Today was the last full day of malaria boot camp V and no less intensive than all the other days. Sessions today included visits from Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, United Against Malaria, Peace Corps Senegal DPT Vanessa Dickey, Stomp Program Coordinator Chris Hedrick and serving malaria team members from the field.
Stomp Program Manager Matt McLaughlin opened up the morning with discussing the roles and responsibilities of the new malaria team members and presenting one decentralized strategy for organizing malaria efforts in Peace Corps countries. Afterwards, Vanessa Dickey, Peace Corps Senegal’s Deputy of Programming and Training, presented about social network theory and incorporating village care groups to promote behavior change. Vanessa led a group discussion about the care group model and tips for organizing a care group.
Boot camp participants had the opportunity to hear from current malaria team members in the field. Malaria coordinators from Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zambia, and Ghana Skyped-in on a conference call to share insights from the field. They discussed some challenges they’ve encountered at their posts and offered advice to getting started.
Claudia Vondrasek, the director of the VOICES Malaria Advocacy Project, joined the group via Skype to explain the United Against Malaria global awareness campaign. She walked the participants through campaign’s key strategies such as utilizing soccer as a platform for delivering the malaria message and urging African political leaders to prioritize malaria work. Claudia also discussed ways for Peace Corps Volunteers to become involved in the campaign.
Stomp Program Coordinator, Chris Hedrick, followed Claudia on Skype. Chris spoke about the Peace Corps value proposition and differentiation. Staff and Volunteers brainstormed unique advantages they have as volunteers doing grassroots work. Volunteers broke into small groups and worked on their “elevator pitch” for partners and practiced in front of the group.
Following Chris, Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet addressed the newest malaria team members. She congratulated the Volunteers and Staff on their hard work and innovation in this unprecedented initiative. She shared her own experience of the burden of malaria when she was living in the Gambia with her husband. The young son of one of her guards fell ill with malaria one night and passed away just a few days later. The death of the young boy struck her hard as the boy was about the same age as her own son at the time. The Director said that is she proud of the important life-saving work that Peace Corps Volunteers are doing every day and encourages them to continue the fight.
PCVLs Jillian Husman and Mike Toso wrapped up this Friday with a session about using local radio as a way to promote a malaria message. They showed participants how to use Audacity, an open-source sound editing software, to create their own radio shows. Participants divided into groups and created their own 30-second malaria radio spots.