By: PCVÂ Katherine McAuley, PC/Zambia
As a recently new Peace Corps Volunteer here in Zambia, my life as Katherine McAuley from California has been turned up-side-downâ€”in a good way, that is. Dizzy with so much cultural adjustments I found that interacting with the youth in my village and at the school gets me grounded.
Peace Corps armed me with the necessary information to help educate and improve the health and lives of Zambians. I learned that malaria kills more children in Zambia than any other disease. Malaria also impacts the lives of women who are pregnantâ€”about 20% of maternal deaths. Thus, malaria is a major public health issue in Zambia.
When April was declared as World Malaria Month, I saw it as an opportunity to do one thing a day to educate whomever I encountered, as well as organize a few activities. I directed most of my energies towards educating the vulnerable groups. I focused on engaging two groups to help me: the NHC and the youth. Â I feel youth are young enough in spirit and mind, not too cemented into life habits, and are helpful in influencing change.
Since I am in the middle of training the Neighborhood Health Committee (local group of men and women from the village who act as a go-between for the villagers and the clinic), I spent a couple sessions explaining how malaria works, the loss of life, especially in moms and under five children, the significance of a healthy physical environment, and so on. I encouraged them to get the word out and to help me write up skits and poems, especially curtailed for pregnant women. NHC responded elegantly! I gave them malaria questions to translate into Bemba, which a few members did on big flipchart sheets. We designed a game â€śHouse of Preventionâ€ť to go with the questions. We scheduled clinic, school, and market times to spread some factual information and dispel myths about malaria among the locals, probably 300-400 people. I felt successful as I observed mothers engaged in listening and acting questions.
Working with the school girls in GLOW (Girls Leading Our World, a club for 12 and older school girls I initiated this past February) ended up being my proudest activity. Of course, I had to do a session on malaria to sensitize them about the ugly realities of malaria right here in their home village. I drew a flipchart storybook illustration Mosquito Anopheles zooming around the village having free meals off the little children and pregnant mommies who do not sleep under nets. Understanding the serious consequences, the girls totally agreed to be involved in World Malaria Day. I wrote a skit called â€śThe Life and Death of Mosquito Annâ€ť, using a malaria cartoon as my inspiration. Additionally, they independently created another skit to teach men the dangers they impose upon the village and their families in using nets for fishing. For the poem I wrote, â€śProtect the Children: Defeat Malariaâ€ť, the GLOW girls dressed up in traditional clothes, ornamental bracelets, and painted their faces. Â The girls loved performing, adding their impromptu interpretations, to a crowd of 700-800 villagers.
All-in-all, Â I feel that I helped the villagers to â€śInvest in the Futureâ€”Defeat Malariaâ€ť.