Peace Care blog post Thursday January 20, 2011
Blog entry co-written by Leah and Meera, Peace Corps Volunteers
As Peace Corps volunteers, we’re used to a lot more napping and a lot less eating than this. But this has been one of the most instructive and inspiring weeks in country thus far.
We are both preventive health volunteers from Newton, MA (what a coincidence!) who live and work in rural communities in the Kedougou region of Senegal. We arrived in country in March 2010 and have been in our villages for ten months. The majority of our work focuses on maternal and infant care and nutrition. Other projects that health volunteers work on are HIV/AIDS awareness, diarrhea prevention and hygiene education, and learning to express our own hygienic and diarrheal needs in local language.
Leah, along with Chris Brown, the volunteer in Saraya, has been involved in planning the project for a long time now and can barely believe that the night bus from Dakar to Kedougou did not send any of our delegation home crying or smack talking the Peace Corps. Meera has been the Peace Care official traductrice and has improved her French vocabulary so much that she can now give anybody a pelvic exam and talk about your lady junk in French, quoi.
Today was the third day of the training of trainers. Leah accompanied Tracy and the trainees on their first VIA! The patient was brave and totally unfazed by six people examining her cervix at once while two toubabs spoke about her vagina in a language she didn’t know. The trainees demonstrated that they have understood everything they have been taught so far. Luckily, the VIA was negative, and the entire experience created a great start to the day! Nora very humorously demonstrated how not to decontaminate medical instruments. Melody and Paulette led sessions on how to diagnose VIA positive and suspected cancer cases through photos. We have never seen so many cervixes (cervices?) in our lives. And we live in the most fertile country in the world (ie we’ve seen many a birth). In the afternoon, the Peace Care team and the trainees had frank and open discussions on how to best record their findings and how this campaign can be spread throughout the health district of Saraya.
As Peace Corps volunteers, we adopt local names, families, and friends. We both feel emotionally and culturally connected to these communities and are really in tune with, and a little territorial about, how outsiders come and work with our Senegalese friends. We have had both positive and negative (more negative) experiences working with foreign NGOs and have been ridiculously impressed with Peace Care. We commend how the team has considered all aspects of sustainable development, especially by using local expertise and cultural sensitivity. We have really enjoyed being part of this experience and we may or may not want to be gynecologists when we grow up.
Mbamoussa/Leah and Kathiaby/Meera