My teammates and I held our first community education outreach this past week in Buwaiswa. The gathering focused on malaria prevention and safe water. For the issue of malaria, we stressed the need to use mosquito nets. Although most villagers know of or have used nets, many families feel that the nets are an excessive expense. To combat this common sentiment, our team emphasized the large amounts of money spent on transportation, medicine, and doctor visits for each malaria case. We also stressed that families should consider the number of family members who experience malaria (usually everyone) each year and how many times each person contracts malaria (up to 5-6 times) each year. When all of these costs are considered, it becomes clear that mosquito nets are a worthy investment and can help save villagers money in the long run.
To ensure that mosquito net distribution is sustainable, we also identified a woman in the community to serve as the net distributor. This is crucial so that even after our team leaves Buwaiswa this summer, villagers will still have access to subsidized nets.
The second half of the outreach focused on safe water and the use of WaterGuard, a chlorine substance that purifies water for drinking. During orientation, we learned that it is often difficult to sell WaterGuard because villagers believe that water from the well is perfectly safe. Therefore, I was a little worried about how to pitch the idea of WaterGuard to the community. After describing the Safe Water Chain and the need to ensure water cleanliness from the well to the drinking cup, we demonstrated how to use WaterGuard. The outreach attendees watched attentively as we filled a jug with well water and added a small capful of the WaterGuard substance. And then the final test…..we poured the final product into a drinking cup and took a sip! What happened next was the best part of my day. Slowly, members of the community walked up to the front and poured their cups full of the purified water. An elderly woman filled her cup up twice. Kids sitting in the crowd ran home to get their cups and joined in on the taste test. In the end, we sold more than 12 bottles of WaterGuard – a great way to kick off our first community outreach!
PS: I am about to watch the USA-Ghana World Cup Game – it’s a great time to be in Africa!