Mat and I are in the program called Rural Home Preventative Health. The other portion of trainees is in Youth Development. With all of my experience with youth, I’m not sure what I am doing in health, but here I am so here I go! What is RHPH you all may be wondering? Well, in the past a program similar to ours was called Appropriate Technologies where there was a focus on the construction of latrines, wells, safe wood burning stoves, water deposits, cement floors, water filtration systems, etc. However, with the drop in the value of the dollar and many NGOs interests in only investing in water projects, there has been a cash flow problem. On top of that, building these systems does not translate in their being used. There seems to be a problem with making sure people know how and can afford the upkeep on the things built. Or a problem with other organizations has been never teaching the people how to use the systems in the first place.
We are the pilot program for RHPH so we all will be learning as we go including all the PC people in charge. Basically the focus is on Education. We use the “Charla” method which are informal discussions with members of the community on health related issues that are affecting the area. We evaluate what those problems are by talking with the people about what they believe to be the problems. Then the Charlas work to introduce them to new methods or hygiene practices. Only a small amount of energy goes toward construction or there may be none at all in the end. The hope is that we could even train others to continue the education process once we leave. It is a different approach to development than most models. It actually seems sustainable, and by that I mean the people may be more likely to continue the work and work beyond what we were doing well after the PC volunteer leaves. We use the people, institutions, and creativity of the community instead of bringing in outside “help.”
They tell us we need lots of patience, flexibily, and enthusiasm. We are working within a different culture where waiting for people to show up to our Charlas which could then last for a long time may be in store. Our trainers say that the first six months to a year is when we will be gaining the Confianza of the community. We need to establish that we are there to help in any way possible. So basically we get out there and start talking. Volunteer to help out with holiday celebrations, help a farmer get his seeds in the ground, or teach classes at the local school. Do any and everything to get out there.
So for the training, we are working at either a Centro or Puesto de Salud (Centros are bigger and have doctors where Puestos do not). Mat and I both have Puestos. Then we work with Health Promoters who are usually volunteers (so unpaid) who take time from their source of income or families to do the work. Mine are all women (4-6). All of them give injections, take out pointy objects that people have been stabbed by, and other things that sound like nursing. Actually we may be doing that too. And we can start by giving rabies shots to dogs in the street. So we will actually be training promoters as training and volunteers on how to give Charlas. Hopefully in turn they can train more people, who will train more people, who will train more people….
That is a bit about our work. Hopefully that clears things up. I know Mat and I were pretty confused about what we would be doing here. Now we have a general idea but since it is a new program it is all likely to change once we are “in-site.”