Big Things Are Happening!

Hey everyone,

Sorry I haven’t been updating my blog. After Kennet died and I wrote that blog, I was pretty much done with blogging for a while. Done with writing, period. I tried to journal about it but it was too painful, and then I fell out of the habit and haven’t really journaled since. It’s been two months now, and the wound is still pretty fresh for all of us. But I’m not here to write about that right now, it’s time to update you all on the good stuff that’s been going on!

First of all, my counterpart and I have been hard at work registering women for my women’s group. In November and December we were busy most mornings of the week going house to house, talking to women about the new group and registering them if they were interested. We would start out at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning and explain to the women that they would meet once or twice a month with 15 of their neighbors to talk about different health topics. They would elect a leader among themselves who would come to me and my counterparts to learn a lesson, then the “Leader Mother” will bring it back to their area to teach the small groups. To be eligible, the women had to have children under 5 or be pregnant. It was a very interesting experience, going to these house early in the day, seeing them bustling with activity and talking to the mothers. We would ask questions like “How many children do you have?” and “What is the name and age of the youngest?” Something I noticed was they tended to have more children the further out of town we went. I think nine children was the highest answer I got. I also got lots of funny names when I about the youngest (I asked this question so when I go back for individual visits I can ask to see the child health records of ____). They always gave me the Christian name of their child, which the child was rarely ever called. One woman had to think about it for 30 seconds, then ask her husband what the name was of their newborn son. Clearly, she only called him Kwabena or some other day name and not his official name. Some amusing names I got were Beyonce, Wonderful, and Wisdom. So far we have gone through half of the town, and have 75 participants. We took a break for the holidays and I went to Kumasi for Christmas, but while I was there I met with a man who agreed to make batik material that says “Adabokrom Care Group” for the Leader Mothers to make uniforms with, so they feel more official and legitimate. Plus, it’s just kind of cool. As soon as I get the material I’ll post a picture here.

At the end of November and beginning of December my friend and closest neighbor, Tristan and I started working on another project called Night Watch. Night Watch was created by another PCV as a way to educate her village about malaria. Basically, she created a six week program where each night someone would get on the town PA system (used for daily announcements, the modern town crier) and read off a short statement about malaria. The first week they would talk about ‘What is Malaria?’ and read the same statement every night for one week, always concluding by telling everyone to sleep under a treated bed net every night. The second week the topic is Signs and Symptoms, followed by Malaria in Children, Malaria in Pregnancy, Treatment, and Prevention. Tristan and I both wanted to do Night Watch, but instead of using the PA systems in our towns we decided to take it to the next level—radio. When planning for it, we decided the original script, while containing lots of good information, was a bit dry for radio, and began to brainstorm what we could do instead. Ghanaians love role plays; we use roll plays a lot in education, and the big project we are tied to, BCS, uses them a lot in mass media education on television, so we decided to create a roll play drama about malaria. We created a fictional family, and each week they discuss the topics already established in the original Night Watch. It was really fun to write the script, and even more fun to record it. We had a teacher translate it into twi and got various people from Tristan’s town to read the parts for recording. Then we took it to the radio station, which agreed to play it on air three times a day: once in the morning before the news, once midday, and once in the evening before the news to catch the most listeners. The station is very widely broadcast in the area, and we estimate that about 300,000 people have access to it, so we are hoping to each a lot of people with this project!

Here is the script for week one:

Mother: Akwaaba, Kofi. Ayekoo.

Father: Yaa yie. It was very hot at farm today, I think I’ll get malaria from the sun.

Kid 1: Dad! Everyone knows you can only get malaria from a mosquito.

Mother: Yes, Kofi, the nurses at the baby weighing today said that malaria is only transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito.

Father: Saa? So, I cannot get malaria during the day?

Kid 2: No, father, we learned in school that the mosquitos carrying malaria only bite when it is dark outside.

Father: Saa? So, how can I prevent it?

Mother: Don’t worry, prevention is easy! All you have to do is use bug repellent and wear long sleeves when outside at night, and ALWAYS sleep under a treated bed night every night!

It’s time to get serious Bia.

Every family member.

Every night.

Under a treated net.

Some of you might also remember that a while back I worked with my local Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Committee to write a grant application to Ghana WASH for new boreholes in town. Our grant was approved, and yesterday Ghana WASH brought us two new borehole pumps! We are installing them tomorrow, so I will take and post pictures tomorrow or Friday. Now there will be two more places in town people will have access to clean drinking water, which is especially vital now that we are in the dry season.

Next up, Tristan and I will be working on the World Map Project in each of our towns. It is pretty much like it sounds—we will paint large maps of the world on schools in our towns and start to teach the children about geography. It’s mostly for fun, but honestly a lot of people, adults included, have no perception of how big the world is, how small Ghana is in comparison to America, how far away America is, etc. And when I say I’m from Colorado, all I ever get is blank stares, so it will be nice to be able to show people where I come from!

I also hope to start a bed net distribution in town soon. When I was going house to house, a lot of people asked me how they can get more mosquito nets for their houses. Ghana Health Services was supposed to provide every household 1 treated bed net for every two people, but a lot of the households in my town got skipped. Adabokrom recently became a new district capital, so we have a new local government in town, and I hope to meet with the man in charge soon and talk to him about helping me with this project.

I have been helping out at the local baby weighings recently. We have about 200 women come from our town and the surrounding villages each week to have their children weighed and vaccinated. Since so many come, there is a rush to get things done, and the man who records the weight hasn’t been plotting the numbers on the graphs, making the whole thing pointless in my opinion because there is no visual representation for the women to see how their children are growing compared to the average. So, I have taken it upon myself to plot each graph for the women and teach them how to read the graphs so that they can see if their child is overweight, underweight, or growing normally. They also have been taught that a line going up is good, a line that has been flat is dangerous because the child hasn’t been growing from month to month, and a line going down is very bad, meaning the child is losing weight. A local health worker and I will probably start to pull mothers aside that have children with dangerously low weights and talk to them about doing a program called PD Hearth with us, which is where we would teach the mothers about nutrition and how to prepare more nutritious meals for low costs to help their children start to grow.

When we were in training, our trainers warned us around the one year mark most PCVs have a bit of a mid service crisis. My one-year in country anniversary is in about two weeks, and I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride and I’m very excited about everything that’s happening. Maybe the crisis will come in April, when I’ve been at site for one year, but things are finally looking up and I’m having a great time being a PCV in Ghana!