Malawi Weekly Awesome: Six RMV’s take on Malawi’s First Mini Boot Camp

The Stomp Out Malaria team in Malawi is growing, fast and strong. On July 23, 2014, after three days of comprehensive malaria trainings, we welcomed six new Regional Malaria Volunteers (RMVs) to our team of national malaria fighters. The short, intensive training program was the first of its kind in Malawi- made possible by the hard work of National Malaria Coordinator Brooke Mancuso, RPCV; Regional Malaria Coordinators Daniel Marthey, Amie Pendleton-Knoll, and Rachel Ricciardi; and the support of the Peace Corps office. Covering sessions on malaria history, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention, as well as draft action plans for future projects, RMVs are now fully equipped to not only combat malaria themselves, but more importantly bring others into the battle as well.

The timing of the first annual mini malaria boot camp could not have been more perfect. With NMCP gearing up for its 2015 ITN mass distribution campaign, Peace Corps Volunteers from Chitipa to Nsanje are developing the skills necessary to help maximize procedures. Our hope is that PCVs throughout Malawi will be able to help educate their communities on proper prevention before the distribution, as well as follow-up on net usage after the excitement of free nets wears off.

It has only been one month since the completion of the training, but success stories are already being told. Southern RMV Emma Bussard has been active with her health center doing bed net hanging demos and photoshoots. Central RMV Beccy Burleson has made malaria books to educate primary school children on malaria prevention. And a group of Northern RMVs and PCVs, under the leadership of Dan, taught malaria prevention and mitigation through murals and training of trainers.

The immediate effectiveness of Malaria Mini Boot Camp 2014 has been incredible, and we’re all looking forward to seeing the motivation and involvement continue to spread. Malaria is, after all, a buzz kill.

Here’s what some of the new RMV’s had to say about the mini boot-camp:

Maia Wise Health PCV from New York
Joining the stomp malaria team has been such an honor. During the boot camp, I learned so much from disease epidemiology to how malaria eradication programs are funded in Malawi. Learning so much information has pushed me to implement my own mini malaria team in my community. In my community we will focus on how to build sustainable prevention methods. I have high hopes for the Stomp Malaria Malawi Team and I know that we will be successful with whatever activities we choose to implement.

Emma Bussard, Jake Hojnacki, Rachel Ricciardi and Maia Wise discuss Action Plans for the Southern Region.

Emma Bussard, Jake Hojnacki, Rachel Ricciardi and Maia Wise discuss Action Plans for the Southern Region.

Emma Bussard Health PCV from Georgia
Attending our mini malaria boot camp really helped open my eyes to the simple but influential activities that we can do in our communities regarding malaria prevention and education. Prior to attending camp, I didn’t really know how to incorporate malaria activities in my village besides promoting net usage. Now, I have the support of our existing stomp coordinators as well as a plethora of resources from our tool kit and flash drive to start doing even small, informal activities. My hope is that every educational game or lesson helps to teach or encourage kids, parents, or any member of my community to take small steps toward protecting themselves against this preventable disease. I feel well prepared to promote behavior change and to help them maintain and repair the nets they’re using currently. I am excited to get back to site and begin malaria work. My first step will be to assess current knowledge about malaria and whether my community uses their nets and if they are available.

Emma Bussard utilizes her Tool Kit in Village Prevention.

Emma Bussard utilizes her Tool Kit in Village Prevention.

Simone Collier Health PCV from Texas
Before attending the mini malaria boot camp, I was aware that malaria was a problem in Malawi, but I was unsure of how to use my skills to alleviate such a ubiquitous issue. The workshop was the first time I was able to discuss and brainstorm with other volunteers that are also passionate about doing malaria prevention projects at their sites. The facilitators served as great resources for learning about new, engaging activities to educate and motivate members of our communities. In the end, this exchange of information made the idea of effectively galvanizing my community more attainable.