Health Volunteers Stomp It Out at IST

This October in the town of Musanze, in the shadows of Rwanda’s volcanoes (pictured above), 21 health volunteers participated in a ten-day in-service training and counterpart workshop. These volunteers, nicknamed Health 4, are currently living in 11 of Rwanda’s 30 districts, working closely with health center staff to address the needs of their communities.

The group had a specific request for their malaria training at IST: to learn more about the global malaria burden, malaria in Rwanda, and specific ways PCVs can get involved with malaria outreach in their communities. Rwanda’s malaria volunteers developed a presentation addressing these topics, including an introduction to the many resources available to PCVs through Stomping Out Malaria in Africa and the malaria messages being promoted by the Ministry of Health and the National Malaria Control Program.

In addition to these topics, we covered the basics of what Peace Corps Volunteers need to know about the science and history of malaria. Using the Focus In Train Up Curriculum, we introduced the volunteers to transmission, effects, response, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and facilitated a discussion of what PCV communities should understand about malaria.

The IST covered a wide variety of other health topics, including family planning, workplace integration, nutrition, adult learning, and cooperatives. At the end of IST, the volunteers were joined by 38 selected health center counterparts for a three day workshop on behavior change communications and project design and management. We malaria volunteers helped facilitate these workshops, helping the PCV-counterpart teams to develop project and activity plans.

The PCVs were well prepared for this IST. During their first three months at site, they conducted Community Health Assessments to learn more about health practices in their communities, from the prevalence of malnutrition to the availability of HIV/AIDS testing and counseling services. As part of this assessment, the PCVs learned more about malaria practices at their sites, including availability of malaria testing and treatments and insecticide-treated nets; the history of IRS sprayings; net usage and care practices; and community perceptions of malaria.

In our discussions, we learned that several PCVs had seen IRS sprayings at their sites. One mentioned a stock of nets at her health center waiting for the next universal coverage campaign. Another is planning to incorporate malaria lessons into her health club as one of her first activities. We hope that this IST gave the PCVs the knowledge and the materials necessary to begin implementing malaria projects at their sites. We are looking forward to seeing the good work they will do, and hope we can continue to assist them.