Friday, June 20, 2008

Maps and Meetings

I'm very happy with how things have started off. Almost immediately upon arriving, I pitched the communications program at the hospital's management meeting. Most of those in attendance I knew from my previous stay in Namitete, and they seem happy to have me back.

I've discovered that props are useful. So, I lugged my suitcase into the conference room, revealing about one-hundred cell phones. I also flopped around the ~100,000 units of communication credit I'd purchased at the airport. After a quick demonstration of FrontlineSMS, ideas started flowing - and not just in one direction. I'm finding that ideas developed in the US regarding the program's potential usefulness (e.g. patient follow-up, TB and HIV drug adherence monitoring, fielding the community's medical questions, etc.) are really resonating here.

After a bit of grudge work (putting in SIM cards, implanting the initial Celtel units, recording numbers, testing FrontlineSMS, etc.) we are ready to start the pilot.

I am calling the Chairs and Vice Chairs of both the Community AIDS Committees (CACs, "cacks") and the Village AIDS Committees (VACs, "vacks") for a meeting on Monday morning. It's set for 8AM - I'm hoping they'll trickle in by 10:00. This first 'batch' of CHWs will be the pilot within the pilot. After monitoring their activities for a week or so, we'll look to expand to another group - as the Matron says, we'll start with those who are "hardest working."

I spent the day in Lilongwe, trying to find decent maps of the area the CHWs hail from and work in. First, I tried the District Health Office. No maps, but the doctor coordinating health information for Lilongwe was very interested in the communications initiative - specifically, the possibility of scaling up to cover the entire Lilongwe district. In an attempt to stay ambitious but grounded, I kindly left her my e-mail and other contact information.

Next, I headed to the Department of Surveys. Like the government hospitals, the state buildings are treacherous. Quite literally, I had to guess which alleyway to wander down - I was finally consoled by a piece of paper, duck-taped to a door, which read, "Digital Mapping." I put in an order for TA Kalolo and TA Mavwere (don't ask me what 'TA' means, because I have no idea), and was told to come back in a few hours. After a few bribes ('fees') and hitchhiking excursions, I had my maps (below).

I'll leave you with an image of some of the goods. Before the week ends, I am creating some step-by-step instructions for operating the phones and FrontlineSMS, which Alex is going to translate into Chichewa tomorrow. I'll probably fall asleep testing the hand-powered, wind-up chargers - the motor is strangely soothing.


Karina said...

This looks really cool! I'm glad - it seems like you're really hitting the ground running in Malawi! Look forward to future entries.

D. Scott said...

you're awesome. Call me sometime if you have a spare phone. I'll also be getting back from Myanmar Aug 10th, but I do not have a bag of phones...
D. Scott Smith

Grahambo said...

Sweet man! This looks awesome. Thanks for the invite, I'll definitely be scoping you from Sierra Camp this summer. Can't wait to read more.

Enrique Allen said...

Awesome Josh, this is great! I look forward to more stories. GLuck

Thiago said...

Wow! You are the man! You are making progress quickly! Keep up the good work... friend

matere lusitche said...

i like your on the groud ethusiasm keep it up remember the notice board idea i sent you see for a brief outline and get me on for additional information .hey we should meet