Ryan Sandford here.
This post serves as an introduction of sorts. Starting in January 2019, I will be working alongside Peace Corps Response Volunteer Andrew Abram in leading the STOMP Out Malaria Initiative in Rwanda. Andrew and I will check in on here time to time, as we begin this new chapter. Andrew will have more to say about himself and his already existing work in this initiative, but I will give some of my background, so you know who you are reading/talking to in these future updates.
I was born and raised in New Hampshire, spending most of my time pretending to live on the coast, being in the ocean or near it. I graduated from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire where I majored in English with minors in communications and music. After a research fellowship led me down a series of rabbit holes studying the Syrian Uprising, I become hooked on development, conflict zones, the connection between disease prevention and infrastructure. I was fascinated by epidemiology but lacked any hands on experience to show for it. After graduating college, I moved to Washington, D.C, to work for the Anti-Trafficking Organization International Justice Mission. I worked as a writer. It was thrilling and an unforgettable experience. From there, I jumped straight into my Peace Corps Rwanda experience, teaching and doing malaria projects over the last two years. After mastering some kinyarwanda and learning a lot about failure and how much I don’t know, I find myself extending for a third year in STOMP work. I couldn’t be more excited and more eager to share this journey, and start to put some of my experience in writing.
The other day, I was sitting with some colleagues discussing the negative effects of malaria and what we can do about it. One of them laughed, and looked me in the eyes. I could tell part of him was sincerely asking.
“You really believe malaria can be eliminated in Rwanda?”
In Rwanda, asking this question sometimes feels like asking about eradicating the common cold—because it is so prevalent and so engrained in daily life. But it doesn’t have to be.
So, I said. “Yes.”
Call me an idealist, but malaria elimination is possible, thanks to vigorous government support and groundbreaking new technologies, which we will continue to share about here. Now, I have the unique opportunity of supporting my Rwandan colleagues as they continue to push Rwanda towards a chapter where malaria does not kill young children, does not reduce a single farmer’s income, and does not remove one child from school.