By Danny Suits (Photo: PCV Austin Pruett makes an impact while educating his community on malaria)
On Wednesday, September 12, PCV Austin Pruett and I met to plan for an event in the Brong Ahafo Region. Headmaster Clement Boamah of the Stanford Basic School was present and together we agreed to demonstrate in front of the students and the parents the method to make neem cream. The following Friday, September 14th, about 20 young primary school children and about 17 mothers gathered at the school. During idle periods of the neem cream demonstration, myself, Austin, and PCV Andrielle Yost presented alternative prevention methods and basic diagnosis of malaria. The bed net demonstration taught mother’s how to properly care for their nets and the importance of sleeping under them. Andi presented the signs and symptoms of malaria and the importance of early treatment. Austin and I presented a short drama to the small children teaching them the importance of sleeping under a mosquito net. As the presentation ended about 2 hours later individual vials, supplied by the S.W.A.T. bucket, were filled and passed out to the audience while Austin spoke about the potential income from selling the neem cream. The S.W.A.T. bucket is a resource available to all PCVs in Ghana. Each regional representative has a bucket to help support malaria activities in their respective region.
All in all, it was a very efficient and effective presentation. It also presented an opportunity for me to train two volunteers on malaria awareness. Austin introduced a game similar to “tag” to the students of the basic school. The point is that if you’re the mosquito you have to buzz around and “bite” the other kids, unless they are using their friend as a shield (mosquito net). It sends a simple message that mosquitos carry dangerous diseases and can transmit them through biting, which the kids simulate by tagging each other.
Soon after on Thursday, September 24th I convened with PCV Richie Kneski and his counterpart Oscar Oppong in another village of the Brong Ahafo Region to prepare for a malaria awareness event. The event was to occur the following day, Friday the 25th. We decided on demonstrating how to make neem cream, a mosquito repellant that is made from local resources. The event took place after a PTA meeting in the Hani Junior High School courtyard. There were about 175 people in attendance; adults and JHS students were mostly present. During idle times of the neem cream preparation (boiling water, boiling leaves, stirring, cooling) Richie and I presented information on malaria prevention and awareness. Richie discussed signs, symptoms, and costs of treatment versus prevention using supplemental materials from the SWAT bucket. A bed net demonstration was completed by volunteers from the audience while we discussed bed net maintenance and care. We presented multiple techniques for properly hanging a bed net and the appropriate way to store it during the day. The audience took particular interest in the cost of ingredients and the production and sale of neem cream.
We were able to get through most of the BCS Malaria Flipchart while keeping the audience actively engaged. The high-risk, low risk game was played for about 20 minutes and seemed to capture the audience’s attention quite well. At the end of the presentation, samples of neem cream were given to those in the audience who correctly answered questions about malaria and malaria prevention. This batch of neem cream filled about 75 vials.