Category Archives: Projects


Paul organized a great blood testing tour of Diambo (Evan’s village) and Taredji (Jonno’s village).  We tested 87 people.  There was a 25-30% syphilis rate and one HIV-positive result.


We spent two nights in Diambo and one night in Taredji.  In Taredji, Jonno’s MSS girls (many of them also participated in our girls leadership camp) performed a great theater sketch that attracted a huge crowd.  We passed out condoms (in secret to many teenage boys, much in the manner of a drug-deal, and to not so many older women who thought the condoms were candy or medicine) in addition to teaching many adolescents how to put on a condom correctly.

This was a great project to end our service with, especially because it involved working with our two closest friends Evan and Jonno.

Fa Ly taking blood from a patient

Fa Ly taking a blood sample

Jonno explaining how HIV can/cannot be transmitted

Paul hands out peanuts to some waiting patients in Diambo

Evan's brother Sinthiane

Teaching kids about HIV/AIDS

Abused puppy finally gets to play (normally spends his day in a hole)

Hitch-hiking for a ride to Taredji! We ended up walking most of the way.

Girls demonstrate proper condom use

MSS girls ready to do theater

Crowd gathers in Taredji to watch the theater sketch about HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases



Bakel Eye Clinic

Don examining a patient's eyes

For a week, Paul and I got the chance to help with a great project in Senegal.  The organization called Right to Sight and Health and two of its ophthalmologists Dr. Judith Simon and Dr. Donald MacDonald spent two weeks doing cataract surgeries in Bakel, a city located along the Senegal River on the far east edge of Senegal.  Paul and I helped with the second week, mainly serving as translators while also aiding the doctors with organization, consultations, operations, and other technical procedures.

Each day, patients waited for a ticket to see the doctor.  After buying  a ticket, patients were given a preliminary eye test by Evan.  Patients were asked to identify objects on an eye chart: moon, star, cow, flag, hand, or foot.  Patients that were blind in at least one eye were seen by the doctor.  From there, patients who were good candidates for cataract surgery were scheduled for an operation sometime later in the day or week.  In many cases, we had to tell patients that they would never see again in an eye due to severe glaucoma, botched surgeries, or other complications.  Near the end of the week, we had so many surgeries scheduled that we turned away all patients that had at least one good eye and concentrated on Priority One patients: patients who had two bad eyes.

Before surgery, my job was to do scans of the eye that determined the power of lens needed for the lens implant.  It required poking people in the eye repeatedly with a pen-like laser pointer after applying a numbing substance.  After measurements and a set of dilating drops, the patient went to Wilma and Nicki who dilated their eyes a few more times, took blood pressures, and aided the doctors in injecting anesthesia that blocked nerves from the eye to the brain.  When ready, the patients were taken in for surgery.  The surgery itself did not take long, and involved making a couple small incisions.  The cataract was removed and an implant lens was put in to replace the bad lens.  A day or two after surgery, the patients came back for a post-operation consultation to see if they were seeing any better.  It was amazing to see patients come in who had restored eye sight.  One little old man even raised Don’s hand in excitement proclaiming: “Vivre Amerique!”

The week was exhausting as we were sometimes working from 8 am until 8 pm with a small lunch break.  I was so impressed by the focus and stamina of the doctors.  People came from all over Senegal to get cataract surgery.  We had, of course, many insistent patients who secretly weaseled their way into the examination room even when they had no ticket yet to see the doctor.  And then there were the Coumbas.  We had three women (all named Coumba–Coumba Sow, Coumba Thiam, and Coumba Ba) who had their surgeries bumped from day to day to day because of over-booked surgeries (and also because all three had only one eye blind).  Coumba Sow was quite a character, talking about herself exclusively in the third person and constantly screaming her own name whenever any PCV was near her: “Coumba Moussa Sow is here! Did you hear?”  After her surgery, she ran outside dancing and screaming: “Coumba Sow hulaata.  Baaba maa, o hulat, kono Coumba Sow hulaata!” (Translates to “Coumba Sow is not scared, your dad he is scared, but Coumba Sow is not scared!”)  Thank goodness we got to all their surgeries the last day of the clinic, as turning them away after each day of waiting was dreadful.

