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‘Storm’-ing against jiggers

PRINCETON — One hundred and 50 people from the village of Buynaji in Kenya are walking easier, thanks to the efforts of a Peace Corps volunteer from Princeton.

Joy Storm, a 2002 Princeton High School graduate, has lived and worked in the African country of Kenya since June 2011 as a member of the Peace Corps. As part of the Master’s International program through the Peace Corps, Storm did a needs assessment study in Buynaji, which led to Storm’s project to treat the problem of jiggers in the village.

In explaining her research and treatment program, Storm said a jigger is a small flea that penetrates the feet but can affect any part of the body. If left untreated, the penetration can cause swelling, infection, loss of toenails and even amputation. Also it is very painful and leads to school and work absenteeism, Storm said.

In August 2012, Storm had raised enough money to treat 100 people for jiggers. On Nov. 24, 2012, members of the Kuywa Primary Health Care organization along with Peace Corps volunteers, headed for Buynaji. The first step was to do a demonstration on how the treatment would be done, so the Kenyans would know what to expect, Storm said. Then the health care volunteers turned to the task at hand and treated about 150 people for jiggers.

“This was a great experience for me. It was the first event that I had organized and helping this many people just made me feel great. Everyone was so cooperative and excited for the day,” Storm said. “It was truly an amazing event, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of the Kuywa Primary Health Care, the organization with which I work, and the Peace Corps volunteers who volunteered to help.”

After treating 150 people for jiggers, Storm and the other workers went to 40 homes to fumigate the homes of the people who had been treated. Though the individual had been treated, the jigger flea was still living in the soil, she said.

“So to really have an impact on curing the participants of jiggers, you must fumigate the homes as well,” Storm said. “During the home visits, we cleaned and fumigated as well as evaluated the treatment which was being given at the home by the caregivers.”

After the two-week regimen of treatment and fumigation, it was time for the shoe donation, Storm said. The Soles4Souls organization had donated 100 pair of shoes to Storm for her jiggers patients. Plus, there was another outreach, so shoes could be given to all participants.

“This was in December, and I felt like I was Santa!” Storm said. “It was amazing. All the participants were so grateful for the shoes. Some had never had shoes in their lives, and I had to try to teach them how to tie shoes. There were some shoes that lit up when you walked, and it was so funny to watch the kids try to figure this out.”

Some of the most rewarding moments came in the responses from the Kenyans who had been treated, Storm said.

“I slept until 10 because I was not itching or in pain from the jiggers.”

“I was not teased by the other children because of jiggers.”

“My children slept through the night.”

“My children can finally walk to school with good shoes and no sores.”

“Thank you. You have truly made a difference in our lives.”

The responses from the Kenyans were heartfelt and touching, Storm said.

“These statements brought tears to my eyes, and I felt that this little outreach to cure jiggers has really made an impact in people’s lives,” Storm said.

In a recent letter to the Bureau County Republican, Storm thanked all the people who have supported her work in Kenya, as well as the BCR for its articles on her and her work in Kenya. With the jiggers research and treatment project now completed, Storm said she is now working on getting her research published.

Storm has a bachelor’s degree in science of nursing from the University of Iowa and worked on her master’s degree in public health through George Washington University. Upon completing her Peace Corps practicum, Storm finishes her master’s degree requirements at George Washington. Her goal is to combine her nursing and public health degrees as she plans for the future.

But for now, Storm still has several months to live and work in Kenya before coming home to the United States. She plans to be in Kenya until August 2013, unless the elections in March get violent, which is what happened last time, and the Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated, Storm said. If that happens again, then Storm will be back in March, she said.

But whenever she returns to the United States, Storm will always carry with her the knowledge that she’s made a difference in the lives of people of Kenya.

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