Friday, October 4, 2013

Family Planning with Marie Stopes

When I first got to my village a little less than two years ago, one of the first thing they told me is: “Drew, we need help on family planning.” And it was true, roughly 12% of eligible individuals used some type of family planning tool. There were a couple of reasons for this: 1) there are a lot of misconceptions about family planning in my village such as, if you start family planning you can’t stop. If you use family planning you won’t have enough people to work in the fields come rainy season. It’s too expensive. It’s dumb, etc.

Since this was clearly a problem we started trying to tackle it- by informing people about the misconceptions of family planning, of the dangers of having a family that’s too big, and of the changing stereotype that yes, a big family is good  but a smaller more well nourished and educated family is better.

Some people took the message to heart and our numbers climbed a bit. Other people didn’t hear the message and some just ignored it- such is life. Along the way though, I was luckily enough to meet someone (Adolphe) who works for Marie Stopes International- a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works exclusively with family planning. Their plan is pretty simple- they give family planning methods for a reduced fee and they go to different villages to teach people about them, and then do the procedure.

I started calling Marie Stopes (about once every 10 days) to see if they could get a team to my village and just look around to see if we qualify. Even though they kept saying, “We’ll call you back” and I never heard anything I kept calling because my nurses were getting kind of excited about it.

My new buddy, Adolphe and I started talking and I kept impressing the fact that family planning isn’t something my village does well. While we were at a training called Men As Partners together we decided that we would do a project together and that he would come to my village to talk about family planning to students- because we had done it with another volunteer a few times and it had turned out to be pretty successful.

The day finally came and I had scheduled to do everything at the school- they had actually said that they wanted me to come to the school for a while and that, even though I asked every other week when I could come and help, they still had not been able to find a date. Despite the fact that I had confirmed the date and time 24 hours before at 8AM the director called me to tell me we had to cancel. Apparently there were tensions regarding a family planning talk among the teachers so we could not go. Adolphe and I were super bummed out over this new development especially since he had come all the way from to village to make it work.

Never fear though, everything is useful in some way and I used this failed class as an opportunity to show how much help my village needs in family planning. Adolphe toured our facilities (not so shabby by village standards) and saw our numbers (very shabby) and talked to the nurses. As he was leaving he said he would make sure a family planning team came to my village because we really needed the help.

A few weeks later Adolphe came back with awesome news. It was great to see him even though we were in the middle of a mosquito net census. Even with the unfortunate timing, this project was important to my village and to me so I was able to do both projectsThe Marie Stopes team would be coming in a week. We informed all the important people including a lot of religious leaders who all were incredibly supportive of our endeavor and agreed to round up some women (and men) so we could talk to them about family planning 24 hours later.

The next day we spoke to roughly 75 women about family planning and Marie Stopes, we spoke to some  in the chief’s courtyard (thus helping to convince him that I actually do things) and some at the Imam’s courtyard. The pastor promised to mention us during his sermon too- all in all- some very good press.

When the team finally did come we didn’t get the numbers that Marie Stopes. Only 30ish women showed up. But now Marie Stopes comes and does this every month and they keep pushing our numbers higher. And, any improvement is a good thing.

While I had very little to do with the implementation of the actual family planning aspect of this- I was very excited to have laid the groundwork through my work with Marie Stopes. It allowed an NGO that already operates in Burkina Faso to do more sustainable work in my village. There may be a volunteer after me, and they may be really interested in family planning. Or, they might not. If they were not, any positive behavior changes might not continue if a volunteer created project fails. But, with Marie Stopes; they are an organization that has proven their competency and is unlikely to go anywhere.

It also serves as a lesson that staying at site all the time might not be the most beneficial way to go about a Peace Corps service. This is a common debate among people actually. Some people say that on order to be trusted by the community you need to be there and you need to be integrated. I agree with this statement. However, I also think that getting out of site from time to time is extremely helpful because it allows you to make connections that you wouldn’t have made otherwise. Peace Corps is partly about making connections. Group 1 has problem x. Group 2 has the skills and resources to solve problem x. PCV knows both groups and can put them in contact so they can solve the problem together- and create sustainable change.


