Finally Here!

Touched down in the Maldives a few days ago and what a start it has been! After a couple of lengthy layovers and more than enough time spent in the air, I can say it has most definitely been worth the wait to arrive in my new home for the next six weeks at the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru.

We spent our first night getting to know our Maldivian volunteer partners who picked us up from the airport in the capital of Male with a “Welcome UCSC Volunteers” hand drawn sign. What a welcoming and friendly gesture to arrive to after such lengthy travels. I distinctly remember spotting them from within the airport gate, giving them a wave and watching them jump in the air in elation to finally be able to get acquainted. I must admit that although I was fairly exhausted, the excitement was most certainly shared. After discussing Eid celebrations, Maldivian customs, football (or soccer), and our anticipation of the upcoming project over smoothies and snacks, we retired to a local hotel for a much needed night’s rest.

The following day our group woke up early to be greeted again by our new Maldivian volunteer friends. Today meant the chance to finally travel to Landaa Giraavaru, the island within the Baa Atoll which would be our new home for the coming weeks. I also got the chance to finally meet Trudy Rilling-Collins, our fearless leader and mosquito lady coordinator, or madiri dataa as the Maldivians would say in their native language of Dhivehi. Sydney Miller and Ibrahim Lirar, our other two leaders, also greeted us at the Landaa Giravaru dock.

It is these three individuals who have worked relentlessly to make this project happen and allow for me to have this amazing opportunity. I cannot wait to learn from Trudy, Sydney, and Lira along this wild ride of a mosquito control project in the Baa atoll. Trudy’s seemingly endless knowledge of mosquitos, their life cycle, and their breeding habitats will provide us with the tools we need to attack the issue head on. Sydney’s leadership skills, organization, and amazing attitude will give us the confidence to be able to travel island to island with the necessary tools at hand. Lira’s connection with the Maldivian people and relentless attitude in tackling this problem will help to provide the bridge needed to connect with families and communities. All together, we have an amazing team comprised of some incredibly talented people. I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks have in store for us!

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Bodu Huraa School Children Learn About Mosquitoes

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On April 24th 147 school children from Bodu Huraa School attended a science lab and mosquito presentation with Trudy Rilling-Collins the “Mosquito Lady”. Twelve classes of students attended spanning Kindergarten through 10th grade. Students had the opportunity to see Japanese Mosquito Fish eating mosquito larvae up close and personal during the lab activity. The hungriest fish ate 40 larvae in just a matter of minutes! Good news for mosquito control in the open wells on Bodu Huraa. Students learned about the life cycle of the mosquito and viewed larvae, pupae and adults emerging from the water. Students also used a microscope kindly lent by the Marine Discovery Center to view magnified mosquito larvae and pupae. For many students it was the first time they had ever looked through a microscope to discover a fascinating world of fine detail. A slideshow highlighted the life cycle of the mosquito. Problem areas on Bodu Huraa that create mosquito breeding habitat which included open wells, tanks and in ground septic tanks were also part of the slideshow. Students were encouraged to check their wells with their parents to see if the wells contain fish to keep the mosquito populations under control. Fish from neighboring wells are being transferred to wells lacking fish. Students were encouraged to participate in controlling mosquitoes around their houses by picking up trash that can hold water, emptying out containers after rains and helping their families look for mosquito breeding in and around their homes. Teachers are also helping in the mosquito control efforts by compiling a list of families whose wells do not contain fish and may therefore currently contain large populations of mosquitoes. Educating young people about mosquito life cycles, Dengue Fever and how mosquitoes vector it, is an important part of building community awareness and creating a sustainable mosquito control program for Bodu Huraa.

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