After a June storm that rendered the sky dark saffron from dust, the air chilled from turbulent winds, and the land moist from rain, The Gambia officially entered the rainy season. Health Volunteer Di Yi “Jessica” He welcomed the change of weather by coordinating multiple malaria sensitization activities in and around her Upper River Region village called Kulari.
“Kame ke gana li, sirimu gabu wa liini; siriumu ku gana li, I lawa malaria kini angda ado ang dimbaya da.” Jessica explains in Serehule: when the rains come, many mosquitoes will come, too; when the mosquitoes come, they are able to give you and your family malaria. This phrase initiated many of Jessica’s malaria-related activities including malaria sensitization sessions, bed net stitching, and neem cream (a local, homemade insecticide) demonstrations.
Jessica began by reading a basic malaria training manual composed by Stomp Out Malaria alumni Justin Wellins with village leaders and friends. After reading together and discussing each page, these individuals became malaria teachers for the community. Kulari’s Community Health Nurse hosted the first and second malaria-related event where he led a sensitization session with the Women’s Organization and Village Support Group.
During the second malaria sensitization session, the Community Health Nurse invited his friend, who was a teacher at Badare, a neighboring village, to attend. The Badare teacher felt inspired to bring the malaria sensitization session to his school – but asked to include an interactive demonstration to cement the knowledge into his students’ memory. The third event fleshed out into a neem cream demonstration and malaria sensitization session geared toward a high energy group of students in Badare’s Basic Cycle School’s Peer Health Group. This event triggered two more teachers to ask for assistance with teaching malaria – resulting in two additional neem cream demonstrations and malaria sensitization sessions in Badare’s Fourth Grade class and Kulari’s Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade classes.
When the bed net distribution campaign completed their assignment in Kulari, Jessica took her own bed net to the Entertainer’s Group President’s home and started stitching a design onto the material. This excited young girls and older women to stitch along which became the perfect environment to initiate conversation about the use of bed nets and their role in preventing malaria. The Entertainer’s Group President approached Jessica at the end of the event about conducting a neem cream demonstration and malaria sensitization session in the center of their 6,000 population village. A week later, this event was spearheaded by the Entertainer’s Group President and the Kulari Ward’s Counselor. It attracted the attention of an elder from a neighboring village, who invited Jessica, The Counselor, and the Entertainer’s Group President to his home and to educate his community. A few days later, another malaria event was hosted in the elder’s village of Koli Kunda.
June was a compact month and it did not end without results. Jessica recently hosted another neem cream demonstration and malaria sensitization event in her compound led be a family friend. This program was for residents in the outskirts of Kulari. An older woman strolled into the compound and chatted about the malaria knowledge she learned after the previous session in the center of town. Indeed, the older woman remembered all the important facts, and ended up co-teaching the event. All in all during the month of June Jessica begun 7 sensitizations, teaching 109 males and 196 females, as well as involving 9 male and 6 female counterparts! The Gambia is proud to have Jess He on our team.