Peace Corps Volunteers don’t wait around for formal settings in which to work and educate kids about malaria! Mozambique PCVs take their messages to the playground, the classroom, or the street to capture a youth audience and teach them about malaria prevention in fun ways.
Laura Melle is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lichinga, Niassa province, incorporates malaria lessons into her English club activities (English is the third or fourth language for most of these children). They discuss daily actions they can carry out to prevent malaria, such as always using their bednet and going to the hospital immediately upon experiencing symptoms of malaria. They also played the game pictures, which combines math skills with malaria prevention lessons and discusses transmission, which people are most vulnerable, treatment for pregnant women, and the importance of using bed nets every night. Laura says “I spend a lot of time with the kids from my neighborhood, they are in my yard every day waiting for me to come home from work and we draw and play games. I saw malaria as an opportunity to work in an important theme for our daily drawing and to try to expand theyr creativity, plus, malaria is really bad at that time of year, around April.”
On April 20th, 2012, PCV Anna Tremaine (blonde, holding piñata string) and Mozambique Stomp Coordinator Scooter Walsh gathered the 15 neighborhood kids to teach them about malaria transmission, symptoms, and treatment, ending the impromptu lesson with the chance for all the kids to hit their mosquito piñata and take some of the candy from inside. To make the piñata, Scooter and Anna dipped some strips of paper into a flour and water mixture and covered them over a balloon. They used cardboard to construct the wings and the stinger. The kids loved it! No one of them had ever seen a piñata before.
Anna: “It’s devastating the impact malaria has here in Mozambique and it’s devastating to watch it impact these kids. Our teaching the neighborhood kids might not do a lot, but every little thing makes a difference. It’s also great to push them to learn in different ways, for example, stressing the importance of understanding why we do things, such as use a mosquito net, rather than just regurgitating information. So they hopefully in the future they will understand why using nets is beneficial and want to use them, rather than just knowing they should.”
During the weekly gathering of orphans and vulnerable children to their community “youth club” with Associação Juntos Avançamos para o Desenvolvimento Comunitario (AJADC) (Association Together in the Advancement for Community Development) in Mecanhelas, Niassa province, PCV Vicente Rodriguez took the opportunity to lead a session on malaria. Vicente taught roughly 80 children between the ages of 5 and 14 what malaria is, how it is transmitted, and how to best protect themselves. Visiting PCV Anna Tremaine helped out by demonstrating incorrect (such as using it for a coat) and correct ways to use a mosquito net.
Vicente says, “I got interested in malaria work because I do home visits with my community health worker colleagues and on those visits I saw that so few people actually use bed nets out there, so it inspired me to encourage use. We have a youth club that meets weekly, so I saw that as an opportunity to talk to the kids, to encourage the kids to talk to their parents about how important using these nets is.”