UAA professor Jocelyn McGee continues work on Malawi Resilience Project

by Michelle Saport  |   

Dr. Jocelyn Shealy McGee, from the UAA Department of Psychology, returned to Anchorage from Malawi, Africa, after spending her second summer working on the Malawi Resilience Project (MRP) in the 37-village catchment area of Malawi Children's Village ( in the Mangochi region of Malawi.

Malawi is now ranked the poorest country in the world based on GDP per capita by the World Bank with over half of the population earning less than $1 per day. In January 2015, the country was devastated by floods that led to loss of lives, displacement and destruction of crops and other resources needed to sustain the population for this year.

The MRP was initially funded by the UAA INNOVATE Award for faculty research in 2014 to Drs. McGee, Eldridge (UAA Department of Psychology), Nighswander (Alaska WWAMI) and Thomas (Global Aids Interfaith Alliance). Other collaborators are Mr. Genesis Chorwe (Kamuzu College of Nursing, University of Malawi) and Dr. Repar (Integrative Medicine, University of New Mexico).

The aims of the MRP are to better understand factors underlying resilience in guardians of orphaned and vulnerable children in order to develop culturally sensitive, strengths-based, community-oriented health and wellness programs for this population in the context of significant poverty, adversity and trauma.

Highlights from this summer's trip were interviews with guardians of orphans and vulnerable children in rural villages on their life experiences and the provision of four workshops aimed at reducing stress and enhancing well-being. The workshops, which were well-received by participants, were developed by Drs. Repar and McGee and provided to the technical staff at the Zomba Psychiatric Hospital (the only government-funded psychiatric hospital in Malawi); 12 guardians of orphaned and vulnerable children in rural villages; a young women's empowerment group; and approximately 60 village volunteers from the 37 villages served by Malawi Children's Village.

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