Training Champions: Bringing POL to Africa


I held my first training in Zambia on October 17th, 2015, training a total of 12 community leaders on Malaria and proper bednet checks in each of their catchment zones and villages.

Peace Corps Zambia is currently holding a challenge for the months of October and November, right as we enter rain season, called the “10,000 Bednet Check Challenge.” And it’s as simple as it sounds: check 10,000 bednets in October and November. The challenge itself is countrywide and is open to all current Peace Corps volunteers in Zambia. We have over 200 volunteers currently in country, so it sounds totally doable to me. Peace Corps volunteers are asked to work with community members and/or counterparts to go household to household and check bednets (or LLINs, long-lasting insecticidal nets, it you want to get technical), hang up any bednets that need to be hung, fix any bednets that need to be fixed, take an inventory of how many bednets are still needed in the household, and provide health education sessions on Malarial transmission, prevention, testing, and treatment.

As the challenge was announced, I was motivated and excited to participate; to check as many bednets as I could in my gigantic catchment area. I thought, “10,000 bednets + 200 volunteers = 50 bednets each. Easy.” And then I thought about good ol’ sustainability. If I were to just do the bednet checks myself with a community member or counterpart, sure, it would help in the immediate sense, but what about 6 months from now? 1 year later? How about when I’m finished with my service and no longer in Zambia? I thought, “How can I take this challenge and make it sustainable?” After a few minutes, it clicked. POL!

POL, Popular Opinion Leader, was a CDC intervention and strategy we adapted and used at my previous place of employment back in the states, A&PI Wellness Center, in many of our programs to reach hard-to-reach individuals and groups by identifying, training, and motivating POLs, or popular, influential people in these specific target groups to disseminate heath information, as well as model and teach healthy behaviors. By doing so, we were able to help those who would have otherwise continued to fall through the cracks. “I’m going to adapt POL for this bednet challenge,” I thought, “and identify, train, and motivate community leaders in each of my catchment area zones so that this not only becomes more sustainable, the total number of bednet checks from our catchment will be higher than if it was just me doing the bednet checks solo.”

I went to the drawing board and started planning the training from scratch. Let me just say, having a computer, printer, and/or copy machine is a true gift from God when planning something like a training. Unfortunately, I had none of these things in my fingertips before the day of the training. You know what that means? Writing everything by hand. EVERYTHING. This includes spreadsheets, surveys, and documents that each POL needed to have to be successful. My right hand was surely seconds from falling off the night before the training.

The training agenda (or timetable, as they like to call it here) was fairly simple and straightforward:

830-900: Opening Prayer, Group Agreements, Group Expectations, Timetable

900-910: Activity #1: Can I Get Your Autograph? (Transmission)

910-940: Malaria and Bednet Check Pre-Test

940-1000: Introduction of Malaria, Activity #2: That “Yarn” Mosquito! (Transmission)

1000-1035: Transmission, Human and Mosquito Malaria Cycles, Group Teach-backs

1035-1045: Break & Refreshments

1045-1115: Prevention, Community Effect, Activity #3: Malaria River (Prevention)

1115-1130: Testing and Treatment, Activity #4: Catch Me If You Can! (Treatment)

1130-1150: Bednet Checks, Spreadsheets and Surveys, Health Education Topics

1150-1200: Break & Refreshments

1200-1230: Bednet Check Role Plays

1230-1300: Malaria and Bednet Post Test, Questions, Closing Prayer

15 community leaders registered/signed up, 12 attended and finished the training. Not a bad turn-out at all! And by the looks of the Pre-Test and Post-Test results, all 12 participants learned and took away all the key points of the training that I wanted them to take away. The training went as smoothly as it could have, making me very happy and proud of how everything turned out, despite the lack of sleep and aching right hand. I now had 12 Malaria and Bednet Check Champions trained and ready to do good work and help fight against Malaria in our community. And because our province, Northwest Province, currently has the highest rates of Malaria incidence, this could not have come at a better time.

Future plans? See how everything goes this first round, and if all goes well, I’ll go ahead and train each of the six catchment zones’ NHCs (Neighborhood Health Committees) and create even more Champions to join our team. Wish me luck!


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

A compiled list of books I’ve read while serving in Zambia can be viewed here.

