Moskita… me no like!
I HATE mosquitoes!
I thought I hated mosquitoes before I came to Africa but after being here for two years I despise, loathe, and abhor them (I love my thesaurus). Last year, while working with the Burkitt’s program, I discovered even more about why mosquitoes are EVIL (maybe that’s a little harsh).
Here are some reasons why to hate mosquitoes:
1. They cause malaria, which kills up to 3 million people each year, mainly in Africa.
2. Malaria is a major factor in causing Burkitt’s Lymphoma (BL). This cancer mainly affects children in equatorial Africa. The reasons kids get BL are from chronic malaria, malnutrition, plus a dose of the Epstein Barr virus. This cancer, if left untreated, has a100% death rate. ‘Mosquitoes are EVIL’ statement still stands.
Then last November, during my visit to Liberia, this hatred grew even DEEPER when one of these little-parasite-infected-bugs infected ME with malaria (yes I was taking anti-malaria pills). Now they made it PERSONAL! It took me about 2 weeks to fully recover. The positive side of having malaria was that I could truly empathize with my patients but I wish I could have found out another way.
So this year as I took on the new role of being Off Ships Health Educator I was asked to head up the malaria education and bed net distribution program to all the patients at the Hope Center. I quickly accepted.
I wrote up a funny/interactive role-play and started going once a week to teach all the patients staying at the Hope Center. It started off kind of rough, but as the weeks went on it got better and better. The program has been going for about four months and over the past month the patients have become the teachers/actors. I now let them act out the play independently while one of the day volunteers head up the Q & A time.
Another blessing during these teachings has been the cultural sensitivity that I have received from the patients. For example many Africans are taught that malaria comes from:
Eating to much mangos, oranges, and/or oil
Working in the sun/Overworking
Drinking a bad batch of cow milk
When children are naughty (if this one was true I would have had malaria everyday!)
Upon hearing these things my initial reaction was “YOU IDIOT!” But I figured that I should be a bit more gentle. instead I dug deeper to explain to them why these ‘fables’ were not true.
Becca: Yes these are some of the things that we are taught from our families that cause malaria. Now according to the story, how many days after we get a mosquito bite do we feel the symptoms of malaria?
Patients: 12 days
Becca: Okay so let’s say that 12 days after I get bit by a mosquito, I work in the sun all day long and then I come home and eat 10 mangos and 10 oranges plus do something naughty. What am I going to blame malaria on?
*definition of ‘Aaaaa’: a common Sierra Leone reaction which is used upon hearing or seeing something surprising; sound of comprehension)
Becca: Yes! “The ‘Aaaa’ of Understanding. I then went on to explain, “So you see we assume the most recent thing we have done gave us the malaria but don’t think back to the small mosquito bite that happened 12 days before.”
Teaching can be a struggle but is so POWERFUL when the students really understand. Sometimes when I am teaching I feel like I am a small burning candle desperately trying to light everyones candlesticks. I plan out all different methods on how best to try and light others candles and will research for hours and only light a few candles. BUT then there are other times I teach and all of the sudden its like ‘BOOM’ and I feel like I am standing center stage with bright lights shining all around. ‘Aaaaaa!’ These center stage moments fill me with excitement, hope, and passion to keep teaching preventative health.
After doing these teachings at the Hope Center, Mercy Ships decided to let me go and do this same lesson at a small village church about one hour outside of Freetown. Over the past 4 weeks I have been going out weekly to teach malaria and to hand out mosquito nets. We were graciously given 100 nets to be given out at one small tarp-constructed church. During my first two visits I led the role-play and Q & A and then the last two visits I became the student and students became the teacher. The first time the new teachers needed a little help during the Q and A time but this last week they did it 100% by themselves. I was so proud of them!
Today was my last day teaching in the village. It was sad leaving knowing that there were still so many that were in need BUT as I thought about the 200+ people from 16 different villages that had received the malaria education joy filled my heart. God is doing more than I could ever ask or imagine and his ways are SOO much higher than my own.
My hope is that each one of these that heard the malaria lesson would become a teacher. That they would be teachers in their home, school, workplace, and community. I pray that many candlesticks will be lit until each village shines bright.
Teaching at these two places has been an amazing experience. I have continued to be refined and challenged but also overcome with joy and love. This hatred towards mosquitoes has given me a deep passion and love for teaching others how to stop these little-parasite-infected-bugs.
In two weeks, Greg and I will be traveling to the US to do some fundraising and to visit churches, families, and friends. We are SOO excited for this time. We are also excited about not having to think about malaria during this time .. hehe..
May God continue to provide wisdom and discretion for stopping diseases like malaria that kill so many each year.
A matter of belief
4 years ago