarding part of the entire project, was the melding of my two interests, health and education, that offered the chance to affect meaningful behavior change. As I am increasingly learning, malaria is not solely a “health problem”, and cannot be confined to health centers and hospitals. Rather, it is a “human problem”, and needs to be tackled in all aspects of Peace Corp’s malaria work; by education volunteers interacting with their students, by environment volunteers working with community members in vector control, by health volunteers on the ground in their villages, and by economic development volunteers demonstrating to families the economic costs of malaria. As I discussed malaria’s mosquito origins with my students, one of my more energetic students piped up; “Uh! Monseiur, ca n’est pas vrai ca – Monseiur, that can’t be true!”. As the lesson continued, and as the class discovered malaria’s true origins, I saw a light switch in my skeptical student. A whole new possibility of preventative and proactive action became aware to him, and perhaps the seeds were laid that will one day germinate into a family and social circle completely free from the scourge of malaria.

written by: Ron Walters

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

Benin Weekly Awesome: Maman Santé Harnesses the Power of Theatre and the Energy of Youth for Malaria Prevention

BeninTheatre1Maman Santé was an idea born when I noticed how many young faces were quietly staring at a voodoo ceremony that was taking place around my village. The ceremony was both theatre and parade; women sang and played musical instruments as teenage boys danced around them. More amazing, however, was the crowd the ceremony had gathered—children of all ages, men, and women came out to watch the passing ceremony. All attention was on the troupe! It was during the ceremony that I realized the potential educational benefits theatre and performance carry for teaching a big audience. Theatre was already ingrained within the culture; why not use what people know and enjoy to teach an important topic?

After the ceremony was over, I had a discussion with my counterpart, Anne-Marie Lawin, about what I had seen and my thoughts about turning theatre into a teaching tool. Anne-Marie suggested malaria prevention as the topic for our first production. Anne-Marie works with the health care mutual fund, she understands firsthand the financial costs of malaria—from her ledger, some families paid upwards of 50% of their monthly income to treat malaria! It’s the most serious health problem in my village. I knew theater would be a great tool to try to improve health and financial security.

I wanted to take advantage of an established theatre group in the community so I met with the Director at the CEG, the local high school, and he agreed to let me work with the theatre club. I began teaching the theatre club some basic theater technique. When Lindsay Gardel, a health volunteer moved to my area, I brought up the idea and we collaborated to develop the malaria prevention script.  I applied for a Small Project Assistance grant to fund costumes, props, and transportation so that the theater club could put on skits around the area. We’re looking forward to the beginning of the school year in October to pick up and take our skits on the road throughout neighboring communities.

written by Leng Yang

BeninTheatre2

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