An Article by Towela Makala Ndovie, Rotaract Volunteer, Zambia
Rotaractor Kaoma Kaoma called me and asked, “Would you want to volunteer with MPZ and help out in Mkushi district?”
That was how it all began. At first, I was hesitant since I had never taken a bus outside of Lusaka, I didn’t speak the language, and I was travelling as a solo female. But I took a leap of faith and said, “Cool.”
The next day, I receive a call from Eric Liswaniso, the Programs Manager for Malaria Partners Zambia, who informs me of the program and answers all of my inquiries about everything from culture to travel logistics. He also provides me with the contact information for two former volunteers from the Rotaract Club of UNZA, Louise C. and Alfred C. so I can hear their accounts of the experience on the project. The following day, I was prepared to leave with my bags packed.
On the day of my trip, everything was ready; all I had to do was reserve my Yango (our version of Uber) and head off. Alas, my key decided it wasn’t ready to let me leave, leaving me trapped inside. Whether this was a sign or simply the result of Lusaka’s chilly weather freezing my key to the door, we will never know.
So, since I missed my direct bus to Mkushi, I had to take a different route that went first to Kapiri, then to Mkushi. I’m sure the other travelers and drivers were perplexed as to why this girl was asking at each station, “Is this Kapiri?” or “Is this Mkushi?” Unaware that this female has a history of missing stops, but nevertheless experiencing Zambia’s legendary friendliness and generosity, this girl made it safely to Mkushi after a grueling 8-hour journey.
Arriving in Mkushi
Mr. Moses Mambwa, the World Vision Provincial Coordinator and Beene B., a fellow Rotaractor from the Rotaract Club Ndola Mukuba picked me up at the Mkushi station. Over the course of the next seven days, we would collaborate to learn more about malaria and to become change agents in our individual areas.
It was very exciting to hear about the progress that this program has made in the community regarding educating community health workers and providing them with tools in order to understand malaria and be agents of change in Mkushi.
I must add that networking is also a part of this experience as I got to meet amazing people who are passionate about ending malaria in Zambia like Mr. Tadious Chibomba the Ministry of Health representative and Mr. Chisombe the Provincial Health Office representative for Central Province, both of whom I had very fun and engaging conversations with.
Soon after dinner – lights out began the moment my head struck the pillow!
On a chilly and windy morning, Mr. Mambwe drove Beene and I to our first destination where we met with another team of very dedicated trainers from the Ministry of Health. We helped with data handling and marking of test papers for the 35 Luano participants training to become community health workers. After lunch, I sat down with the organizers and we had more interesting discussions under a tree. Later, the team met with the community volunteers to get their thoughts about the program and the impact it was having on the community.
The next day, I was taken to a new location where 29 other community health workers from Luano were also being trained. Here again, I got to meet more interesting personalities from the Ministry of Health. Beene and I were again tasked with data entry duties before continuing with the training seminar where got to learn more about malaria. I can brag here that Beene and I took the pre-test and scored 100% on our tests, which is evidence of the superior teaching techniques used by facility staff to educate the community.
Fast forward and in a flash, graduation day was here. After days of immersing myself in the learning, it was time to witness the graduation ceremony. More than 90’% of the class obtained 100% in their post test results and the educators were comfortable sending out into the community to serve their neighbors.
As I departed Mkushi community, I gained a new perspective on who I am as a person. Not only did I gain more knowledge of my Zambian roots, but I made new connections from different walks of life. The dedication of the National Malaria Elimination Center, provincial, district, and facility staff, Rotary international and the community health workers all had a profound effect on my life. The malaria elimination program in Zambia will forever have a mark on my life.
Thank you Mkushi!
On September 8th, 2023, the Rotary International President Gordon McInally announced that Rotary and its partners World Vision and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be implementing the Rotary Healthy Communities Challenge which will build on the successes of the Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia project and scale that work to 3 other countries.
Malaria Partners West Africa has been engaging with PATH and The Gambia’s Ministry of Health and National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) to design a new initiative aimed at strengthening community case-based surveillance for malaria in the North Bank Regions of The Gambia.
By Peter Mubanga Ng’andu – Rotaract Club of Lusaka
As a Project Management & M&E professional, I believe in data driven interventions and that’s why when an opportunity to volunteer in Data Quality Audits (DQA) emerged, I gladly took it in the spirit of service above self.