Previous Review

Book: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

Finished: 10/23/15

Review: Heartfelt story that delves into the intricacies of family, tradition, and loyalty, while simultaneously defending itself from an ever-changing world. The detailed historical facts intertwined within create a platform to highlight injustices that we still face even to this day.


“It reminded him that time was short, but that beautiful things could still be found at the end of cold, dreary days.” (p.77)

“‘And sometimes hope is enough to get you through anything.'” (p.134)

“His father had once said that the hardest things in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong, but between what’s right and what’s best.” (p.204)

“He’d do what he always did, find the sweet among the bitter.” (p.265)

“You look at what you have, not what you miss, and you move forward.” (p.268)

My Catchment Area

The catchment area where I serve is made up of 6 different zones: Lubilo, Kamabuta, Mutoma, Kifuwe, Chalimbana, and Yamakwakwa. Population size is a little over 5,400 people. The catchment area stretches 15km along the main tarmac road, the M8 Road, from Kamabuta to Kifuwe. From the M8 Road, the catchment area extends south, down a dirt road called Munyambala Road for 10km, passing Chalimbana and ending at Yamakwakwa. The catchment also extends 5km to the north, where Mutoma can be found, as well as the Kabompo River, the deepest river in Africa, I’m told. Lubilo is located at the catchment’s center, where our rural health centre, Lubilo Health Centre (LHC), is located. Put it all together and the catchment area is a solid 15km x 15km area, give or take. My house is located on the cusp where Lubilo ends and Chalimbana begins, in Kadinsu village.

The land is fairly flat in the catchment with a lot of open land and forestation. The majority of the catchment is made up of farming families, tending to fields and livestock on a daily basis. Transportation within the catchment is either on bicycle or on foot, although automobiles and motorcycles can be seen traveling on both the M8 Road and Munyambala Road everyday.

We have four schools is our catchment: Kamabuta Basic School, Kifuwe Basic School, Chalimbana Community School, and Yamakwakwa Community School. Kamabuta Basic School’s enrollment is between 700-800 students each term, grades 1 through 9. Kamabuta has a total of 16 teachers; 8 men and 8 women. Kifuwe Basic School’s enrollment is 500-600 students each term, also grades 1 through 9. Kifuwe has a total of 10 teachers; 5 men and 5 women. Both Chalimbana Community School and Yamakwakwa Community School’s enrollment fluctuates every term because a majority of students who attend these two schools come from farming families, and during farming and harvesting seasons, those students are found mostly in the fields, helping their families, as opposed to being in school. The number of teachers in both community schools fall to the same trend. All four school’s leadership is made up of a Head Teacher, Deputy Teacher, and a Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Each school charges a fee to attend every term; the basic school’s charging a higher fee than the community schools. The fees range between 10 kwacha to 50 kwacha per student per term, depending on the school.

The Lubilo Health Centre (LHC) serves as the main health facility for the entire catchment area. Out-Patient Services are provided weekdays, both morning (8am-12pm) and afternoon (1pm-5pm), Saturday mornings (8am-12pm) and Sundays on an emergency basis. Under 5 Clinic is held on Tuesday mornings, where immunizations and weight monitoring is done for children under 5 years old. Family Planning clinic is held on Wednesday mornings, providing family planning methods for both men and women, including condoms, birth control pills, injections, and implants. Antenatal Clinic is held on Thursday mornings, where expecting mothers are seen and treated appropriately. All morning clinics have Health Education sessions incorporated at the beginning of each day. In fact, if a patient arrives after the Health Education session has finished, they are instructed to come back the next week. Health Education sessions are an integral and serious part of morning clinics, and the staff treat them as such. Other services offered at LHC include a maternity ward for new births, HIV testing and counseling, Malaria testing and treatment, and a pharmaceutical dispensary. Outreach services are conducted every week to reach those villagers who have transportation issues or simply live too far from the clinic. A new Health Post has recently been built in Yamakwakwa, the farthest catchment zone from LHC. This Health Post will serve as a satellite site, where Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Community Based Distributors (CBDs) can help with Health Education, some diagnoses, and some distribution of certain family planning methods and medicine. Other Health Posts in other zones are currently being proposed. The hope is that these Health Posts will help LHC improve access to health care for the catchment, as well as reduce congestion at the clinic itself. In addition, every zone has a Neighborhood Health Committee (NHC), local leadership in each zone that works with the LHC to ensure all villagers within their respective zones are healthy.