Hopefully through continued collaboration, Marie Stopes and my village will be continue to create long term, sustainable change in my village long after I am gone.

Mosquito Net Census

Another month where I did not write any blogs. However, I did manage to accomplish a few things. Aside from the marathon, I led a mosquito net distribution in my village.

Every few years Burkina Faso does a mosquito net distribution campaign with the hopes of getting 1 mosquito net for every two people. To do this accurately you either need to a) have an extremely accurate census of every community or b) go door to door and physically count the number of people in each courtyard and go from there. We used option b. Since my major was going to be out of town and no one at my health center knows the village better than me, I was put in charge. Fun, right? Actually kind of.

The way I see it, I was brought to my village to work and I hadn’t done a whole lot of it, so I really enjoy any opportunity to help out. My major had already come up with a list of people who would help out which made it a lot easier so all I had to do was: divide them into teams, decide where in village they would go, make sure their materials were ready, tally up the results at the end of the day, monitor the results, transmit them to the district, take care of any problems, make sure all of the forms and maps were drawn correctly so that the district would be able to understand our plan if they were to supervise, and visit every team everyday to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to.

Since my village is a rather large place, I knew this was going to mean a lot of biking for me- which I was really looking forward to because it would be my first physical activity since the marathon a few weeks beforehand. We decided that the groups would leave at 6AM so I had to get to the CSPS at 530 to make sure all the forms were put together properly, that they were labeled properly, and that each group was supplied with a pen and some chalk. Then I would go back to house for a bit, eat some breakfast, and then grab my bike and see 6 teams in a few hours.

The registration process was very simple. Each team had a registration spreadsheet and a ticket book. Each family would get a ticket and each ticket had a number. The ticket would read the name of the head of the family, the number of nets they were getting, and where they were going to get the nets. The spreadsheet had the same information but the teams had to write down the ticket numbers and there were spaces for the supervisor to verify the teams’ work.

I really enjoyed the biking from team to team. I got to bike through the parts of my village that I don’t usually see and interact with people who might not come to the health center very often. I think the volunteers who got to help out with this during their first year are lucky because it allows their village to see them multiple times over the period of a few days. During each supervision I had a checklist to make sure everyone was there, had been trained in what we were doing, were counting people correctly, were filling out the forms correctly, and were giving people the correct information. Most teams were doing it right but a few had some small errors that I corrected. Often it was, “Great job! Keep up the good work!”

The real trouble came when you had people who were not home. Usually the census-takers would just find a neighbor and ask, who would find another neighbor and the two would discuss it before answering how many people lived in that courtyard. That had to be considered with cultural norms as well. For example, if a family had 12 people- but one was a teenage boy, they probably shouldn’t be sleeping with their 9 year old sister. So the teams were instructed to make sure nothing culturally inappropriate happened in the survey. Also, since the days were so long, there were routine mistakes that showed up- such as people writing the same ticket number down twice so one was skipped, or the names did not correspond with the ticket we had given them. I was pretty good about catching these errors as I saw them but one or two slipped by me.

The 6 days passed pretty slowly because I was kept so busy. Often I didn’t eat lunch until 1PM and then I had to be back at 3PM to tally all the numbers and to make sure we were on track. But I was really productive, the teams were happy, and the people who live in my village were happy. The district was especially happy, they started asking other CSPS’ why their forms weren’t as well done as ours- which is quite the compliment.

I was incredibly tired each day but with a sense of accomplishment which is always a good feeling- like a workout that hurts afterwards because you know you did a good job. And everyone else realized how hard I was working- especially since I was juggling a family planning project at the same time.

At the end of the campaign we turned all the papers in and were told that we would have the mosquito nets by the end of August- the height of malaria season.


Overall, it was a really good project to be involved in and to lead. I enjoyed collaborating with the teams and the CSPS staff to lay the groundwork for a successful mosquito net distribution.

