OVPs: Khalil’s Siku ya Elimu kwa Jamii

Khalil coordinated a 3-day community health program called “Siku ya Elimu kwa Jamii” (Family Education Day). Each day we went to a different village and raised awareness on challenges facing the community such as: HIV/AIDS and VCT testing, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and Malaria. Of course I taught about malaria prevention, net care and repair and malaria treatment.

The event was a complete success. We reached 515 community members, 226 people were tested for HIV and over 250 nets were distributed.

Congrats Khalil on such an amazing event and thanks for letting me teach.

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World Malaria Day Project Results

April 25th was World Malaria Day/WMD. March – May was our time to shine as the Stomp Out Malaria program coordinators in Kenya and shine we did through the incredible work of our volunteers. In celebration of WMD our volunteers completed 26 projects which reached over 52,000 community members and they are still working to reach even more.

Malaria in Kenya is daunting and a little bit mind boggling considering the amount of resources we have and the amount of efforts geared towards reducing the burden. Sometimes the large organizations are just out of touch but PCVs are not visitors but members of their communities for 2 years and we know exactly what the problem is in our small areas and how to solve them…then we do exactly that.

The 3 initiatives that we wrote proposals for, secured funding, and supported our volunteers through were malaria murals, information booths/tables and bed net use appreciated photo displays. All 3 of these projects attack what’s now needed in the fight against malaria: behavior change. The murals serve as a constant reminder to sleep under your net and other preventative or treatment methods, the information booths give you opportunity to have one-on-one dialog to answer questions and dispel myths and the photo project publicly recognizes community members who have adopted healthy behaviors. Here are some results…

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What I Like Right Now: Stella Jean

For the past few years there has been an escalation of the use of Ankara fabric, Kitenge, mud cloth and other fabrics made in Africa or are considered a representation of traditional wear in Africa.

I love these bright prints so no complaints from me, I hope it never goes away.

Stella Jean continues to create my ABSOLUTE favorite fashion collections using these prints. It’s my favorite because it’s very very close to how I plan to execute the look: pattern mixing and classic shapes.

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Malaria Mural: Using Art to Teach Health

I rode passed a talented community artists painting a school sign and immediately asked the driver to make a U-Turn. Michael Juma is a brilliant artist and art teacher and was overjoyed at my proposed idea of working with some of my students to make a malaria mural.

The mural is located at Nangina Mixed Primary School, a name you should all be very familiar with, I’ve talked about this school and the projects I’ve done there here, here, here, here and here. The class 1-8 school population is 732 total: 374 boys and 358 girls. The early childhood development/ECD classes have approximately 150 students and there are 16 teachers working and volunteering at the school bringing the schools total population to approximately 898.

4 students who expressed an interest in art first drafted their own mural designs which we used as inspiration for the final design. These students assisted in the actual painting of the mural. The winning sketch that heavily contributed to the design of the mural was from Reagan Omondi a student in class 8/8th grade.

The days of painting served as a functional art class. Michael explained every step and students were able to ask questions. This was the first time the students were receiving formal art training. They learned a little about color theory, scaling and being creative in their designs.

The mural was started on March 10th and completed on March 12th 2014.

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29th Birthday Celebration in Ethiopia

I’ve heard African Americans say they’ve come to this incredible continent, Africa, and have a feeling of being at home. I’ve visited several countries all of which I instantly loved and none of which I felt instantly at home.

It has sparked my curiosity of my ethnic background though.

This will not be a sad post, but I want to say this, if you are able to trace your ethnic background to your country/countries of origin that is incredible. To be able to say you’re Greek or Haitian places you in a location and it gives you tradition. It is incredibly painful to be asked where your family is from and only be able to respond with a blank stare, or my most recent coping mechanism of just picking a brown country so I don’t have to say “I don’t know”.

