Ask a Volunteer
Q: What types of preventable disease do you see impacting your community, and how are you working with the local population to address these problems?”
A: I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in the mountainous region of Jinotega, Nicaragua. Although I have only been on site for a little over 7 months, there are a few severe diseases impacting our area that I work with constantly. Currently, leptospirosis is one of those diseases tearing through the community and causing huge problems throughout Nicaragua. I work in the local high schools and with youth groups educating the students on symptoms, prevention and available medication and prophylaxis. Other problematic preventable diseases I educate the community on include dengue, and malaria. While education is important, I am working hard at teaching behavior change as well, in hopes of really making a difference.
Lauren Vice, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Nicaragua
A: I am a Volunteer in a rural village in south-central Senegal. We see a lot of diarrheal disease from lack of appropriate hand washing practices. After I suffered a bout of intestinal amoebas, likely due to poor hand washing practices in my host family, I decided to work with the little kids. We did a fun activity with glitter as the 'germs', and showed them how using lots of soap helps the 'germs' come off. We now use a hand washing station every time we eat. It's become a fun pre-playtime, pre-eating, and post-bathroom activity they are super excited about—they love the bubbles!
Kourtney Rusow, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Senegal
A: We do preventive health education and build sanitary infrastructures to implement healthy practices in the home. We work with populations that use open fires for cooking and don't have latrines or cement floors, so the preventable illnesses we see as a result are acute respiratory infections and diarrheal infections. We do health talks on hand-washing and general hygiene to prevent food contamination that causes diarrhea, then follow the education with constructing the sanitary infrastructures the families lack.
Anne Sprinkel, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Guatemala
A: The most common preventable diseases impacting my community include respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections in children less than 5 years old. I'm working closely with the health centers and schools in my area promoting and providing increased education, along with demonstrations, on important themes of hygiene, sanitation, and proper food preparation as part of the school's curriculum and in health centers inside patient waiting areas to transmit the message to all community members for improved health.
Camille Simpson, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Rwanda
A: In the Andean town where I work, most of the diseases are preventable. The most prevalent dangers to children´s health are diarrheal illnesses and malnutrition. Poor water quality and hygiene practices lead to parasite infections and acute intestinal infections, which also keep children from gaining weight adequately. Both of these are problems that are not to be solved by one person, or in only two years. However, one of my biggest projects is a sanitation project, teaching 50 families to improve the hygiene in their home: washing their hands regularly, covering food from flies and other animals, and improving the infrastructure. We will also install latrines for each family to control human waste. However, the behavior change will be the indicator of the success of the project.
Kaitlyn Stanhope, Health and Nutrition Peace Corps Volunteer, Peru
A: Something that we see a lot of in the Paraguayan campo (grassy plain) are the effects of intestinal parasites, especially in youth. It is estimated that 90% of kids in the campo have parasites, while the steps to prevent them, for the most, part are very simple: wearing one's shoes; washing one's hands before eating, and after using the bathroom; and keeping food covered to prevent flies from landing on one's food. I did a series of talks with the students in my local school about the steps to avoid parasites, and with the parents I have taken on a sanitary bathroom project.
Stephanie Stinson, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Paraguay
A: I'm writing about two major health problems in Turkmenistan, Central Asia where I have been a PC Volunteer since June, 2010.
1) Obesity leads to very serious diseases in Turkmenistan. To an extent, most of these diseases can be eliminated or at least ameliorated by making healthy lifestyle choices. My students learn about: eating more fruits and vegetables; healthful foods prepared without using copious amounts of fat, particularly animal fat; limiting food or beverages that contain sugar and salt such as cookies, candy, cake, soda, juice - all are plentiful and cheap in Turkmenistan; including exercise/activity in daily life.
2) Because many Turkmen people have poor access to preventative dental care, I teach students about the importance of brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride tooth paste. I explain that fluoride helps teeth resist the microbes that cause cavities and painful toothaches that eventually lead to even more painful and traumatic tooth extractions. I show them where the word Fluoride is located on the tube; and where they can buy it in their village/town.
