Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Empowering Communities in the Fight Against Malaria

Adourekoman existed long before a volunteer arrived and will continue to evolve and grow after I leave. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, a temporary resident in a permanent community, it is our role to teach, build and challenge those around us to work to improve their own lives.

I came to village with no expectations. While my title was "Rural Community Health Advisor," I knew that I could never complete my service within the confines of a job description. As I've learned, it's the community who dictates their needs and is the driving force behind the success of any projects. 

So proud of these amazing ladies!
One of my most important initiatives here has been my Care Group. The Care Group model uses a core group of 8-15 Mama Leaders in the community to disseminate information to other women. Each Mama Leader is responsible for a group of 10-15 women, so each time I hold a session, that information reaches over 150 households! My group started meeting every other week in January and each Tuesday at 7 am they arrive, ready to learn more and become leaders for health in the village. 

In preparation for World Malaria Month, my homologue and I have been training these 15 women to give behavior change communication sessions revolving around malaria. In addituon, they've learned how to introduce a topic, conduct oral pre and post tests, be engaging public speakers and serve as resources for their own groups. After conducting a needs assessment to understand the gap in bed net coverage in households, I submitted a request for 330 nets to distribute. When my van pulled into village on Monday afternoon, I was met with cheers from women and children who knew that these nets will make the difference between staying healthy or falling sick from malaria. 

Everyone needs a net!
The distribution kicked off on Tuesday afternoon. I chose to pair up the Mama Leaders and invite their groups to my house for a malaria info session and net distribution. One of the leaders showed up 15 minutes early, wearing a blue pin stripes pant suit and ready for business. She introduced herself as Professor (although I wanted to call her Madame president!) and stole the show. The pair covered the importance of net usage, net repair techniques, the signs of malaria and the necessity for pregnant women to receive intermittent malaria treatment starting in their second trimester. They taught the group an Idaasha song about malaria prevention and concluded with my favorite mosquito net cheer. 

Alesine and Florence are two reasons why I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. In the last 5 months I have watched them grow from quiet community members to outspoken and empowered leaders in my community. Their passion to work with their peers and to change the lives of those in our village is the most sustainable practice I can implement during my time here. 

Yesterday, and again this morning, I watched these women glow with pride as they took the stage in the fight against malaria. I am constantly reminded that the most valuable resources for development are people and if this is what progress looks like, I can't ask for anything more. 
Peace Corps Director, Gordon Brown, visits Adourekoman to check out our net distribution!


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