Thursday, April 12, 2012

Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday: My Next Big Thing

I am proud to finally reveal My Big Peace Corps Project [working title]! In addition to my work at the health center in Mahatalaky, I’m starting work on my secondary project at the end of April. So without further ado…

Phase I/Health Curriculum/CEG Mahatalaky/April – May
        April 25 – World Malaria Day Project 
Phase II/Anti-SIDA Club/CEG Mahatalaky/June – July
Phase III/Peer Health Educator Leadership Training/Fort Dauphin/September

I’ll be teaching a Health Curriculum at the middle school in Mahatalaky, starting in a couple weeks. There’s about 250 students ages 11-18 that study there. The month long curriculum will cover general health with a focus on HIV/AIDS, STI’s, and good sexual practices. There’s no traditional cringe-inducing ‘birds and bees’ talk that kids have with their parents here. Sex is not talked about at all. I hope that my curriculum will provide the students with some very basic knowledge so that they can make better decisions for themselves, and provide motivated students with leadership opportunities.

The kickoff event to my curriculum and this 6-month project is World Malaria Day, April 25. Over 90% of all deaths from malaria occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Madagascar, malaria is the number one cause of death in children under the age of 5. In fact, 1 in every 14 kids here die of malaria each year. I’ve blogged about malaria before and how shocking it is to see a child so sick from an illness that is so preventable (Malaria in Madagascar), but this month I’m joining with Peace Corps Africa to support the President’s Malaria Initiative goal of “halving the burden of malaria in 70 percent of the at-risk populations on the [African] continent (i.e., approximately 450 million residents)” by 2013. More than any other illness I’ve seen in my community here, malaria is the most preventable and the most ignored. So on April 25 in partnership with the CEG Mahatalaky, and my new Peer Health and Leadership Program, I’m organizing a community-wide event to raise awareness and promote education. We’ll be painting a mural illustrating proper net usage and creating a “Wall of Fame” to recognize the community individuals and families who practice malaria preventative measures. I’m so super excited about this project, and I can’t wait to update you all on how it goes, complete with pictures and illustrations! For now, I’ve posted the sketches of the mural’s we’ll be painting in Mahatalaky.

This is an illustration of a pregnant woman taking her malaria prevention medicine. Only 23% of pregnant women in Madagascar are receiving the necessary 2 doses of the medicine. 

This illustrates a couple things: proper net usage, and caring for a malaria-affected child.  Last year in Madagascar, 56% of children with a fever did not seek any treatment. 
After the Health curriculum ends around June, I’m starting the new Anti-SIDA Club! Until the end of the school year, the club will mostly just focus on Youth Development, i.e. hanging out, playing soccer, and talking. Hopefully we’ll have time to do a couple community activities, maybe around World Environment Day or something. I figure maybe around 30 kids will be interested enough in Health to join the Anti-SIDA club. From those 30 kids who stick around, I’m going to pick 10, the best of the best, to be trained as Peer Health Educators.

The gem of the entire project is my Peer Health Educator Leadership Training. I even gave it an acronym, PHELT, which I’m totally trying to make happen! For example, all the emails I send to my boss about it I label “PHELT Project Proposal” or “PHELT Budget.” He didn’t really get it at first, but I still hope it catches on! With the help of the NGOs Azafady ( and PSI (, the training will take place during school’s summer vacation, most likely in September, and will focus on developing the leadership and communication skills of the 10 selected students. The goal is for the trained peer educators to teach a health curriculum at the CEG again in September, just like I’m doing now in April. In this way, I hope to achieve project sustainability. At the very least, I hope that even just one student will learn some skills to help motivate them to work and educate themselves beyond the scope of the rural village they live in.

I am ridiculously excited about this project. I hope that it becomes the cornerstone of my Peace Corps experience, and I really feel like with this goal I really have a chance to make a difference in some lives here. If you are interested in anything I’ve written about in this blog or have any questions about my project or malaria, please feel free to comment or email!

I’ve told you my plan, now how will you Stomp Out Malaria in 2012?

1 comment:

  1. Monica,

    Thanks for all your work. Training local community health workers (peer educators) is definitely the best way to achieve sustainable progress. For any fellow volunteers interested in replicating Monica's murals, the images are freely available here:

    Thanks for your service,
    Matt McLaughlin
    Program Manager
    Peace Corps
    Stomping Out Malaria in Africa