The Marathon

Last year my buddy, David, and I decided that we would run the Burkina Faso marathon. After all, it’s a physically grueling race that takes a while to prepare for and in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers lack things to do- it helps pass the time. It is also a solid goal to work towards and then when you actually do it you know that you actually accomplished something. So we found a marathon plan online, and started training. In February we ran a half marathon (see blog post) and then kept right on training for our race in June.

Unlike the Boston marathon which is run in the spring, or other marathons that are not run during the hottest part of the year, the Burkina marathon is not like that. It’s run towards the end of hot season. So, it was hot.
As the preparation went on we found out that we would be joined by two other PCVs: Tim and Natalya. Plus a few Embassy workers as well. Some people had run marathons before and were well acclimated to the stresses of running 26.2 miles. Others had read a book about how marathons are about getting to the finish line and how it’s really a combination of mind, body, and spirit. David and I just decided to download a marathon training program, follow it and see how it went.

Surprisingly it went pretty well, for a time. We started well in advance and we even had time to run half of a marathon along the way which really bolstered our spirits (see related blog post). And then we got busy. Between projects, volunteer responsibilities and the like we both stopped running religiously and unfortunately, during the month of April we barely ran at all. Tip for anyone hoping to run a marathon: don’t take most of a month off. It doesn’t do anything positive for anyone.

Once May hit we realized that we probably should be running and making sure we could actually finish the marathon. My village saw me training again and started getting excited and cheering me on. Predictably May flew by and we soon got to June.

As we got closer to the date we found out that people were planning on biking with us to bring water, snacks, and keep an eye on us. In total there were about 5 bikers with us, including Christina. The day before the race Christina and I came into the city to pick up the running shirts and where I told a bunch of people that I was going to win the marathon (I was just joking but it was kind of funny to see how people reacted).

The night before we had a pasta party of sorts and talked about pre-race questions: Is it okay to walk? Should you wear a watch? Do you run with a buddy? And then we retired to a hotel and went to bed.

The race was due to start around 630 AM so we woke up at 430 in order to be picked up by a taxi on time and get to the race a little bit early (we had watched Run Fat Boy, Run recently and were scared of showing up late). We got there in plenty of time, warmed up a bit, and all of a sudden we were off. The course started easily enough, and just as last time all the Burkinabe took off very quickly. But after 2 miles they started dropping out. The PCV group started spreading out as well.

The race course took us around Ouagadougou a bit before sending us straight up the road to a village called Laye. Taking turns and stuff and seeing people was pretty cool because we knew we were going to be bored once the course straightened out.

After a few miles (6 or so) I realized that I was pulling my pants up with alarming regularity and, being in the middle of an extremely grueling activity I didn’t react very well. My shorts elastic had been ruined by the washing techniques of Burkina (handwashing) and the elastic had stretched to the point where it no longer fit. So rather than say something logical like oh let’s use a safety pin to pin my shorts together I said something along the lines of I need a new pair of shorts (I had brought 2 but the other pair was across Ouaga). So, Christina, being the amazing person that she is said she would bike back and get my other pair of shorts and I would stop and change somewhere when she met up with me again.

For a little while I was running with another volunteer who was biking but then we got separated so I ended up running without food or water and only getting 1/3 of a liter every 5 kilometers (not as much as you need when running in an almost desert).  But, I kept going and kept pressing forward. I found another running buddy who had done the marathon before and we kept each other company for a bit. Then, the volunteers who were handing out water decided to leave because the leaders had already passed. So, the further along I got, the less water there was.

Eventually it got to the point where I was walking, had extreme tingling in my extremities, had stopped sweating, and was seeing double. I collapsed by the side of the road and realized that I should probably take a rest because someone would come past me sooner or later with water and some form of snack because I thought I was severely dehydrated. As luck would have it, Christina found me not long after and gave me fluids and bananas. I felt a bit better but not enough to keep going so I got put into a minivan and driven to the finish line. All the other volunteers finished and they were very happy.

