3rd Extension with Society for Family Health: Ashley Kowal

Dawn arrives and as I watch the golden rays of sunshine play hide and seek through the tiny makeshift wire window, my ears listen to the familiar melodies, sounds of pounding cassava and children giggling off in the distance. However this morning the usual comforts of the morning orchestra did not play on. I awoke on this morning only to hear songs of sadness, cries of agony. Although I knew it was inevitable, I never imagined my first funeral would be standing over a three by one foot wooden coffin of the small boy who I grew to love, who would smile and allow me to find solace. While malaria was the cause of death—the community believed it to be witchcraft. The day I stood over that splintered handmade coffin, no bigger than a small moving box, watching hundreds and hundreds of people mourn the loss of an innocent child—was the day I became a change agent in the fight against malaria.
Now, as a third year extension volunteer, empowered and eager to learn I work alongside global health leaders in the fight against malaria. Society for Family Health has given me the opportunity to continue to be a change agent. So today I sit in Munkonta rural village among a group of mothers discussing how to protect their families and themselves against malaria. Regina, Communication Assistant, and I ask the mothers if they have a mosquito net. And if they do, do they sleep under it? The mothers giggle a bit, and talk amongst themselves, but then freely talk to us about how it is too hot, and itchy. They say, “we have, but we don’t like sleeping under them.” Both of us look at each other, and realize it is time. We ask do you mind if we take a look at your net? We want to help you properly hang it. Sometimes the mothers are shy to let you in their bedroom because culturally it is not acceptable, but today we are 3 for 3 in crossing the cultural barrier. One particular woman answered, “Yes, please can you help me hang it properly.” Odi we called out, as we entered into the home. The net was only hung by two corners, and appeared to be very close to the ground, making it quite uncomfortable for several people to sleep under. Regina and I worked together to show her how to properly hang the mosquito net, and ensured that when we left the home, her and her family could sleep comfortably.
As she put her child under the mosquito net, she smiled and graciously thanked us. Now we were confidently four for four.
Ashley Kowal, 3rd Extension Health Volunteer, Society for Family Health, PCV 2009-2012
Written, January 2012


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