Peace Corps Programs in Malawi

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 4:12 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Programs in Malawi

Peace Corps Programs in Malawi

Although Malawi is a newly established democracy, its gains in political and individual freedom are tempered by continuing concerns about disease, drought, hunger, and environmental degradation. Malawi has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world. More than one million Malawians are infected with HIV/AIDS, with an estimated infection rate of 30 percent among urban adults between the ages of 14 and 45. These statistics, along with growing demands for education and environmental rehabilitation, reinforce the important role that Peace Corps Volunteers play in the country's development.

Health and HIV/AIDS
Volunteers work in rural communities as educators and counselors, teaching HIV/AIDS prevention strategies and counseling techniques to Malawian counterparts, patients, students, and community groups. Peace Corps Volunteers are involved in assisting communities to translate the knowledge they already have about HIV/AIDS into behavioral change. The project has made major strides in working with the communities on behavioral change through implementation of the Life Skills Program. Volunteers assisted in the creation of 80 support groups for people living with AIDS within six districts. They have trained 226 church and community members in home-based care and 2,300 community members, teachers, government employees, and other organization members in life skills. Volunteers initiated the establishment of a drug revolving fund in nine villages to increase availability of medicine for AIDS patients. Volunteers also coordinated the registration of over 3,000 orphans in four villages, in collaboration with the district social welfare officers. Due in part to these interventions, the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in some parts of the country is declining.

Through numerous activities, Health Volunteers are working on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic. Two Volunteers helped establish community-based child care schools for orphans whose parents have died of AIDS. Orphans receive assistance in developing sustainable income-generating activities and information about proper nutrition. Another Volunteer supervised the training of seven counselors in HIV testing and counseling. Other Volunteers initiated a community project that promotes food security and sustainable health programs through grass-roots training and the creation of community gardens. Community groups, such as People Living With AIDS, are supported by Volunteers who provide information about AIDS and how to live positively with the disease. One Volunteer assisted six communities to develop a "bicycle ambulance" service to carry patients to local clinics and hospitals.

Malawi is one of the most densely populated countries in southern Africa. Ninety percent of the population, both urban and rural, are partly or wholly dependent on forests for food, fuel, and building materials. In a dozen national parks and reserves around the country, Volunteers are serving as environmental educators and community coordinators. They work with local residents of communities that surround national parks, forest reserves and neighboring protected areas to relieve human pressures on the natural environment, to develop sustainable plans for the utilization of the resources available, increase food security, and create income-generating activities for local residents.

One Volunteer wrote a play about the importance of planting trees that was performed by local school children. The children were so enthusiastic that they wrote two more plays and planned to take the play "on the road." The Volunteer also wrote a song about the importance of tree planting. The song, performed by the school children, is currently played on the local radio station. Another Volunteer organized and planned a field day to promote the local availability of resources in their community. Booths were set up to promote the use of wood lots, solar cookers and dryers, small animal husbandry, and mud stoves, and to promote activities such as alley-cropping.

The government has implemented a free primary education policy that has swelled the ranks of schools and seriously strained the country's resources. To support the government's initiative, the Peace Corps has focused its efforts on Community Day Secondary Schools in rural areas where skills transfer and capacity building can have the greatest impact. Volunteers provide quality education to secondary school students, promote teacher-to-teacher interactions and collaboration, and encourage the exchange of experience and knowledge to improve methods of teaching. Volunteers have worked with their counterparts in sharing lesson plans, discussing strategies for teaching, evaluating students, and preparing exams. By establishing and organizing science laboratories, Volunteers have assisted schools in improving resources and allowing schools to administer national examinations in physical science and biology.

In addition to classroom teaching, Volunteers have helped to develop other resources. Volunteers, working with their counterparts and Ministry of Education officials, have developed Teaching Guides for English and Physical Science. These guides provide critical resources for teachers who have little to no training and practically no resources.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Malawi



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