Understandably I was pretty bummed. I hadn’t finished the marathon and I hadn’t crossed the finish line. It was not a fun situation to be in. But, after we got back to Ouaga I was talking to someone who worked at the embassy who said, “I can’t believe that course- it was too long.” I replied, “by how much?” “1.1 miles”, she replied.

And I felt great. Despite collapsing by the side of the road, and throwing a tantrum over my shorts I had still managed to finish the marathon because someone had incorrectly designed the route. Only in West Africa would that happen.

In conclusion, I ran a marathon. It was hot, it wasn’t pretty, and I didn’t cross the finish line. But I made it 26.2 miles. Maybe I’ll try and run the Boston marathon one day. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Malaria

April 25th was World Malaria Day which made all of April: Malaria month. Fun fact: 90% of all Malaria- related deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa.

So while Malaria is bad and in everybody’s best interest not to get it- here are some things Burkina Faso does to help get rid of Malaria. They publish flyers in several languages talking about what malaria is and how to best protect themselves. They subsidize malaria medications throughout the country (actually I’m not sure where the money comes from- someone subsidizes it). And, they do bed net distribution campaigns throughout the country every two years or so. The bed nets come from other parts of the world though the government says to distribute them.

Mosquitos love to bite at dusk, dawn, and throughout the night. So, sleeping under a mosquito net seems like a pretty good way to protect oneself. Unfortunately, not everybody sleeps under a mosquito net- some people use it to filter water, some people go fishing with it, some people use it as decoration and, of course, some actually sleep under it. But, to really help get rid of malaria people need to engage in their own health.

The signs of malaria are pretty vague- headache, fever, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, that kind of stuff. And there are an infinite number of other maladies that have THE EXACT SAME SIGNS! Of course when malaria progresses and becomes, as they say in Burkina, “grave” (bad.)- it quickly singles itself out through seizures, urine the color of coke, anemia- and other less-than-awesome things.

The vagueness at the outset means that misdiagnosing comes into the equation at some point. Some nurses (not all because that would be generalizing), if they see someone with a fever will automatically say its malaria and will prescribe the necessary medication- and then, just to be on the safe side will prescribe an antibiotic also just in case they were wrong. While covering all the bases is good, it will invariably lead to resistance to the medications.

To aid in this, Rapid Diagnostic Tests have been gifted to Burkina Faso. These tests work much like a pregnancy test but rather than urine it asks for a drop of blood. Then, if the parasite is in the blood you get two lines which mean, “Congratulations, you have malaria!”

The problem with this is that some nurses don’t believe in the test and think that it’s wrong.  One time I walked into the consultation room and saw that they were prescribing malaria medication and…

Me: Oh cool, malaria case?
Nurse: Yep.
Me: So the TDR (rapid test) was positive?
Nurse: No it was negative. But it was wrong.
Me: Huh?

Now this isn’t to condemn the nursing system in Burkina Faso, far from it in fact. The Minister of Health has published a chart which all health centers are required to hang up (and follow). Its steps are: 1) Someone comes in displaying signs of malaria. 2) Do the rapid test 3) If positive then 4) Treat for malaria OR 3) If negative then 4) Look for something else.


Another problem is that the stock of rapid tests is not guaranteed. Indeed, more often than not, the rapid tests are not available in my health center so we cannot use them.

While Peace Corps volunteers typically focus on preventative measures, there are many ways to fight malaria- including more effective detection and treatment of malaria. 

FARNed


Since I last posted in February, I’ve been fairly busy. First, I gave a workshop to 20 nurses from different parts of the district regarding nutrition and a specific model the Peace Corps uses to help stop malnutrition in villages. It’s an interesting problem- the Minister of Health has said that the care of moderately malnourished children is the responsibility of the community and not the responsibility of the state- different from the previous protocol. Also, the current practice of giving children Plumpy Sup/ Plumpy Nut: a peanut butter like substance that comes in a shiny package and everyone calls “chocolate” isn’t working in my village. So the MCD (medecin chef de district- head doctor of the district)used something I had said during a presentation I gave to another doctor within our district, and set up a training to teach other nurses how to do it with the expectation that they would implement the model in their villages. The pilot for this program was to be conducted in three villages: Poa, Kokologo and, Sabou. The model is called a HEARTH in English and a FARN in French- means the same thing though. So the district supplied the materials, and I supplied the know-how and things were good.

