Teta village

Teta Village Malaria Day

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Michael Lessmeier is a rural education volunteer in Central province of Zambia teaching English at Teta Basic School for students in Grades 8 and 9.  Michael observed a high absentee rate of students caused by malaria and decided to work with the community to address this issue.

PCV Michael Lessmeier distributed nets to his community.

First,  Michael met with the local village leader,  Mr. Davis, who is addressed as the headman.  Mr. Davis instructed the neighbor health committee (NHC) volunteers  to complete a census to determine the number of households and bed spaces. Data from the census concluded that many households did not have enough nets for the sleeping spaces.  Michael also surveyed  550 students in grades 3 to 9  and found less than 10% had slept under a bednet  the previous night.

Alarmed by this information, the headman, clinic staff and neighborhood health committee (NHC) members gathered in October to determine the best course of action. They recognized the need not only for more bednets but more education on malaria and prevention. To begin this process Michael submitted a Small Project Assistance grant (SPA) to purchase the 500 nets needed for the village.  Then he worked with NHC members and teachers at Teta school to develop a malaria program.

On November 15th, Michael conducted a workshop  for eight  NHC volunteers on how malaria is transmitted, signs and symptoms, prevention methods and ways to repair a bednet.  One of the teachers from the school assisted in translating the information. The purpose of this training was to have these volunteers teach this information at antenatal clinics and under five clinics.

NHC members demonstrating net repairs.

On November 16th, Teta Malaria Day was held at the health post facility near the school.  Each household in the village was eligible to receive a bednet, and an adult member of the household had to attend the malaria information program in order to receive the net.  The training information was provided in four stations:  transmission, signs and symptoms, prevention and how to properly hang the net. A station for net repair was done by NHC members. A teacher from Teta School conducted these 10 minute sessions in Bemba, the local language.  These information sessions were conducted in groups of 25 people.

When all the information sessions were completed, the nets were distributed to each household member from the census.  The package of each net was opened and given to the household member and an information brochure on malaria was included with each net.

Two members of the neighborhood health committee are also trained in maternal and child care, and affiliated with the  Safe Motherhood Action Group (SMAG) assisted in the day’s events.  These members  conducted brief talks on the importance of attending antenatal and the benefits to for the mother and baby.  Michael also had assistance from other PCVs, Andrew Bernhard, Courtney Gandy and Jennifer Parks in distribution, health information and bed net repairs.

The Teta Village Malaria Day was a great success with 500  families receiving much needed bednets and malaria prevention information.  Mr. Davis, the village headman, said he was “very grateful to Michael and Peace Corps” for helping with malaria prevention.

Hammock from Ngora

Income Generation Through Mosquito Net Hammocks

Aigi Mary-Immaculate and Obote Denis showing off the hand-sewn bags that each hammock comes with.

Finding employment is difficult for youth in Ngora parish, located in eastern Uganda. Many haven’t completed their schooling and do not have the financial means to do so. The Ngora Parish Harmack Company is a community based organization founded in February 2011 by PCV Matthew Boddie and his counterpart Denis Obote. The goal of the organization is to help students continue their education by providing life skills training and assisting with school fees. Among these trainings, the NPHC teaches business skills and the fundamentals of microfinance to local youth.

Boddie is currently working with NPHC on a project that teaches youth to produce various types of hammocks, including some with built-in mosquito nets, to sell to local Ugandans, tourists, and companies. In addition to learning invaluable technical skills, the youth also manage the company’s profits. Selling the hammocks to local clinics that face bed shortages, the project both addresses healthcare needs and creates a sustainable income-generating project.

The NPHC decided on the “Off the Ground, Under a Net”  initiative after realizing the number of children who sleep on the floor, without a mosquito net. It is their mission in Ngora to provide every youth, especially those under the ages of 5, with a bed and a net to sleep under. The organization is able to help these children by using left over material to make additional mosquito-net sewn hammocks and selling them at a reduced price.

To date, about 63% of the hammocks sales come from companies and tourists, and 37%  from locals. The NPHC is trying to market more to locals through sensitization campaigns about the foreign type of bed and malaria prevention.

NPHC staff work through the night to complete a large order for a Ugandan resort. Several companies within Uganda buy NPHC hammocks for re-selling.

Currently, the organization is run completely by the youth who were trained in its first year. The project has now received funding from the U.S. Embassy Small Grants Office  to scale up their project.  The grant will be enough to create a two-room building complete with sewing machines, computers, and solar power.  Once complete, the NPHC will start to teach the skills they have learned to other at-risk youth within the area.

To date, the NPHC has sold 473 hammocks. 7 kids have been sent off to a full years’ education, one of whom was able to purchase a laptop for his college education.  Once the scaling up is complete, NPHC is hoping to increase their production 5-fold.  Stay tuned, because the NPHC also hopes to start selling globally soon!