By: PCV Maile Thayer, PC/Sierra Leone
The STOMP Salone team hosted its first ever Malaria Bike Tour! In 5 days, approximately a quarter of Salone PCV’s participated in a 62 mile bike tour, stopping in 7 villages in Bombali District. The bike ride incorporated all kinds of activities and reached various audiences attempting to be effective in getting the message across (the message: prevent and treat malaria!). Each village hosted an event or two in addition to the Peace Corps activities to get the community more involved. These town events were anything from dramas to dancing to sports. For those who like concrete facts, one village had students from the school read statistics and information on malaria and another community had students write data on posters displayed in town. For the more athletic audiences, some villages hosted sports games—Peace Corps versus the community—in coed volleyball, coed football, and females-only football. For the more artistically-inclined, one community had painted a malaria mural and another had decorated posters hung up in the court barrie. For the thespians in the group, multiple communities also prepared dramas to demonstrate the dangers of malaria. For those who like dancing and music, one village performed a native dance with drumming, one form at a school sang a song about malaria written by a PCV, and the whole STOMP Bike Tour culminated in a community jam on the last night to raise awareness about malaria.
The PCV’s also performed activities in each community. Highlights include a malaria skit (with star performances by PCV’s) with questions and answers about the skit, a bednet demonstration and lecture, a bednet race (winners received a free bednet for their family), and songs about malaria written by PCV’s to popular American and Sierra Leonean songs.
On the bike ride itself, PCV’s would sometimes stop briefly in a village or two along the way and teach people quick songs or facts about malaria. Occasionally bikers at the end of the line would ride through a village to choruses of “Use a bednet! [clapping].” For most villages, this Malaria Bike Tour was people’s first experience seeing that many Americans, and the shock effect of that many people definitely made an impact. People are still talking about the bike tour in the communities, and several people have asked if Peace Corps can come and do it again next year. This bike ride was the first of its kind in Sierra Leone, but it was very successful and we hope to make it an annual tradition.