Little by little, that’s development work for you, petite a petite, vi vi vi. Small small.
I’m leaving for Training tomorrow after completing my first three months at site and 6 months in Togo! It will involve more preparation for starting larger projects and talking about national projects and conferences we can work on. It will be the first time our whole group of volunteers will be together since we swore in in August. It will last a week and then I am going up to visit Paige’s village and spending Thanksgiving with a group of volunteers up North.
Finishing up the first section of my service I have been thinking about what I have accomplished so far and my plan of action for the next 21 months.
Thus far I have been able to get a few things rolling:
I started a health club with middle school students where we meet once a week to talk about health. We started out with me asking them why it’s important for them to be healthy, their families, their community, and Togo. Kids had great responses about how health affects ability to work, which hinders development! I was really impressed. Since then we have talked about nutrition, we planted a moringa nursery, discussed hygiene, and the immune system. The kids are great and I am looking forward to getting back from training to kick off World AIDS Day December 1! We are going to spend all of December talking about HIV and stigma through round table discussions and games. It will coincide with a district wide HIV prevention campaign I will be doing with Marissa and our work partners.
Health club! Head, shoulders, knees and toes in French and English.
There is a kids club on Saturday mornings at the library where I spend a lot of my time. We play games, sing songs, and do homework help. It’s mostly girls so I want to throw in a Let Girls Learn project with it eventually. The kids are great and love when I teach them a new game, last week we did ‘duck, duck, goose’ and then I read them Paddington Bear in French (it was a favorite of mine as a kid). I am working in a time to do English tutoring for those who want it, I have had a lot of kids come to my house to ask for help with English and want to make it into its own program. (I am hoping to bring school supplies back with me for kids if anyone has any they want to donate!)
I work at the CMS every morning and have started birth plans with the expecting mothers to help them plan financially and logistically for giving birth. I also give health talks every Wednesday at the vaccination and baby weighing day at the clinic. I have done talks on exclusive breastfeeding, family planning, hygiene, and malaria prevention. I give them in French and then the midwife translates them into Ewe. I’m hoping by the time I leave I can give health talks in Ewe and they will be taken over by health center staff to be more sustainable.
Every week I visit all the HIV patients in my district with my Homologue.
What is a home visit?
We go to each family’s home and see how the health of everyone is doing. We make sure HIV patients are compliant with ARV medication regimes. We make sure they are practicing healthy behaviors to stay healthy since they are at a higher risk of getting sick. We have to be discreet in our home visits because HIV stigma is a huge problem and it is important the patients have complete confidentiality.
I have done a needs assessment with the village elders, women’s group, Red Cross, and primary, middle, and high schools.
What I learned: the primary needs in my community for health are improved sanitation and malaria prevention.
I conducted surveys throughout different populations in my community to better understand the education gap in malaria prevention. Every home has a mosquito net, but very few are used properly. Many are not even used on beds and if they are they are hung in a knot over the bed like a dream catcher. National campaigns give out nets, but how to use them, why they are important, how malaria is contracted are often thought to be repetitive and unnecessary to explain. I look forward to doing a malaria campaign in my community to do home visits with community health workers and give presentations on how malaria is contracted and prevented. Some common misconceptions are that malaria is contracted from the sun or hard work, treatment is herbs from the market or ibuprofen, and prevention is napping in the middle of the day.
Other needs are health and tuition for education for the orphans in my community. A lunch scholarship program for kids that live too far away from school to go home for lunch and can’t afford to buy it.
Garbage! Trash burning is only so effective because the things that can’t be burnt are left in the ditch such as batteries and lightbulbs. Most things are reused such as bottles and cans, but a better system is needed to improve public health.
The world hand washing program was great and I am hoping to follow it up by building hand washing stations at schools and in public spaces.
It’s a slow process, but that’s development work. Behavior change is not an easy fix and public health and prevention is all abut behavior change.
In other news, I’m old in Togo. I was told by a Togolese friend that blondes are considered old in Togo because they think of white hair as what older people have. I never believed it until I was asked Marissa is my daughter. Marissa is another volunteer who is significantly taller than me, so I found that pretty hilarious.
The good news: I’m coming home for two weeks! I will be in Seattle January 22- February 3 and will be making a 24 hour layover in London on my way home and would love to see everyone! If I don’t see everyone in England while I’m there I want to make a longer trip next Fall to check out grad school programs.