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Katherine Buchman, Madagascar

MPH alumna, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

I served in Peace Corps Madagascar from November, 2003 until January, 2006. As a community health educator in a small, rural village in central Madagascar, I developed and taught a general health class at the local “middle school.” I focused on endemic disease prevention, sanitation and nutrition for the younger students, and life skills, including sexual decision making, HIV/STI prevention and education, and prenatal/early childhood health for the older students. In addition, I tutored interested students in English language and mentored a group of teenage girls who were no longer in school because their families could not afford to send them away for high school.

In addition, I taught prenatal/early childhood health classes to groups of pregnant women visiting the local health center for vaccinations and check-ups, as well as providing relevant health education presentations to interested members of the community, such as the regional law-enforcement, and others. Upon discovering that my region was renowned for its skilled basket-weaving, I helped the local women artisans in my village organize a weavers’ cooperative business, which allowed them to sell their goods to tourists in Antananarivo, the capital city, and increased income for families in the village.

Through incorporating empowerment and skill-building activities with health education I was able to provide members of my community with important information as well as the necessary tools with which to use it. As a young American with little work experience and few opportunities to live abroad prior to the Peace Corps, I became intimately acquainted with the language and culture of another country, and learned to combine my skills as a self-starter with the valuable lessons of community-building and team work. Peace Corps showed me that my greatest satisfaction comes from helping others to achieve their potential, and has informed my career and educational decisions ever since. Coming to the University of Pittsburgh for my MPH in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences was the culmination of these experiences. This degree will help me to become a valuable contributor to the field of community health research and program development, and enrich my understanding of the intersection between community, culture, and health.

In the kitchen of my house. I loved the freshness of my market vegetables.
In the kitchen of Katherine's house. I loved the freshness of my market vegetables.

Katherine and her “little brother,” Ranto. He kept me grounded, for sure!
Katherine and her “little brother,” Ranto. He kept me grounded, for sure!

Trano: A typical house in Madagascar
Trano: A typical house in Madagascar

A lemur, posing for the camera
A lemur, posing for the camera

Some of my weaver friends, dying reeds for baskets
Some of Katherine's weaver friends, dying reeds for baskets

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