Aside from work, we got to see the beautiful city of Bakel, a city that reminded me much of Podor with its French fort and river bank gardens. In Bakel a large percentage of people speak Soninke–a difficulty when translating during the eye clinic (I ended up learning some eye-specific vocab for the week).

The week was filled with both heartbreak and joy: Telling people they would never see again but also watching people, who could not get around without help prior to the surgery, walking themselves into the consultation room. This has easily been one of the highlights of my Peace Corps service.

Most of the Bakel Team

This is what happens when PCVs have access to dilating drops:





Health workers discussing TB

Thank you to those who donated to my TB project!  The training and forum were a great success.  Health workers throughout the Commune of Ndioum have learned important concepts about tuberculosis: knowledge that will motivate them to teach others within their communities and work together towards decreasing TB.  Please see the “Complete Projects tabs for some more info and pictures.

MSS Finalists go SHOPPING!

Here are some pictures of the 3 finalists going shopping at our local bookstore for their $30 worth of school supplies under the supervision of the middle school’s PTA president.  The girls were excited to receive their new supplies.  Thanks to those who donated to make this possible!

Donate now to decrease tuberculosis!

Source: WHO, Global TB Control 2010 report

I am once again asking for money.  However, this time is for a large project that is completely community-initiated.  The chief of the health post in Ndioum approached me asking for help for a project of his.  He was recently trained in Mbour on tuberculosis and wants to pass this knowledge to Ndioum and the two surrounding communities of Toulde Galle and Gamadji Sare.  This project has two phases: (1) health worker training on how to best control TB and (2) a social forum where important community members, health workers, and TB patients talk about the issues of the disease.  The chief states that people in the area often do not come to the health post to receive treatment due to some of the negative stigmatizations associated with the disease.  This project hopes to mobilize the entire community towards decreasing the prevalence of this disease.  I need to raise $1222.83 for this project.

Please donate and see a more detailed description of the project here!

Please Donate to the Michelle Sylvester Memorial Scholarship

If you haven’t done so yet, please think about donating to the Michelle Sylvester Memorial Scholarship Fund.  We still need to raise $6400 to fund this scholarship program for the more than 400 scholarship winners throughout Senegal.  A donation of only $10 will help keep one of these girls in school by paying for her annual school fees.  An additional $30 will pay for the school supplies of one scholarship finalist.

To donate online, click here.

“[I]nvestment in girls’ education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world.” –Lawrence Summers

Ramadan and Sheep Update!

Just a quick update about what we’ve been up to.

Please welcome Thierno (pronounced with a “ch”–french spelling), the newest member of our family:

New family member

Paul giving Thierno a bath

Paul and I have been making our way slowly through the month of Ramadan.  The first morning, a neighbor woke the entire neighborhood with his good intentions to remind all to eat an early breakfast before the rising of the sun.  He did this by banging on a bucket while running up and down the dirt road that passes by our house.  Since then, Paul and I have been fasting halfway—ranging between going the day with only sips of water to eating full meals cooked at the regional house.  But as tradition commands, we’ve been breaking fast every evening with dates and tea loaded with milk and sugar (and on good days, a cooler of ice to make a yogurt drink that I adore).

We are finally settling into our neighborhood.  I’ve been going around doing a small baseline survey of our neighborhood to understand what some of the health/environmental issues are.  So far, I’m seeing lots of issues with malnutrition (among children typically).  In addition, I have been helping each Monday and Thursday with baby-weighings and vaccinations at the local health post.  I’ve been working my way up to where I can now help fill out information and weigh babies.  The health post here has a progressive malnutrition ward that helps women with kids ages 0-5 years who have either health issues or low weight.  They get together to cook porridges, milk, and lunch while also discussing some health issues.  I am hoping to survey women at this ward and at the baby vaccinations to get a better understanding of what types of factors lead to malnutrition in Ndioum.  My guesses are: premature giving of water/weaning foods to children younger than six months and poor maternal nutrition/hygiene.