With rainy season quickly approaching, my community health nurse and various community clubs have been working hard to get loved ones prepared for the increase of mosquitos. I would just love to share with you some of what we are up to! Specifically, I’d like to share on the recent training that we were able to put on in village. Sooo, here it is.
Welcome to Kulari’s Bed Net Care and Repair Training
First and foremost, we all need to acknowledge that this training occurred during Ramadan. The above picture was taken after an all day malaria event with no food or water. They all were amazing.
The goal of this training was to get the Village Support Group members, the Village Development Group members, three teachers and three students together to equip them with the knowledge and skills to start helping others in the village set up and use their bed nets properly. We just had a mass bed net distribution by the Catholic Relief Services, so most everyone should have new, unused bed nets. These individuals serve as ambassadors for all of Kulari to promote malaria prevention and aid in increasing the number of individuals that are not only correctly informed, but also displaying healthy preventative behavior. They are like little bed net ninja spies, swooping in to save the day, and make positive change.
The day started with an introduction of the training and why we are even promoting what we are promoting. What is malaria? How do you get it? What are some myths and barriers that we can overcome when it comes to hanging and sleeping under a bed net? How can we make hanging bed nets easier and more comfortable? It would amaze you how many barriers actually arise with bed net usage. Barriers include individuals feeling as if they are “laying in a grave”, bed nets are unattractive, sleeping under a net is too hot, the air is harder to breathe under the bed net (due to lack of washing and dust, this is actually legitimate), bed nets cause skin rashes (also true if you do not let your bed net air out for 24 hours before you use it), there is nowhere to hang the net outside where many people are sleeping, now, due to the heat, and so on and so forth. This group of twenty-two, hardworking community members came together to come up with strategies to tackle all of these barriers.
Men and women, alike, were shown different bed net repair techniques, as well as, how to properly wash a bed net. Important knowledge such as what kind of soap is appropriate to use on a treated bed net as to not wash off the chemical, how often you should wash your net, and how drying nets out of the sun will prevent damage was also a topic of discussion. These practices increase the longevity of a bed net, which is important when distributions happen every two or three years.
We even spent some time practicing bed net beautification and how to make easy out-door bed net hanging structures. The teachers and students really went all out on this portion of the training creating a three-dimensional tree design! Krystal, my agriculture volunteer neighbor and friend also sewed a tree…it was so AG of her…
My personal favorite part of the day was the drama put on by the Village Support Group on the importance of bed net use, and the teacher and student drama on malaria and pregnancy. HM, my CHN of whom you should all know by now because of my last post, did a great job of providing short educational lessons on malaria and pregnancy, as well as facilitate follow-up true and false games to see if everyone was retaining the information or if there were any questions and confusion. The participation was outstanding!
By the end of the day, the participants were split into groups to come up with their own mini bed net health talks. It was important for them and us to see how they can impact others and relay information and knowledge effectively. Everyone was a-maz-ing.
By 7:00, we were all ready for a well deserved break fast. Chicken Yassa, my FAVORITE Gambian dish, was served, and we all ate, drank juice, and wrapped up a very great and successful day.
So what happens next? The first picture shows almost everyone that attended with folders. These folders had pens, tally sheets, and community maps in them. What we have asked each individual to do is talk to at least five other individuals in the community, and help them put up their bed nets correctly. Each time they do, they can mark it on the tally sheet and on the community map where they talked to the individual. The maps are provided so that, by the end of July when we compile the data, we can see which parts of the village are not being touched. The goal is to have each participant reach at least five other members of the community by the end of July.
Meanwhile, HM, our community health worker, and I are going compound to compound to do bed net surveillance. With this, we collect data on how many people are in the compound, how many bed nets they own, and personally ask to see the bed nets that they have hung. In each compound, I give a short health talk and reminder as to why we need to hang our nets, and inform them of our return in a month to see if more nets have been hung and are being used.
In the end, all we want is to see the cases of malaria decrease this year. Bed net usage is just one way of effectively protecting ourselves here in the Gambia, especially in the URR. These twenty-two participants are hard workers. Now, we can only hope that more people in Kulari will also take these things seriously and share in our bed net revolution!