Friday, August 12, 2011

Team Djolof combats malaria

I can safely say that these past few days have been my most exhausting, busy and productive days in-country thus far. The 13 members of Team Djolof (aka the 13 volunteers in the Linguere region) decided it was time to kick malaria's butt and go on a 4-day educational tourney to 11 different villages. We came together and used our money (which is quite limited), artistic abilities (also quite limited), language skills, theatre experience (ha), and patience to create a fabulous presentation which we presented in Wolof in 8 villages, Pulaar (a different language) in 2 villages, and both Wolof and Pulaar in one village.

We were helped out by a fabulous PC staff member, Tidiane Diaw, who herded us and our supplies around to the various villages and gave a lovely speech at the end of every presentation in the local languages, ensuring that the villagers understood our attempts at Wolof and Pulaar. Couldn't have done it without you, Tidiane!

Setting up in Mbeuleukhe

Anyway, we ventured around the region for 4 days and my village, Mbeuleukhe, was the second one we visited. Below are some photos from Mbeuleukhe's tourney. We had quite the turn out. Pretty much every village had huge numbers because any time a truck pulls up with 13 toubabs, the villagers are sure to come out to see what's up.

The crowds of Mbeuleukhe

I was really nervous for the presentation in my village! My Wolof is getting better gradually, but it's nowhere near as good as the volunteers who have been here for over a year. And Senegalese people LOVE making comparisons (ex- "She's prettier than you," "You don't understand anything but that guy speaks Wolof really well," "You know your friend, the one that's fattest?" etc.) so I was really nervous to roll up to village with a bunch of PCVs that have been a year up on me.

But, luckily, I think it went really well! After we came in and introduced ourselves, whoever's village it was would give a brief description of why it's important to learn about malaria, what it is, etc. Then it was theatre time! This was without a doubt the best part, both for us and for the villagers. Our first theatre was all about debunking myths. Skit 1 involved debunking the myth that unripe mangoes give you malaria. Skit 2 (in which I starred) was about walking in the hot sun. Skit 3 was about spirits, 4 was about milk, and 5 was about too much dancing. Yes, these seem very silly. And, yes, we all know that drinking milk and dancing too much cannot give you malaria. But almost every single time we would ask at the end of the skits, "So, do unripe mangoes give you malaria?" people would shout "YES!!" The two most popular choices were unripe mangoes and evil spirits.

Chanting, chanting and more chanting

So, obviously, the next part of our presentation involved a lot of discussion about mosquitoes, the real cause of malaria. We also made neem lotion, a lotion made from neem leaves which repel mosquitoes and it REALLLLY easy and cheap to make. And oh did we chant. We chanted about mosquitoes, we chanted about mosquito nets, we chanted about everything. I will never ever for the rest of my life forget the phrases MAT MAT YOO INDIE NA SIBURU or NATANDE BOO DI ADDI JONTINOJI ("mosquito bites bring malaria" in Wolof and Pulaar).

I'm pretty confident that the knowledge sank in because everywhere we go now people scream the chant at us and talk about neem lotion, mosquito nets, etc. And it didn't occur to me beforehand how crazy it is for villagers to see 13 white people together performing skits and yelling into a bullhorn. I think everyone in the region definitely wants to do more group projects because it's a chance for all of us to work and hang out together, and the villages really benefit.

Team Djolof with Tidiane and our props

Highlights of the tour included playing the "find the house baby" contest (in which we each sought out the cutest village baby that we could steal and keep in our volunteer house), all the dance parties which spontaneously began in nearly every village, and dressing our PCV guys up in fabulous Senegalese dresses and head wraps for the skits. It was also fun whenever you were in a village that didn't speak your respective language (in my case, Pulaar) because you had to memorize lines in a different language and the entire presentation you just nodded your head as people were speaking a languages that sounded like "biddi boodi boddi bendi bloopi bondi biddi bippi"

The good people of Mbeuleukhe

And, finally, the truck rides. Oh the truck rides. There were 13 of us plus our PCV staff member, Tidiane. So 14 total in a truck.  A regular, normal-sized truck. We usually did 6 people inside, 8 people outside plus all of the supplies outside. Senegalese roads are bumpy. All of us have left this experience with incredibly bruised butts and lots of cramps going on. But the view was usually really pretty.

Zooming around Africa

So that's all I have about malaria for now. Team Djolof also currently has some basketball court projects and a Girl's Camp project going on. Here's the link for the b-ball court, and the girl's camp stuff will be up soon.

So I'll be updating again hopefully soon about the wonders of Ramadan. Remember... mosquitoes, not mangoes, bring malaria!


  1. Can you bring some of that lotion home? The Mosquitos are brutal this year!

  2. And my iPad just auto-corrected mosquitoes to "Mosquitos" because....?