The HEARTH model is built off of the philosophy that people learn best by doing and doesn’t take anything for granted. Every day for 12 days a group of 10-15 mothers meets at a central location and make an enriched porridge and talk about a health subject. Our model was going to use 3 groups of 5 mothers in different locations. The first 6 days are led by the group leader while the last 6 are led by the participants themselves. It’s a way for them to show what they learned during the first 6 days. Each day the mothers feed their children the enriched porridge and they start to see what the child likes and what they don’t like. The porridge is actually pretty easy to make. It’s made up of some type of flour (corn, millet, etc.), some type of protein (peanut butter, beans, dried fish, etc.), oil, sugar or salt, and some fruit if it’s available. While there are recipes it’s really easy to mix and match which makes the entire process a lot easier.

When we got back to site, things became a little more difficult. The district had arranged to pay the participants and while that served as a strong motivator to sign up, it didn’t assure that all the mothers would go everyday and it didn’t promote sustainability. So we found the mothers whom we identified as “positive deviants”- women who live at the same socio-economic level as the majority of the village, but rather than having malnourished, sick kids- they have kids who are well nourished and generally healthy. We were essentially looking for people who don’t leave their kid alone at home for long periods of time, know what to feed their kids, know when to go to the health center for treatment, and know/implement healthy behaviors. And then we identified women who have moderately malnourished children and would benefit from this project. We also told them we would be paying them. Of course, they said yes.

After that we informed our community health agents that they were going to go to each of the houses and observe the practices of the mothers at their house. This is so we knew what the mothers did well and what they did not do and then we could pick specific health topics that the women needed to know about. Our topics were Malaria, Hygiene, Nutrition, Family Planning, Pre-natal Consultations and, Exclusive Breastfeeding.

While this was happening we told all the women to come to the health center for consultations- there we gave every kid a de-parasiting agent, iron supplements, and vitamin A. We also asked every mother if there was anything wrong with their kids- and if there was, we treated them.

The point of the HEARTH is that it has amazing potential for sustainability and doesn’t need a Peace Corps volunteer for the implementation. It’s made using locally available ingredients, the education is all about things nurses are supposed to teach people about anyway, and it’s a way to make the community better starting from the base of the community. However, my village seemed almost afraid of doing something without me. So, we would sit down and talk about what we had to do, we’d make a schedule and then if I left for two days to deal with something else I would come back and it wouldn’t be done. So, that was slightly frustrating and more than slightly confusing. This slight issue made it so we had to start after the other two villages had already finished- not the worst thing ever but also not sending a good signal to the district.

Finally, after all the waiting, trying to schedule and, planning we were ready to go. I was fortunate to have Christina, another health volunteer come to my site for the two weeks of the HEARTH which made things a lot easier. As day 1 arrived, we got ready to weigh all the kids. The midwives were going to go to each group and weigh all the kids. However, we did not anticipate that the women would get to the courtyard early, and thus finish early. So, even though we had left earlier than the start time we still got to one group after the kids had already eaten and because of that- couldn’t weigh them. We decided to weigh them the second day instead. Aside from that, the first day went pretty well. Christina and I decided to go to 1 group per day, meaning that we could visit each group 4 times and we would have a chance to bond (in moore because none of the mothers spoke French)with the mothers and the kids. Predictably, some of the kids were scared to the point of tears, and others just screamed, turned and ran as fast as their legs could carry them. Some regarded us with indifference (though those were primarily the malnourished ones).

