Where do you see it going? That was the question four SWAT Team members pondered while perched around a table in August before the most recent SWAT Team training. One by one ideas began presenting themselves. Original Research. Collaborations with local partners. Mass Media Advertisement Campaigns. 100% participation amongst PCVs in malaria control. As the ideas kept coming, it became clear that the SWAT Team members envisioned a professional, well organized and connected SWAT Team capable of being a major player in Malaria Control within Ghana.
The SWAT Team came from humble beginnings, three STOMP Bootcamp Veterans looking to improve resources and overall efficacy for malaria control programs within the Peace Corps Ghana community. Beth Davidson, Zoe Sugg, and David Kalpakchian have worked tirelessly to legitimize and organize the SWAT Team, and only because of their hard work can SWAT now look forward with our heads filled with a vision for tomorrow.
Changes in organizational infrastructure were necessary to increase the SWAT Team’s productivity and efficiency. In April regional representatives comprising of Ghana’s ten regions were elected. The first SWAT Team meeting was organized that month. In June new officers were elected. Beth Davidson has led a group of team members in editing the SWAT Team Constitution. These changes have allowed greater access to malaria control resources for every PC Ghana volunteer, and a unified, knowledgeable team capable of exciting volunteers toward undertaking new malaria prevention projects.
Another new member of the SWAT team is the SWAT bucket. A plastic bucket filled with educational materials relating to malaria. One LLIN, High Risk/Low Risk Behavior Cards, Materials for a Neem Cream demonstration, bed net hanging demonstration materials, a group discussion flipchart, pen drives with electronic resources, and net repair materials. One bucket has been placed in each region. Over twenty projects cited the bucket as a resource between April and September. SWAT has received funding for more SWAT buckets to meet the demand.
Working with Peace Corps Ghana training staff, the SWAT Team has increased its presence during PST, providing Malaria 101 training, and developing potential projects PCTs can be involved with. Trainings are tailored to each sector, for instance an Education PST group would be educated on potential malaria projects that could easily be linked with their work at a secondary school. Three Regional Representative trainings per year have been budgeted for to ensure that the newest research and project ideas will continue to be shared with volunteers already at site. Several regions have held regional trainings to build capacity within respective regions.
After the SWAT Team April training, the first large project was designated: World Malaria Day 2012. The SWAT Team responded, staging nine large scale malaria control events in nine Regional or District capitals during the week of April 25th, 2012. Danny Suits organized a school football tournament in the Brong-Ahofo Region. Megan Kirby and Beth Davidson held demonstrations at the Tamale Lorry Station in the Northern Region. Rachel Ricciardi and Hannah Braun organized a basketball game between PCVs and the local team, the Wa Unicorns in Wa, Upper West Region. A well connected and organized team allowed the large collaboration to succeed, and the group members have already begun planning next year’s World Malaria Day.
At the August training, Johanna Twiford and Hannah Braun introduced the Nightwatch Program to SWAT Ghana. It was viewed as having potential, and a five member task force to evaluate the possibility of working with local radio station to produce a local version of nightwatch was undertaken. By December, three different programs in different parts of the country were on air, with two or three more in planning stages.
As 2013 nears, SWAT Ghana will continue to search for new ways to get more volunteers involved with effective malaria control projects. The new SWAT team is excited to take its place at the table in the global effort to eradicate malaria. We are Ready.
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