Sunday, August 21, 2011

Technical Training

Technical training has probably been the most rewarding learning experience so far. All 14 of us WATSAN are staying in a house in Gushie, Northern Region. We have running water and a woman who cooks our lunch and dinner. I know I have not mentioned food on this blog yet and that is probably a shock knowing my ‘foodie’ tendencies. All you need to know is that there are two food groups here: carb and oil. I am so thankful that I brought multivitamins because my system would be in a complete meltdown from nutrition deprivation without them.  I am very excited to start a garden at my site and get my fill of produce. I can’t wait to make American /nutritious food as an award for kids. The yellow vacant eyes, dull skin and hair and extended bellies are practically the features of every child I encounter.  There is so much potential for education and projects; I don’t know where to begin.

The first highlight of these past 2 weeks was baby weighing at the health clinic in Pong-Tamale.  The proper name of the day is Children’s Welfare Day.  The first 6 months of children’s lives the nurses in the communities encourage mothers to bring their kids in every week to monitor their weight.  The purpose is to educate mothers on how to feed their children properly and get the kids vaccinated. Also it is a time to talk about family planning. All the children that were there were healthy; however, that is because once a child starts loosing weight the mothers stop coming. Shame of not being able to feed their children prevents them from any help the health clinic can offer. I was told one story of this happening to a boy and his parents only brought the boy back after several months of starving. He died that night in the clinic.  The death and funeral of many children will soon be a very common experience for me. Even though I have been warned, it does not make the sadness and shock less.  Although this all sounds pretty depressing the day was a lot of fun and I got a lot of awesome pictures (which will be uploaded when I get access to fast internet… which won’t be for a while).

The best lecture so far was when we went to an insectory in Tamale. The organization told us all about their projects to stop malaria.  They test different insecticides to see which one kills the species of mosquito that carries malaria the most effectively. They go into homes and for free spray the walls with insecticides so when the female lands on the wall to rest she dies.

We have Sundays as free days.  The WATSAN group met up with the Natural Resources people at the crocodile pond, which is practically part of Burkina Faso.   The whole tourist spot was to sit on the crocodiles. They have one about 12 feet long and they feed it live chickens until it is full and then you go pick up its tail and then squat over its back. It is quite terrifying I am not going to lie. I just kept imagining that it would whip its head around and crunch down on my leg. Also there was a chance that another crocodile could come out of the pond wanting to be fed, but your back is faced to the pond. I asked if there was someone with a gun ready. They pointed to a small man with a large stick. I guess that will have to do. A Stone beer was a most after the experience.

For two days we had representatives come from John Hopkins behavioral change program talk to us from 8am-5pm.  The most useful assignment was we were put into groups and had to mobilize the community and teach about a certain topic. We choose “No condom, no sex.”  We talked to a group of woman and men separately. I really gained confidence in my abilities to speak culturally sensitive and respectful to Ghanaians. All of our training is graded; therefore, I believe I am doing well.

One day was spent on building soak away pits and organizing a fun educational dance party.  I am skeptical that the soak away pits will work. Our translators were in charge of educating the families on use and maintenance. I am excited to be at my site and be able to watch projects be sustainable or fall apart and learn from it. The exercise was purely to work on our technical skills.  Later in the day the party was to demonstrate how to put up insecticide treated nets and make neem cream.  Some Ghanaians believe that you can only put up nets in their house and with a bed. We hung the nets outside in the open using sticks to hold it up.  Apparently after probing the translator, we found out that this community does us their nets in the wet season if the family has one.  So the challenge to stop malaria is to get the behavior of hanging nets in the dry season. Since it is extremely hot during this time we will have to be creative.

Neem is an indigenous tree. People use its leaves as a cure for malaria and a bug repellant.  We boiled the leaves and then added soap to make a natural mosquito lotion. They would only have to buy the soap. There is no scientific research on if the Neem really works; therefore, government organizations such as USAID do not support the use of Neem. Since there are several people in WATSAN with science backgrounds, we are really excited to do some of our own experiments. Maybe after two years have something to publish in a scientific journal. Email me if you would like to help or offer advice.

The weeks leading up to swearing in are going to be busy. I have to pass a language proficiency test at intermediate mid, present on my topic of the Sima traditional funerals, and organize and put on the small community organized project at the health clinic for mothers about personal hygiene.

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