Jovens Unidos No Trabalho para Oportunidade e Sucesso—Youths United in the Work for Opportunity and Success is a co-ed club that uses different forms of communication to transmit information to students and communities. The club is open for all interested students. Projects involve journalism, photo journalism, music, art, and/or theater. Through these mediums participants discuss HIV/AIDS, malaria, gender equality, the importance of school, and many other topics. For a number of years, Peace Corps Volunteers have been working with JUNTOS groups to promote and share healthy practices through discussion, activities, and games. Recently, volunteers have focused their activities with a malaria and HIV/AIDS theme.
On May 20th, PCVs David Marshall, Dylan Campbell, and Ian Pray held an exchange between their JUNTOS groups in Estaquinha, Sofala province, involving over 50 students from 3 towns. Some of the Volunteers started their own JUNTOS group and some approached already established JUNTOS groups in their communities. They organized this exchange to focus on malaria issues for World Malaria Day. The Volunteers asked Pedrito, a nurse from the local health center, to visit the groups and share some information. He agreed and talked to the groups about malaria and how we can best protect ourselves. He also answered questions from participants. The audience was very engaged and curious about malaria and how to protect themselves. Students also presented their own malaria material in the form of skits and discussions. The event took place on the school grounds where young kids, other students, teachers, and community members gathered around to watch the skits and presentations. The presentations were presented in a mixture of Portuguese and Endow (the local language). By the end of the afternoon, several hundred people had gathered. Two students from Mangunde community presented a poem about malaria. Speaking directly to the Anopheles mosquito, which is the mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria, they students begged her to stay away from their families and communities. Then these two students directly addressed the people gathered, pleading for them not to allow this disease into their communities.
On Saturday, April 21st, PCV Michelle Crothers coordinated an exchange between three JUNTOS groups from neighboring towns at the Chongoene, Gaza province, hospital. At 7 a.m., the two groups performed their skits about malaria to the crowd of people waiting to be treated at the hospital. Afterwards, a student from the third group gave a lecture about malaria transmission and treatment. Both skits and the lecture were presented in Changana, the local Bantu language of Chongoene, and evoked much laughter and emotion from the 30+ people watching (not including participants from the youth groups). The skits and lecture described the symptoms of malaria and addressed the importance of going to the hospital, rather than attributing it to witchcraft and visiting the local healer. They stressed the importance of being proactive in malaria prevention, principally, cleaning their yards of standing water and using a mosquito net at night. They also emphasized the importance of taking extra precautions to protect those at greatest risk: children under 5 and pregnant women (this also gave a few of the boys the opportunity to stuff their shirts and put on wigs and skirts—a favorite and necessary component of any high school skit in Mozambique). The JUNTOS group of Chongoene fittingly ended their skit by proclaiming: “JUNTOS na luta contra a malaria!” meaning, “together in the fight against malaria!” (which is also a play on words, since “juntos” both means “together” and is also the name of the youth group organization).