distings update

guinea worm
Living in the most Guinea Worm endemic district in the nation (Central Gonja) has, indeed, kept me rather busy. I am thrilled to be working so closely with the Carter Center, they do incredible work. Last year there was a reduction in Guinea Worm by 85%, which will be in your history books, kids. It is the greatest reduction for a moderately endemic country, ever. But like I said, right now Central Gonja is a real problem. As a matter of fact, the most endemic village in the nation is Fulfuso, Hannah’s community. They started crawling out of legs just as she got there, way to go Hannah! There are no cases in Sankpala right now (hey-oh!), but that could change anytime. Between June and August we had about 28 cases in Sankpala, which is why they requested a PCV.

I will let some of these pictures speak for themselves, but it is a real exciting time to be here in Central Gonja. NGO’s from all over are pulling together to help get things under control (Carter Center, IWASH, UNICEF). Hannah and I do a lot with case research in our villages, which entails a team of people that go from home to home checking Guinea Worm filters and making sure there are no suspected cases. This can take some time when your village consists of 2,000+ people. Every Friday morning Zachari or Seidu, the red cross mothers (the most adorable elderly women in Ghana) and myself do a case search, and every Monday evening about 30 volunteers from all over come to Sankpala to do a night search. A few weeks ago I organized a Guinea Worm football match, bachelors vs. married men, with a short Guinea Worm program at half. It went real well, it was exciting to see so many people come out for it. This coming Thursday there will be a huge Guinea Worm concert in Sankpala (and one in Fulfuso the following day). My JSS students will be doing a Guinea Worm drama during the concert, which me and another JSS teacher will be putting together.

At least twice a week I teach health at the JSS (junior high). I LOVE it. I love the kids, they are smart and funny and eager to learn. I try to play a lot of games and to be as interactive as possible. They know it all, they can tell you about any health issue in Sankpala like they are reading out of an encyclopedia. But that doesn’t mean they are doing what they can to prevent these problems (Guinea Worm, diarrhea, malaria, nutrition, STD’s, teen pregnancy, sanitation, hygiene, the list goes on). Behavior change is the name of the game. I spent one whole class discussing the issues plaguing Sankpala, and the one that seemed to come up most was that there was no football club for the JSS. Good grief. I told them if they wanted a club, we could start a health club and I would buy a football for the members to use. Fair? So we will start meeting soon, I think I can get them really involved in the community - helping me do a census, cleanup days, planting moringa, painting murals at the school and doing dramas at market.

I also spend a lot of time at the clinic. I don’t do much work, but I do a lot of observing. Honestly, the nurses and Sister Beema are pretty amazing, they work very hard. One day a month there is baby weighing, which means women from about 5 villages come to get their babies weighed and vaccinated. It is one of the craziest days and it’s a great way for me to assess the needs of women (family planning, nutrition, etc.). But for most of the time, I try to help them organize and ask Sister Beema and Adams a million questions about what goes on in the clinic.

We are encouraged not to do much work the first three months, but rather learn the needs of the community. The Peace Corps is absolutely right, I have a long way to go before I fully understand Sankpala and what the needs are. This week the assemblyman called a town meeting to officially introduce me to the community. I also had two meeting with the chiefs and elders to discuss their perceived needs of the community. Over the next few weeks I will be meeting with several groups to further discuss what Sankpala wants from me as a volunteer.

As of now, I will continue to teach and help fight the good fight against Guinea Worm (we use a lot of military jargon at the Carter Center, “the enemy is smart. We need to take out our big guns. Bang! Bang!”). I love my work and I am pretty excited that I will have two years to be with this community. There is much I can do. If you would like to be involved in any of my projects, especially my relationship with the JSS students, let me know. I would love to involve you guys.

PS Shout outs to Heather Nicholson, Amanda Rocco, Jordz Mollot and Daddio (dad, I had just finished the last jar of peanut butter when I got your last package. Close call!) for sending me amazing packages. Muchas, muchas gracias!


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