Monday, April 22, 2013

Health Fair in Sare Coly Sale

I tried really hard to think of an introduction that would be an eye catcher, something to really pull in an audience, but I was left stumped. It is not that it was a boring day, it was actually really fun, but how could I make handing out condoms and ORS (Oral Rehydrating Salts) to high school students alluring?
My two site mates (Jordan and Wilma) and myself started out the day heading out of Velingara around 8:15am, Sare Coly Sale bound. Jordan and I always talk about how we need to take more bike rides since we don’t get to ride nearly as much as we want to; there are no rains at the moment it is nearly impossible to bike since most of the roads are just sand pits. Back to the story- Sare Coly Sale is only 10k outside of Velingara making it less than an hour to bike allowing us plenty of time to get a bean sandwich once we arrived in Sarah’s ville. Along the way we would catch up, and usually pass, other bikers in the road while dodging cars and the occasional herd of cattle. There was one particular herd that was thinking about crossing the road and, while Wilma was way ahead of Jordan and I (we found out later that she was racing another biker, unnoticed by him), Jordan instinctively chimed the bell on her bike trying to signal to the herd that now would be a good time not to cross the road. I started laughing immediately thinking about what Jordan was going to do had the cattle decided to cross the road. Just then I hear a man snickering, a fellow biker right behind us if you will, who apparently thought it was just as funny as I did. I’m sure he was thinking, “I can’t believe these white girls think that bell is going to move or scare these cows that each weigh a ton.”
Once we arrived in town we got a quick bite to eat, bean sandwich and tea with milk and sugar, and headed to Sarah’s hut to find the rest of the gang; Jessica and Adrian were already in town gathering materials for the fair. Once we arrived at the school where the health fair was supposed to be held we were welcomed with a DJ booth accompanied by those impossibly loud speakers with the worst part about the speakers is that they blare music that is usually one of five songs (Akon is always on the list since he is “from” Senegal) and of poor quality at that. Do we really need to be listening to this crap music at such a strong decibel? When did I start sounding like my mom? Is that what 26 does to you? Regardless, Sarah had some sorting out to do since there were clearly two events booked in the same morning. Though they apparently had a larger budget than our event, seeing the sound system that accompanied them, we were not going to back down
because Sarah reserved the space long before the other event. Also, the problem didn’t lie with just the space it was also the audience, both the events required the attendance of the students making it difficult for them to be at two programs at the same time. We ended up working something out where the students would come to our fair first and then head across the courtyard to the other event. It worked out well.
Our health fair (and when I say “our” I mean Sarah’s event, we were strictly bodies helping to execute the project) consisted of four tables where the students would visit each table, learn about a topic, and receive a little prize/momentum before heading to the next table. Adrian and Jessica, where they were educating the students about diarrhea and the importance of washing your hands and using ORS, manned the first table. The students received homemade ORS (7 parts sugar to one part salt) for visiting the table and answering basic questions.
The second table was with Wilma and she spoke about family planning. Here she talked about all the forms of both female and male birth control that are available, how much they cost and how to use them. Here, we soon found out, was the main reason for half of the male population that attended the fair, condoms were being given away. Everyone got one condom but those who stuck around after the fair got a few more since they were persistent. At least they are being safe.The third booth was with Diane who was talking about Malaria and the importance of sleeping under a net. There is an initiative within the Peace Corps titled Stomp Out Malaria that, according to their website, “… was built on the vision that through strategic partnerships, targeted training and mobilization of Volunteers, intelligent use of information technology, and radically efficient use of seed funding, Peace Corps will focus the efforts of over 3,000 Volunteers in sub-Saharan Africa to make an immediate and measurable impact in the fight against malaria.” The three goals of the Stomp Out Malaria initiative is 1) Fighting Malaria in Our Communities 2) Partnering to Defeat Malaria in Target Countries and 3) Building an International Malaria Prevention Community. I encourage you to check out the website with the link that I have provided above, there are some interesting while shocking statistics concerning malaria and descriptions on projects that volunteers are executing throughout Africa as we speak. Great work to those who work closely with the initiative; it is truly a great project.The last booth was with Jordan and she spoke about lacerations and first aid. She, along with a local teacher, emphasized the importance of using soap to clean cuts and scrapes while avoiding some of the other local methods such as grease or tree bark. Makes sense.

After the fair we went to the boutique and bought entirely way too many bags of Crax (I think 19?), which are basically Cheetos with 1/8 of the cheese, imitation wafer cookies and Coca-Cola. Snacks of Senegal, know you understand why we request packages not only for nutritional purposes but also to get a taste of back home. We ended our day sitting in Sarah’s hut talking and her trying to get us to take some of the stuff that she was getting rid of. She has less than a week left at site so she is in the process of cleaning out all the random clutter that we somehow collect over the span of two years. Time sure does fly though; I have already been at site for eight months and around ten in Senegal, wowza! We sure are going to miss Sarah, she has such a great personality, always knows how to make you laugh and is from the great state of Wisconsin. The best of luck to her in good ol’ Amerik.
Our bike ride home was pretty uneventful other than the fact that my bike seat was feeling a little sassy and would not stay up so within five minutes of raising my seat I quickly became a BMX rider with my knees about touching the handlebars. As much fun as that was I was glad to finally be home around 6:30pm to shower and wait for Amadou who was supposed to come over to talk about a project, but never did. Weird.
Be sure to take care of yourselves folks, drink lots of water, exercise, wash your hands and always use protection.



Kari Cinker said...

Loved the post. Sounds like it was a productive day. Such a simple idea for a fair, but such a great one that I'm sure will have a great effect!

BTW, the guys use their bike horns to bring the cows to the shed every day here so it's not that far fetched! ha ha. Just sticking up for your friend's idea :) Love you!


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