Written by Zach Crawford, Peace Corps Volunteer (Benin)
Our Motto: “Les Filles Qui Guident Le Monde!” (“The girls who lead the world!”)
57 high-achieving girls from the Donga region of Benin. Eight PCVs. Six independent Beninese women. One inspirational week celebrating success and the joys of girlhood.
This year marks the 7th edition of Camp Succès (‘Success’ in English) of the Donga, which is based on a tradition of inviting middle-school-aged girls who’ve earned the highest grades amongst their female counterparts to a week of camp in the regional capital of Djougou. The girls learn about hygiene, family planning, study skills, public speaking, nutrition and malaria prevention, among others. Throughout the week, PCVs and our professional female counterparts co-facilitate sessions, enforce camp rules and provide an overall environment conducive for learning and camaraderie.
Health promotion and disease prevention discussions dominated a large part of the camp’s curriculum just as the northern region of Benin starts the second half of our rainy season, a time of high malaria prevalence.
Throughout Camp Succès we incorporated malaria education. One activity was adopted from Grassroots Soccer’s playbook. Groups of around nine girls were each given a bed sheet and soccer ball—symbols for bednets and plasmodium-infected mosquitoes, respectively. Each team was encouraged to bobble their soccer ball together using the bed sheet, and then to run and hide under the sheet before the ball hit the ground as a symbolic preventive measure of protecting against malaria. In between brief segments, the girls gathered and discussed the signs and symptoms, consequences of and means of prevention against malaria.
Back at the campsite—and in a nod to the Stomp Out Malaria initiative—we unveiled a large banner that reads, in English, “I promise to sleep under a mosquito net. Everyone, every night, every season.” We then explained that, by reciting the promise and leaving a footprint on the banner, we were all making that promise in order to “stomp” out malaria. After the activity, the banner stood waving for all to see for the duration of the week.
To reinforce malaria prevention even further, I held small-group discussions where we addressed myths surrounding malaria (popular here are rumors that red oil, mangoes and too much sun exposure cause malaria), modes of prevention, the consequences of malaria for infants and rapid care-seeking behaviors. Each topic was discussed and presented by several of the girls.
Overall, Camp Succès was triumphant, and next year’s camp coordinators look forward to integrating more of this messaging into camp sessions.