WiZ: When in Zambia… (3)

… you listen to ZamPop.


You heard it right. ZamPop. All day. Everyday. The best way to describe ZamPop’s beats and lyrics? Go to your iTunes library, search “Akon,” and play anything you find that pops up. After the roosters finish their “cock-a-doodle-doos” every morning, little electronic melodies and “boom clap claps” interrupt my morning tea without fail. I’m certain that my host brother, Jordan, is in training to become Zambia’s next ZamPop star. In all actuality, ZamPop isn’t that bad. You can’t help but eventually bob your head or sway here and there; it’s inevitable. I actually enjoy the majority of what I hear… when I’m in the mood for it. Because let’s face it, after a long day of weighing babies, talking to new mothers, teaching youth, and biking everywhere, the last thing you want to hear is Akon calling you beautiful.

Previous WiZ: When in Zambia…

September 2015

The first month in my new village kept me super busy. Meeting every single person that I possibly could within my catchment area (it extends into 6 different zones, with a total population of approximately 5,400 people), figuring out what my work schedule would be and what projects I wanted to focus on and do within the next two years, hosting countless introductory presentations, and working diligently with home improvements to make my new home more me.

The majority of my work as a Health Extension Agent is centered around the local rural health centre (they like their “e’s” after their “r’s” here): Lubilo Health Centre. At this level, I support the centre with their day to day health programs and services, but I also play a role as an ambassador for the centre on the district level to the District Health Office (DHO) in town (about 15km away). Yes, politicking exists on the community health frontier even in Africa. On the other end of the stick, at the community, village, and household levels, I serve as a trainer, outreach worker, and teacher, working with various community groups, village stakeholders, and families on their health needs. I’ve nailed down my work schedule for the rest of the year, but when 2016 comes, it’s back to the table for project and program planning. It shouldn’t be too much of a hassle, since many projects and programs will carry over into the new year, but in order to stay engaged and motivated, adding a new project or program here and there is a definite must for me, as it always was back in the states. Here’s what I’m doing in Africa each day of the week, along with some pictures:

Monday: Community & Outreach Work, Young Adults’ Income-Generating Activities Group

Tuesday: Under 5 Clinic, Girls’ Grassroots Soccer Program

Wednesday: Family Planning Clinic, Computer Literacy Program, Youth Club

Thursday: Antenatal Clinic, Computer Literacy Program, Girls’ Grassroots Soccer Program

Friday: Community and Outreach Work, Boys’ Grassroots Soccer Program, Tutoring Services

Saturday: Boys’ Grassroots Soccer Program, Tutoring Services

Sunday: Church, R&R

My commute to work everyday; traffic sucks.

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Welcome to Lubilo Health Centre!

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Biohazard and placenta waste area; yummy!

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Our Zambulance; super high-tech.

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Alogirthms exist in Africa!

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My main work counterpart, Mr. Justin Mupila

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My Youth Club at Kamabuta Basic School

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Another one of my counterparts, Mr. Emmanuel Kainda, helping with Youth Club

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Home life was definitely a learning process during the first month. Learning where and how to collect water, figuring out how to get there and how to get here, putting to practice the skills I learned during Pre-Service Training from my first host family (fire-making, killing animals, cooking, clothes washing, house maintenance, etc.), getting accustomed to a new host family, and fixing numerous things with my house, trying to make the place more comfortable and more suiting for me. I was able to build a new tippy-tap hand-washing station, create new hanging curtains for my standing shelves and desks, make outdoor hanging curtains for my outdoor shower and bathroom (squatting privacy is a must, folks), and rake the expansive stretch that is my front yard (you have no idea how many leaves I’ve raked thus far; it’s pretty impressive). This by no means makes home improvement complete. October yields plastering, lime coating, and painting the exterior of my entire house and doing something about the interior design of my two-room house. But first, supplies need to be bought and collected and elbow grease needs to be recruited. Stay tuned!