….but when I got to Ethiopia and walked around Addis I kinda had that at home feeling. Not just because people kept coming to me speaking Amharic, well maybe that’s part of it or because it’s a universal thought that Ethiopian women are drop dead gorgeous and I want to be too…well maybe that’s also part of it. I don’t know what it is, we just looked related and I’ve never been to a place where 1/3rd of the country looks like they could be my cousins.

The trip was in celebration of my 29th birthday and I was able to fly in on my actual birthday and might spark a trend of me celebrating my next birthdays on new soils. I went with a couple of my closest friends and fellow volunteers, in physical location and in heart.

It was a trip filled with delicious coffeer, an incredible amount of culture and some luxury. We saw Lucy’s Bones, the Lalibella Rock Churches which I’m pretty sure has made it to one of those wonder of the world lists, climbed the Semein mountain, got amazing and affordable beauty services at Boston Day Spa, visited the Yirhamne Kristos church which is carved out of a cave and is the home of over 500 skeletons of past pilgrims, ate at Ben a Beba restaurant and enjoyed it’s incredible architecture, saw the most amazing shoulder dancing in Bahir Dar and we made friends in every city we went to.

…don’t get me started on the juice. I almost want other countries to call their stuff liquid from fruit or fruit flavored beverage…juice should be reserved for Ethiopia.

I loved it there and I hope life takes me back time and time again.

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Camp GLOW: Girls Leading Our World…in Funyula

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud” -Coco Chanel

I coordinated a Camp GLOW: Girls Leading Our World, in my local community where we focused on character development, health/healthy living and professional development. Camp GLOW is a PEPFAR and Peace Corps initiative, they hold large regional camps annually in Kenya. I applied for a grant through World Connect to host a local GLOW in my community.

You might remember a few of my students were selected to attend Peace Corps Kenya’s Western Region GLOW. In the regional camps each volunteer can nominate 2-3 students to attend. My students came back and the hundreds that remained wondered why they didn’t have the opportunity. I’ve never had a project feel so necessary. I’m happy I was able to host a project encouraged by my community.

130 girl students ranging from ages 10-19
9 participating schools
5 days to impart knowledge and have a ton of fun
6 volunteer trainers who lead sessions for 3 days
6 community professionals who participated in the career panel
160 bed nets distributed/sold in a community where finding nets is a challenge unless you’re pregnant.
96 bottles of water guard distributed to encourage clean water practices

The stats above are some quantifiable measures of what I was able to achieve with help from my fellow volunteers and community members.

Camp Schedule:

Day 1: Registration

Day 2: Character Development

  • Self Esteem and Body Image
  • Peer Pressure
  • Self Expression Art Project/Self-Portraits
  • Gender Roles

Day 3: Health

  • Menstruation and Reusable Sanitary Pads
  • Malaria
  • HIV/AIDS/STIs
  • Healthy Relationships

Day 4: Professional Development

  • Goal Setting and Vision Boards
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Crafts/Developing Skills to Create Goods
  • Career Panel

Day 5: Community Presentation Day

  • Student testimonials
  • Art Presentation
  • Talent/Entertainment
  • Speech: Area Representative
  • Speech: Area Chief
  • Health Presentation: Water and Sanitation
  • Health Presentation: Malaria Prevention
  • Pineapple Eating Contest
  • Presentation of Awards

I heard of the transformation that occurs during Camp GLOW. I feel so privileged to have seen these girls come out of their shells, find their voices, and work on their talents. I transformed as well.

I don’t want to paint a picture of helpless girls and women. I don’t think I could if I tried. These girls and women who carry water and firewood for miles, who work in farms and care for cattle, who are in charge of the families health and nutrition and sanitation, these girls are strong. Their schedules are intense and usually start before the sun rises. However, when you try to understand the stagnation in their ability to be as successful as they have the potential to be you can look to some limitations placed on them by societal gender roles, lack of education and education opportunities, lack of resources, lack of an accurate account of their self worth.

I never want to forget a moment of the time I had with them.

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