I don’t know where the past seven months have gone, but I am somehow finished with all of my ‘big’ trainings. So…I guess I am a real volunteer now. As we have been told over and over again, we now have ‘all of the tools we need in our tool box’. Basically, this just means that we have some idea of what we are doing now. Enough to start implementing programs, know a language and take our PC service into our own hands.
Sure I am ready for that. (She says as she blankly stares at the to do list sitting on the table)
In all reality, however, this past in-service training really was an amazing, helpful and growing time. We covered A LOT of ground. We had guest speakers from health resources around the area such as NANa and WASH. There were countless project planning sessions, gender and equality sessions, improved cook stove tutorials, mural paintings, soak pit creations, income generation and soap making workshops, nutrition sessions, pregnancy sessions, dramas, songs…the list goes on and on. Some sessions were fun, some were hard, some were heart wrenching, shocking even. We spent a month, 8am to 5pm, learning and growing as a group of 14 health volunteers who came into this country together knowing a whole lot of nothing. Now, somehow, someway, we are able to function here as if it were home. It really has become home.
My personal favorite part of the training was the part when our counterparts showed up. We each were allowed to invite one counterpart for a three-day training together. What an awesome time to get to know my counterpart and even learn more about my village. The woman I chose to come to the training is named Isatue (what a great name, huh)? She doesn’t speak English so we had a translator around, but this woman does work! She is a member of the VDC (Village Development Committee) and the village’s Women’s Club. Isatue works along side of the Mother’s Club at the school, and you can always find her at every event, dancing and singing. Turns out that my fellow PCV brought a counterpart that was an old friend of Isatue’s, too. Let me tell you, these women were the life of the party.
There was a lot of bonding time. Many movies watched, group runs, yoga in the evening. In general, just a lot of time to share ideas and support one another on the journey that really feels as if it is just beginning.
So whats now?
For the past few months, I have been implementing a needs assessment. These findings have guided me on the ‘whats next’. During my assessment, I was able to go compound to compound, interviewing 30 women and 11 men on the topics of maternal and child health, infant and young child nutrition, malaria prevention and control, household water, hygiene, and sanitation, and school hygiene. Under each health topic was a series of questions. The goal was for each interviewee to pick the topic that they felt was the most prevalent and in need of improvement in the village and answer a series of questions regarding that topic.
In the end, the major concern for both men and women was found to be in maternal and child heath. Specifically, the inaccessibility to deliver children in a health facility. Our nearest hospital is about an hour gelly gelly ride away on a sandy and BUMPY road. You may get there faster on a motorcycle, but try telling that to a woman going into labor. So the alternate is these women having their children in their own compounds, many times praying for no complications.
Here is my first project to begin looking into. Everything good begins with surveillance. Hopefully, I will soon be able to look deeper into the topic, feel around for the support of the village and do what I can to help the situation. This seems like a really big project to me…so I’ll keep you posted.
Secondly, it is Malaria Month! This means that the whole month of May will be spent on malaria work. More to come on that…
Lastly, but certainly not least, people in my village have expressed the want to learn English. With some serious prep work, I would like to work with one or two of my teachers and have a once a week class at the clinic. If you have any good resources, I’ll be open to hearing about them! Feel free to email me or comment below.
Take this all with a grain of salt. Who knows if any of this will work out.
To be honest, there are so many more factors in this country that can possibly go against productive work than I anticipated. The heat, the long work days at the fields, the seasonal calendar, Ramadan (where everyone fasts for a month and village life shuts down a little bit), weddings, funerals, holidays that I didn’t realize existed…the list is long. So, I foresee a lot of time navigating all of these factors. Not to mention the time that it takes meeting with the village elders, the alkallo, and the community groups that you will be working with.
I am aware that this last update seems a little vague, but that is how my current service feels. Full of options and opportunity. We will see what the next few months hold for Kulari and little old Isatue!