Dear Family and Friends,
The primary objective of this project is to educate adolescent girls about issues related to health, education and life goals through a five-day GLOW, or Girls Leading Our World, camp. We hope to empower participants to lead healthier lives and give them the tools to achieve their life goals related to work and education by learning about opportunities available to them, and in turn teach other girls in their communities about lessons learned. The camp will be held in the capital city of Antananarivo for 100 girls and 20 women chaperones from 20 different communities across multiple regions of Madagascar.
The GLOW curriculum will focus on issues relevant to adolescent girls and specifically leadership development, self-efficacy, goal setting and life planning – including higher education and work. In the short term, we will encourage the girls to reflect on and discuss the subjects addressed during the camp, and then transfer knowledge gained to peer groups in their communities through additional trainings and discussions. In the long term, we hope that the girls will adopt healthy habits and become role models to other individuals in their communities, encouraging behavior change and eventually empowering themselves and others to lead their best possible lives. The community contribution includes supplies to promote a good learning environment for the girls throughout the camp, time donated by chaperones to help the camp run smoothly, and materials donated to facilitate learning in the communities after the camp has ended.
This project has been designed to expand access to education for girls in Madagascar as part of the Let Girls Learn Program. Learn more at letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov.
Please donate to our project!
Why did you apply to Peace Corps?
When you think about life, about what a life holds, for me it holds purpose. I know this may sound cheesy for some or generic yet I took this moto for life very seriously. From a young age service had always been a large part of my life. I remember having a world map in our bathroom growing up and my mother would pin point a place or even sometimes have me chose a place and we pack our bags and go. Once at this destination whether it was Belize, India, Nepal, China, we would spend some time visiting and touring and the other time giving back. This idea of service never stopped at the small trips we took but became a ritual. A giving ritual. During the holidays I spent my time volunteering at food banks, wrapping Christmas gifts, visiting Veteran hospitals. This became my idea of purpose. I saw what it meant to people that I gave my time. I saw that it meant a difference and produced happiness for them. I saw a purpose. I heard of Peace Corps when I was in Middle School. Unlike other children around that age instead of going to the movies or buying new clothes, I was at dog shelters walking pups, or cleaning trash at the local park.
Once I graduated high school and entered college, I began revisiting the idea of serving in another country for a long amount of time. I enjoy learning about new cultures, seeing new places, and felt that many challenges I could foresee I had already met in my previous travels. .I felt ready. I felt that Peace Corps could provide me with tools to help people serve themselves. Indeed after being here in Madagascar for 18 months, I have learned so much about myself and about how to work in the field. I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
I recently was asked this question and wanted to really dive into what has been my biggest challenge throughout my Peace Corps Service.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?
Biggest challenge I have had during my service is “saying no”. I know it sounds funny, “what does she mean saying ‘no’?” Well, once you have successfully integrated, when babies stop crying at first sight of you, and stares become smiles, people become comfortable with you. Every day community members ask me, “Please can you teach me English? Please would you be able to spare an hour to speak with me? Please can you give me books so that my children can become smarter?” When I first got to site, I felt much pressure to say yes to all requests. Soon I realized I could not split myself into numerous people and did not have enough time or energy to respond to all the wants and needs of my community. I became stressed out, not being able to fulfill everyone’s wants. I felt horrible if I said “no”, and would wear myself out saying “yes”. I was able to conquer this challenge, by asking my community for solutions, having conversations about their vision for Mahanoro. How could I develop something that would help many while still allowing me a good balance. The idea emerged to create a Cultural Center. A place that would provide educational opportunities for children and adults, a library stocked with books, and most importantly a place where the future of Mahanoro could develop and grow in a positive environment.
“Malaria is a dream stealer!”
Second day attending the Senegal Malaria Boot Camp. After two days of traveling, meeting 33 Peace Corps volunteers serving all over Africa, Bootcamp has begun!
Today has been extremely informational and educational. This afternoon, we had the opportunity to skype Dr. David Sullivan from Johns Hopkins University. His focus has been on infectious diseases and in particular a large focus on Malaria.
We began the discussion by defining “what is malaria?”
My fellow PCV ‘s answered with academic responses such as ” Malaria is a parasite driven disease with two vectors….”
Dr. David responded, “yes, but in reality Malaria is a dream stealer!”
He is right, malaria has been stealing dreams from children in sub-Saharan Africa for decades and continues at a rapid pace. Last year alone 1 million deaths mainly affecting children under 5 and pregnant women were caused by malaria.
Some background on Malaria in Africa:
There are 5 strains of malaria, the most common and lethal one being P. Falciparum. When considering Madagascar the entire island is at risk, with hot spots being the east coast due to the seasonal rain showers and humidity.
Symptoms of Malaria are :
Within these African countries there are several different diagnosis methods.
The first and gold standard being microscopic testing, with blood smear. This allows you to know quantitatively how much parasite or infection density parasite per micro liter is in that person.
The difficulty of microscopy are that it is time consuming ( 15-20 ) mins, requires trained experts to administer and use the equipment, and of requires the equipment.
The next diagnosis method and what I believe to be a huge innovation are RDT’s ( rapid diagnostic tests ). These tests come in small packages. The plastic test has a small location to place the blood droplet after you have pricked the patient and a small space for the buffer liquid to be placed. In ten minutes the results can be seen.
The advantages are that the RDT’s are sensitive, fast, simple to perform. Most importantly require no electricity.
The disadvantage is that the RDT’s do not test for P. Vivax a strain of malaria common in Tanzania and parts of East Africa.
Some fun statistics, “In 2012, 200 million RDT’s were given out most being given to Africa!”
On a community or village level, I have personally seen the benefits of using the RDT’s and the quick results being produced. Of course like everything there is not a 100% efficacy rate, there may be false negatives or damaged tests.
While speaking with Dr. David he brought up an interesting graph showing the effect that heat has on RDT’s. Imagine for a moment a box of 300 RDT’s coming to my village on the East Coast of Madagascar. The tests have travelled days even weeks, spending maybe hours in hot humid weather. The graph showed that hot weather reduces the efficacy of the tests. Therefore it is important to keep in mind that there may be some false negatives.
The larger issue in wanting to eliminate malaria in African countries is that individuals can be asymptomatic. These asymptomatic individuals can still transmit the disease.
I think to myself, well an active approach to this problem is to test all who have cyclical fevers or are showing signs or malaria. The problem is that asymptomatic individuals show absolutely no symptoms… What to do then?
The treatment for malaria is ACT. It is an artemisinin based drug which dissolved the heme killing the parasite. There are different drugs who treat malaria stage specific illness. Ex: liver stage, red blood cell stage.
I have found a backlash from my community in taking ACT due to the fact that the second day of taking the three pill treatment, the patient feels very weak. In Mahanoro people have steered away from taking the treatment to malaria because of the controversy behind the feeling and bodily reaction when taking the pills.
This year I need to focus on working with my Community Health Workers, to educate the community about the importance of taking this drug.
I am looking forward to doing more research and learning more about what is on the horizon for Malaria Initiatives and inventions in the future. I have heard of talks of:
-a vaccine against malaria arising
-lasers killing mosquitoes carrying P.falciparum ( look it up so cool!)
-and using saliva and urine for diagnosis instead of blood samples
Things are looking up. Malaria has received much attention in the news and researchers are working hard.