Tagged: peace corps

Empowering young girls

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!

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/project/national-glow-camp/IMG_1291 (2)




I see Polaroids…

First day in Mahajunga. (Large city North-East Madagascar- on the Mozambique Channel)

Walking around, snapping pictures left and right. Suddenly I realize something just isn’t right. I look at my camera, “NO CARD INSERTED”. My heart breaks… I forgot the SD card in my computer, from the night before.

I never realized how important taking pictures was to me. I literally find myself walking around snapping Polaroids with my eyes, framing scenes, portraits, looking at light, appreciating the tiny details.

Things that are generic and normal to some become extraordinary and picture worthy to me.

I ran back to the bungalows in the evening and swore to myself that I would never give myself a heartbreak like the one I had just experienced ever again.

My Search for Smiles

Let me start by explaining a bit as to why I am passionate about Operation Smile’s mission. Operation Smile changes lives. I have witnessed multiple cleft lip babies pass away due to malnourshiment and starvation. Babies do not breast feed, mothers stop producing milk, and the culture of wet moms is not prominent or practiced often here on the East Coast. This leads to parents trying to find solutions on how to keep their child alive.

#308, From TSARASAMBO, Male, Simielle, STORY, Uni CleftLast year I biked over 80 km to find children or adults suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. I stumbled upon a young mother who was holding a tiny fragile baby. The baby cried and couldn’t produce tears do to how malnourished he was. I told her about the program and she agreed to meet me on the day of departure. ON the day we were supposed to meet to go up to the capital city, she never showed up. I worried, called the contact number I had with no luck. I continued with the mission and brought up 7 patients. Upon my return I biked back out to her village. Once there I spoke to the village chief of the village I found the small cleft lip baby. The mother greeted me silently and said, “My baby died two days before I was supposed to meet you”. I am not sure if we could have operated on this child, seeing that it was in such a state but I promised myself that I would try even harder to find all the cleft lip and cleft palate patients I could and bring them up to the Operation Smile missions.


Why do individuals not go for sugery? (seeing that the majority of the patients this year are older)

I think this is a great question. I can only speak for the conversations with the people I have had here. The majority are scared. The majority have not heard of Operation Smile because they live in the countryside, do not have phones, and do not have radios (electricity has also been limited to two to three hours a day in some villages). The majority of people tell me that they are scared because they believe that to fix cleft lip you take skin from your thigh and paste it on the mouth then sow it together. Not sure who this tall tale happened. Many do nt have the funds or money or strength to walk from their village all the way to a village where there is a direct brousse to Tana or Tamatave.


How am I finding them:

I start with flyers, and stories, personal stories. I have previous Op Smile attendees come with me to remote villages and vouch for all the great work Op Smile does for its patients. These “promoters” become the back bone of my search, they are my ears and eyes. Since they have been on the mission with me and we have a relationship they promote their story.


This year I used the churches, evidently you know that Madagascar has more churches then they know what to do with. I used the churches to get the message out to a wider radius. People trust churches therefore they trust the program the churches recommend, meaning they trust me.  Trust is the glue to getting people to accept coming on the mission, sometimes when I talk to cleft lip patients and their families I feel like I am begging them to come, to trust me. Wee must consider Malagasy people have long standing assumptions and stories about foreigners. These stories definitely put a wrench in my search.


After the churches I talk to the chef fokotany, the chiefs of the villages. I explain to them the details of the program and they become my spokesperson.


Lastly I bike. I bike and I walk to every village I can carrying around 50-60 flyers handing them out. Some people just stare, some people in fear and others in amazement because of the fact I am speaking Malagasy. But in all they listen. That’s the most important. Sometimes I sit and have coffee with them, talk some more and slowly but surely one person mentions, “ oh yea in that village over there, you k2now by the red building across from the church theres a cleft lip child.” So I walk over and indeed there is that beautiful smile I am looking for.


I am an education volunteer so I use my students to get the word out as well. They have been great helpers in getting indivudals to trust me and not steer away at the sight of a foreigner.

I have a currently found 11 patients that will be coming up with me in about a week for the Operation Smile Mission! I am thrilled. Change lives, Make  Smiles.6 7   

PCV’s Making Great Moves

“For Africa to move forward, we must get rid of malaria” -Bill Gates

Madagascar is implementing the PECADOM+ Project, an active case detection methodology to fight against Malaria. Peace Corps Volunteers are working in close collaboration with PMI, PNLP (National Malaria Control Program) and local health officials to eliminate malaria.

PCV Astrid’s site on the East Coast in piloting PECADOM+. During one of her community sweeps, checking mosquito nets and checking for malaria symptoms, she noticed a “Dream Banner” hung inside a mosquito net. PCV’s encourage youth to produce “Dream Banners”, which consist of drawing out their dreams on paper and placing it under their mosquito net. This reinforces the idea that if you sleep under your net you will be able to be healthy and achieve your dreams. Great Job!

For more information on PECADOM+ and the work Peace Corps Volunteers are doing on eliminating malaria.

Check  out what PCV’s in Africa are doing to stomp out malaria: http://www.stompoutmalaria.org
Astric- PECADOMPhoto Credit: PCV Astrid

The Dream Stealer.

“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 :
-cyclical fever
-large spleen


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.

With the help of global actors, private investors and local governments I believe we will eradicate malaria in Africa in 15 years!