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Published: April 8th 2013
Since my last post four months ago, a lot has changed here in Burkina Faso. Here's a brief update:
At the end of January, I visited another volunteer's site to celebrate Mouloud, a Muslim holiday. We ate so much rice and sauce, dance until our feet were sore, and laughed and talked with people in the village. It was an amazing time to see such lively culture where everyone was so full joy. The volunteer's village has a beautiful mosque taken care of by a family originally from that village, but now lives in Cote d'Ivoire. They put on a huge party for us with tons of food and music and entertainment, and it was really one of the best holidays I've celebrated in this country so far.
In February, I was asked to attend a conference in Senegal for the Stomp Out Malaria in Africa program, an initiative of Peace Corps. It was an amazing opportunity and I am so glad I was selected to go! There were 31 Peace Corps volunteers, including staff, from 16 African countries. Even a representative from the National Malaria Control Program from The Gambia came! For two weeks, we had intensive sessions from 9am to 9pm on the science behind how malaria is transmitted, ways to prevent it, and projects we can implement in our own countries. We even got to Skype with CEOs and Program Coordinators from USAID, NetWorks, Malaria No More, and tons of other incredible organizations. We also discussed case studies from other countries to see how we could implement the same programs, but tweak them to better suite our communities. The best part of the whole training (beside the fact that we were in Senegal at their training center and ate so much food--I gained 7 pounds those two weeks) was that every person was so motivated to be there that the energy never fell flat. We all walked away with great ideas, awesome contacts, and new friends. Can you say couch surfing through Africa? Yes please! We even got a free day to hang out on the beach! It was my first time seeing a body of water like that in 8 months that I immediately dove right in. I got to see a new side of West Africa and it only fed my travel bug. I definitely need to go back there some day.
When I returned back to Burkina Faso the first week in March, I had a week full of meetings and presentations with administration, including a debrief with the Admin Director for the Health sector. I was also asked to attend a teleconference with the Admin Director for Education, the Country Director, and the Director of Programming and Training as we chatted with the 26 invitees for the upcoming training group due to arrive in June. I was chosen along with 3 other volunteers to design the 3-month training schedule for the new group, which we just finished doing last week. In my village, I had a community meeting with my mayor and the other village responsables to connect them to the Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL). They are coming to my village to help renovate a building to make a library for the community--and everyone is so excited! We found a building and the contractor is ready to start renovating this month, just in time to beat rainy season. Hopefully by the end of the school year we can have a fully functioning library where students can come to study and prepare for their national exams. But a part from all the work, I did manage to get a weekend of fun in there. For St. Patty's Day, a bunch of volunteers met in a regional capital to celebrate in good American fashion, minus the green beer. But we more than made up for it. Holidays will never be the same for me again.
Now we're in April. As I said already, we just designed the new training program for the new trainees in June. It was a lot of work, but we are all looking forward to an energized and productive 3 months. Today I met with the Director of the John Snow Incorporation, as part of the USAID/DELIVER Project. We talked about how we can keep the PC-Burkina and USAID relationship strong while we look for another Response Volunteer, as our current volunteer is at the end of her service. Our main collaboration project coming up is a Universal Bed Net Distribution in June/July. But first, the Programme National de Lutte Contre le Paludisme (PNLP)--the National Malaria Control Program for African francophone countries--is doing trainings for all health centers in the country in May and wants volunteers to help with the trainings and distribution. As April 25th is World Malaria Day and this month is World Malaria Month, volunteers have a lot of work ahead of them to get Burkinabe ready for the upcoming rainy season--when malaria has the highest rates of transmission. Another volunteer and I have been working hard the past few weeks to plan a Training of Trainers on Malaria and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention where we will be talking about how our counterparts can get more people to sleep under mosquito nets and ways to transform bed nets to make them more pleasurable to look at, in hopes that more people will use them. We will also have a guest speaker from PNLP to talk about how volunteers can assist in the upcoming net distribution. To see what other PC volunteers around Africa are doing, check out their blogs on the Stomp Out Malaria website at http://stompoutmalaria.org/bamm2013/. All of these volunteers are so motivated and great to work with, I know their community projects are going to be great!
I have so many things to look forward to between for the next 5 months that I know it's going to fly right by. The next school year will be here before you know it, and that means time to get back to tutoring and starting up a Girls' Club with help from the local health center to talk about ways to prevent early pregnancy and how to keep motivated to stay in school. And before I know it, I'll be back in America trying to readjust to life there, and stop doing all the weird African antics I've picked up. Sorry in advance for how weird I'm going to be.
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