And for 12 days that was our schedule. Wake up super early, head to a courtyard, hang out with moms and kids, take some pictures, give health advice, leave- and then watch Dexter or Castle (both pretty decent shows). Every other afternoon we had a meeting with the leaders explaining the recipes and sensibilization topics for the next two days.

We also found time to plan a mural and tell a guy to cement a wall (picture a condom saying “make it so” with the insignia from Star Trek: The Next Generation), to try to plant trees (we showed up but no one else did), and to try and start a correspondence program between herbal medicine doctors in the states and those here in Burkina Faso.

At the end of the 12 days, we weighed all the kids again and after reviewing the data we found that, on average kids gained 513 grams (roughly a pound). Which means that, mathematically, it was a complete success.

I was recently asked to see if we were going to do the project again- because the peace corps wants to video the whole thing. I would like to do it again, I just don’t know if people will want to be paid again. I certainly hope not because 1) I disagree with paying someone to get involved in their own betterment and 2) Where is the money going to come from?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I ran half of a marathon

No, not a half marathon, half of a marathon. And it came about in a bit of an odd way.

Things here in Burkina Faso aren’t like things in the US (duh) but here it’s common to not know something is happening until the day before or the day of an event. Luckily, I found out about this event a week in advance mainly because I happened to be in the capitol city and saw the flyers plastered everywhere. Apparently Coris Bank decided to celebrate themselves for a week and would finish off the festivities with a marathon that started at 6AM and would lead runners to all of the Coris Bank branches in Ouaga. Since I am already training for a marathon (May) and I was going to be in the city the weekend of the marathon I sat down with my running buddy (David)and asked, “Do you want to run a marathon next Sunday?” To which he replied, “Absolutely!”

And with that, our brilliant plan was born. With David who had run a 100km race and myself who had never run further than 10 miles we thought it would be a pretty awesome idea. So, we looked up important things like, how much to hydrate (a fair amount), what to eat the night before (pasta is good), and whether it was a good idea to take laxatives before the race so we didn’t have to go mid-race (it’s not). But with a week left to go before our marathon debut we were feeling confident, successful, and that the only thing left to do was actually run the race which was more of a formality anyway. 

About 24 hours after our premature feeling of triumph we decided that running a full marathon was not a good idea and that the risk of hurting ourselves was just too high at that point in time. So we decided to run half which is really the perfect amount. Not too far that you get tired, but enough so that you feel accomplished. With the total amount of running that we had to do divided by two, we were back to feeling good.

The next week was a whirlwind of training that involved a lot of running, a fair amount of abs, quite a few push-ups, and not a small amount of biking. The hardest part was putting together a playlist and figuring out where the marathon started (we thought we had a pretty solid idea).

Finally the day before our event came and we celebrated by making some awesome lasagna, garlic bread, and salad. Over the course of this we met another volunteer, Zach, who actually is a runner and when he figured out we were carbo-loading he asked what it was for and once he heard we were running 13.1 miles he immediately said, “I’m in.” Add to this a fourth volunteer who, when we heard what we were doing, promptly saved all of our lives by volunteering to bike alongside us with water, homemade granola bars (we made those), our wallets, and cell phones. Pat was the man of the hour.

At 4:45AM the next morning we were up, dressed, and trying to make sure that we would not have any digestive trouble over the next few hours. Since neither David nor myself knew how long this was going to take or even where we were going we didn’t want any unexpected surprises. At 4:50AM we were outside climbing into a cab with our two new members to the team, and at 5:20 we were pulling up to a Bank of Africa and telling the cab driver, “This isn’t Coris Bank.” We made it eventually though and we registered, went to the bathroom one more time and were ready to go at 6AM on the dot.

However, the race was not ready to go and we hung around making jokes, listening to music, and looking at other people’s running shoes (Nike Frees, boat shoes, tevas, and flip flops). Eventually around 6:40 someone fired the gun and we were off!