My new host family are the Kalozas. Ba’Taata Kaloza is a very stern and serious man, laughing only when absolutely necessary, but you know from talking to him that he truly cares about his family and their protection is his utmost priority. He’s a farmer by profession, farming maize, sweet potatoes, and Irish potatoes. My goal is to one day crack a joke so funny, he cries from laughing so hard. Wish me luck! Ba’Maama Kaloza is motherly and sweet. She comes to my door every morning to wish me a good morning and safe travels for my day. The occasional lunch or dinner invite from her is always appreciated; her cooking is great! Whenever I go to the market, I always make it a point to pick something up for her, and I think she really appreciates it. She likes reading my journal entries, and just like my mom back home, she likes staring at photographs for long periods of time with a huge smile on her face. I really don’t get it, but to each her own! My siblings, from first-born to last-born: Naomi (28), Makina (25), Memory (21), and Jordan (17). Naomi and Memory are both mothers to their own respective son; Kelvin to Naomi and Kaomba to Memory. Kelvin is 9 years old and Kaomba, just a little over a year old. Makina is off in the provincial capital, Solwezi, playing a tune to his own beat and finding himself since his exam scores weren’t what Ba’Taata desired. I give him two more months before he comes home. Memory fared better with her exams, granting her interviews for teaching gigs. We’re all crossing our fingers she lands one of them. And Jordan, Grade 11, helps with the family here and there while preparing for his exams next year. Jordan and I hang out pretty much everyday; cool kid, reminds me of my brother Raymond at home a lot. I also have a host cousin who stays on our compound, Benson (18). Benson is a super hard-worker and has been the biggest help to me in terms of my home improvement needs. Where he helps me with home improvements, I help him with his studies. His exams are coming up mid-October through December. We’re hoping for the best.

In terms of getting around from place to place, I’ve been biking a lot. I mean, A LOT. All this exercise is great, but boy, does my butt hurt at the end of the day. Ice-packs don’t magically appear, no matter how hard you try to summon them either. Sucks.

All in all, a good first month, figuring things out. Looking forward to what the rest of Community Entry has in store for me, ice-packs or not.

The Elephant Vanishes, Hauruki Murakami

A compiled list of books I’ve read while serving in Zambia can be viewed here.

Previous Review

Book: The Elephant Vanishes, Haruki Murakami

Finished: 10/11/15

Review: An assault on what we consider “ordinary life.” A handful or two of stories about “ordinary people” living “ordinary lives.” Or so you think. Insomnia, green monsters, little people, dancing drawfs, elephants, and McDonald’s all make appearances.


“The best thing to do with a hypothesis is to let it run any course it pleases.” (p. 100)

“True, luck may rule over parts of a person’s life and luck may cast patches of shadow across the ground of our being, but where there’s a will … there’s a way to overcome any trouble with whatever stepladders you have around.” (p.121)

“Something will work out tomorrow, I thought. And if not, then tomorrow I’ll do some thinking. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on.” (p.183)

“You have to make an effort to always look at the good side, always think about the good things. Then you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If something bad comes up, you do more thinking at that point.” (p.184)

WiZ: When in Zambia… (2)

… you spend kwacha.


Nope, it’s not Monopoly money you’re seeing, it’s kwacha, Zambia’s currency! Kwacha comes in both notes and coins. Notes come in denominations of 2 kwacha, 5 kwacha, 10 kwacha, 20 kwacha, 50 kwacha, and 100 kwacha. Coins come in denominations of 1 kwacha, 50 ngwee, 10 ngwee, and 5 ngwee. Ngwee can be added to make up 1 kwacha, similarly to our cents to the dollar. The kwacha notes are actually very detailed and pretty; they make our USD bills look monotonous and boring.

When I first came to Zambia in June 2015, every $1 USD was worth a little over 7 kwacha. Fast forward to October 2015? $1 USD can get you 12 kwacha. What?!? The dollar… strong?!? Yup. Things aren’t going so great with the economy here in Zambia at the moment due to a number of things, and life’s been a bit rough living off of the small monthly allowance (it’s paid in Zambian kwacha as opposed to the USD), but I’m managing as best I can. Next year’s Zambian presidential election is going to be an interesting one to witness, as I’m sure the current economic issues will play a huge role in debates and discussions.

Previous WiZ: When in Zambia…