Karla Yates, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Turkmenistan
A: In Ecuador, I work with a very small (12 people) but VERY effective foundation whose focus is HIV/AIDS. As we all know, HIV is completely preventable when we make the right choices, i.e., use of condoms with every partner/every time, mutual fidelity between a couple who have both been tested, and abstinence/delaying sexual activity. Our organization, Fundación VIHDA, has a vertical transmission prevention program in Ecuador's largest maternity hospital, as well as offers free psychological counseling and empowerment workshops for the participants in the program, gives a 12-week training workshop to high school students, presents workshops in HIV/AIDS to businesses, has a day clinic that offers free rapid tests, does information and education campaigns in the city's main public transportation stations, works with the U.S.organization Aid for Aids to obtain medication for qualifying patients, runs an adherence program that offers a monthly donation of nutritious foods for (mostly) women with children who live below poverty level and who are living with HIV, and offers various social services to people newly-diagnosed with HIV. I am very proud to contribute to their dedicated work.
Sabriga Turgon, Health and Nutrition Peace Corps Volunteer, Ecuador
A: The biggest diseases impacting the communities in the Ica region of Perú are diarrheal diseases. These sicknesses are very frequent due to lack of safe drinking water, poor hygienic practices, unsafe food preparation and lack of hygienic services. I am constantly working with community partners to carry out various campaigns about proper hand washing, preparing safe drinking water, and safe food preparation. Through NGOs, the Peace Corps Partnership Program, the municipality, and the communities, we have also built bathrooms to address the issue.
Frieda Von Qualen, Public Health & Sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer, Peru
A: I live in a rural area of over 10,000 people. Locally, we see many cases of malaria and bilharzia (schistosomiasis). We believe HIV/AIDS is also prevalent but that is harder to track since those who may be positive may not be going for testing. As a response to the many health concerns in our village, one program we have begun is a Care Group. This is a community-based organization whose main priority is providing door-to-door health education messages. We have mobilized over 200 volunteers and each volunteer will be sharing a new health education message every two weeks to 10 households. We have just begun this program, but we believe it may have a significant effect on reducing some of our health problems because the messages are being transmitted on a more personal level and from people they have a relationship with (i.e., their neighbors).
Another program we began was a couple's workshop program on faithfulness in the marriage. This was a 9-week program. Couples attended once a week for 9 weeks. This program was begun to reduce HIV/AIDS in our community, in addition to building stronger marriages. If families are strong, the community will then benefit and be strong as well.
Marie Sather, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Zambia
A: The Quilalí region of Nicaragua has been malaria free for more than 10 years, but every year the population suffers from dengue, another mosquito-borne disease. To help slow the spread of dengue, my counterpart and I have created murals about eliminating mosquito habitats and recognizing the symptoms of dengue. We have also visited the elementary school to teach children how they can help at home by eliminating garbage in their family's patios that may collect rain water.
Liz Sampson, General Health Peace Corps Volunteer, Nicaragua
A: Earlier this year I coordinated with local primary schools and the local Health Office to increase educational awareness of malaria. I went into the schools with a local English teacher and we gave an interactive/educational session on malaria, its symptoms, and where to go for treatment, if needed. We also included a demonstration on how to appropriately hang an insecticide-treated mosquito net. At the conclusion of the session, we followed up with an insecticide-treated mosquito net giveaway program in which over 200 were administered to the community before the rainy season (June-Aug) began.
Over the last two weeks, I coordinated with service providers from the local Social and Development Program and teachers and staff from the primary school to provide training that would enable them to effectively train their students and youth groups to deliver healthy behavior change messages through life skills. These skills included: relationship building, communication, decision making, as well as a comprehensive HIV/AIDS educational component that emphasized the basics of the virus, and ways we can better protect ourselves, reduce stigma and discrimination, and provide a more compassionate environment for those living with the virus.
Cauchavius L. Watts, Health and Nutrition Peace Corps Volunteer, Ethiopia