All of the Burkinabe promptly took off like a group of collective bats out of hell. And while the seasoned runner on our team took off as well, we had expected that. Finally David and I had been passed by nearly everyone and we were holding at the end of the pack. The logic of this move was that everyone else would tire out after a mile or two and when they did we would slowly and steadily start kicking some butt. And as we pressed on we occasionally passed people who would promptly start sprinting to pass us again. We did start a system of passing people on either side and once we passed them David and I would double high five, a move we called the “Eiffel tower”.

So, the race kept on, we kept Eiffel towering, the sun kept climbing, the playlist kept playing, and… “Wait, was that an aid station?” Pat, David and I were all visibly floored by the presence of water, bananas, oranges, and sponges along with a sign that said congratulations you’ve gone 5km! Well splendid, we quickly found out that we did not need all the water we had bought nor the granola bars. But Pat stayed with us anyway.

Not long after this, a pair of policemen on a motorcycle came up to us and said, “You’re going to want to speed up a little.” We thought we had been doing a pretty good job. We were moving at a comfortable pace, we were passing people, and people had been cheering for us as we ran by; yet, here were these two police officers saying “get your butts in gear.” With a brief look behind us to confirm that we could not see any runners behind us (they had either slowed way down and started walking or dropped out already) we sped up and tried to run down the next guy.

As time went on we ran on main roads, and police officers were there stopping traffic. We often ran by giving them high-fives, cheering at intersections, and motivating the runners we passed. Though something about being passed by two white guys who couldn’t stop cheering “Whoooooooo” at intersections and high-fiving must have been so demoralizing because everybody we passed ended up quitting. We were having a lot of fun though.

Finally we ended up hitting 13.1 miles after an hour and 45 minutes. Zach was already waiting for us but David and I had surpassed our goal time and were feeling awesome that we had actually run half of a marathon.

We then went and played in the annual softball tournament to nicely round out the day.

The marathon in May will probably be a lot hotter but, it’s only what we did plus an extra 13.1 miles. Game on.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What I've Been Doing


I guess a good question to answer is- after being on vacation what does a Volunteer do at the beginning of the second year? And, the answer to that is: much the same as I was doing the first year. The most frustrating aspect is that before I went to go work at PST (training) I had wrapped up all my projects, and then I went home; so, when I got back to site and I started to think about projects again (that took a couple days) my first thought was, “What was I working on?” But seriously, it’s really easy to lose momentum on things you weren’t quite sure what you were doing. But, as I’ve been able to reconstruct my projects in progress so far:

1)      Tree Planting: Ironically, the project that I’ve scoffed at the most seems to be the one I’m poised to make the most progress on. I don’t understand it either. But, my counterpart is pretty motivated to do this (I think tree planting might be part of his yearly quota as well) and we’re already well on our way to getting seeds, dirt, sand, and compost.
2)      It’s Condom Time- and HIV/AIDS mural: This project came as a joke until I figured out that it was actually within the realm of possibilities. It basically consists of the Power Rangers holding different condom brands and saying, “It’s condom time!” I tried to think of something involving Captain Picard but I’m not quite sure if, “Make it so” translates well. This would involve some sensibilizations about preventing HIV/AIDS and using family planning methods as well.
3)      World Map- The principal at the middle school/high school in my village had a peace corps volunteer once upon a time who made a huge world map on a building, and he wants to do the same thing here. I told him that if he found the money (preferably by asking the Parent/student organization), I’d get the mural painted.
4)      Classes at the middle school/high school about health topics- Pretty self explanatory. Those don’t require much planning- I just need a schedule of when to show up. But it’ll probably be talking about things like family planning, malaria prevention, etc.
5)      Classes at elementary schools- like the preceding project idea. Only a little more simplistic. Probably more hygiene and less sex related.
6)      CPR- This is actually turning into an incredibly frustrating project despite its incredibly simplistic idea. It also went from completely free to really expensive in the blink of an eye thanks to a rule that I’m not even sure applies in this case. However, we’re moving along a little bit at a time. 
Every 3 or 4 months I have to write this up for the Peace Corps anyway- but this is a little more entertaining. Copy and Paste: here I come!