Yet again, it’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. Life marches on and in the classic-Chris. Todd style I have overextended myself. Many people in Peace Corps take their service time as an opportunity to slow down, and in many ways I have as well, especially when you consider the looseness of time in Ghanaian society and the slow speed of communication when bridging a language barrier. On other fronts, life has sped up. Over the past few months, I have been very busy. I started a (hopefully monthly) feeding/cooking demonstration program in my community. We track the children that are underweight each month and then gather those families to cook and eat together the following week. This gives us an opportunity to teach the mothers ways to fortify or improve their meal offerings, as well as a time to educate the families about healthy food preparation techniques and food choices. In my village, there is plenty of food, the problem seems to lie in prioritizing balance (many fill tiny bellies with too much starch and minimal vegetables or protein). Hygienic practices that reduce food-borne illnesses, such as diarrhea, is another area of concern that we are addressing. During last month’s cooking demo, for example, I asked the women to cover the vegetables after they were chopped while awaiting their time to cook. They all laughed and told me African germs don’t hurt Africans. I took that opportunity to discuss what causes diarrhea and the connection to flies (plenty of which were landing on our food). Another project that has taken up a lot of my time is HIV club follow-up. Back in November we presented four HIV trainings in the district. We invited three students and one teachers from each JHS in the area and trained them for two days, covering such topics as awareness, transmission, prevention, and stigma reduction. We had the opportunity to bring in PLHIV (people living with HIV) to talk to the students; this really made an impact on the kids by putting a face and real life stories on the issue. Last month I visited every school in the district to follow up. This involved a lot of travel on some really treacherous roads, but was so rewarding. Of the 24 schools visited that had attended the training, 20 had started HIV Awareness clubs. The clubs had over 600 participants and many had already done outreach in their community to educate the masses. It’s so nice to see concrete actions taking place as a result of our efforts. I’m still working with my midwife as well, assisting her with malaria work and insurance claims. Madame Alice has had a private midwife practice in my village for 29 years. She typically sees between 20-50 patients a day, seven days a week. She is one busy lady, so I’m happy to support her in serving the community. To be clear, she is available to everyone in the community, often dealing more with malaria and cases of chest infection, then with antenatal care, birthing, or postnatal follow ups. Of course, often those concerns overlap. Pregnant women and children under five are high risk groups for contracting malaria in this endemic area. So on that note, I’ve also been working on a bed net distribution in my area. We have procured 1200 mosquito nets and we’ll start distribution soon. Many homes have already registered and after distribution we intend to follow up to make sure they are being used. This, however, does not solve the issue of mosquito bites from dusk till dawn outside of sleep hours, but it helps. Malaria is a huge problem here, with each repeat case leading individuals further down the road toward anemia, which in turn complicates pregnancy for women of fertility age. Efforts to reduce malaria are a complicated issue. I just took over as chair of the Gender and Youth Development committee and am looking forward to working on the “Let Girls Learn” project that Michelle Obama is piloting. In 9 Peace Corps countries. That committee works on promoting and increasing programs that reach out to women and children to improve the standards of living in these populations. Tied to this is my work designing the upcoming Nutrition training for fellow volunteers. I’m working with a group of three other fantastic ladies, who came to country with me last year in the health sector. We want to train newer volunteers in not only the information necessary to promote improved health through strong nutritional choices, but also how to reach out in the community, soliciting not only the buy in of mothers cooking for their families, but also the support of their partners. This is by and large a society where women cook the food provided by their husbands and as such the men often get most of the scarce protein, which their growing children desperately need. We’re hoping to open communication lines and find ways to encourage more equitable distribution of resources. Lots of other day-to-days things keep me busy as usual, but those are the big things that I’m trying to juggle right now. So, I thank you in advance for accepting my slack blog entries. I’ll try to post shorter blog entries more frequently instead of waiting for time to tell all. Wishing everyone back home the best and looking forward to having my husband join me here again soon. Thank god for his summer break!