Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Listening to Community Grandmothers

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications

We travel to Louly Ndia, a village with 1,147 inhabitants. We learn the history of the village health hut from the president of the health committee. He said the health hut initially was supported by a German woman. But until CCF assisted in coaching the communities, the program wasn’t working. Today it is a thriving program that offers a variety of services, including treatment for malaria and acute respiratory infections, assistance for childbirth, providing health and nutritional education and providing vaccinations.

We tour the health hut and then watch skits performed by the children. Similar to the morning’s program, the children again emphasize preventive measures against malaria and the need to visit the health hut and not rely on traditional forms of medicine. As they share their skit and songs they also share the message of how important bed nets are in the prevention of malaria. Without them, the children will get sick. “If we are sick, we can not go to school. We can not go to the field. So please get us a bed net.”

The messages are easy to understand and it’s clear that the children do understand them. As they learn the messages they share them with their parents and siblings – it’s an easy way to change attitudes at home.

CCF President Anne Goddard asks the children to raise their hand if they sleep under a net. Almost every hand shoots up.

Then there is a session with the community’s grandmothers. The grandmothers care for children and are considered wise. They also are used to being involved with helping birth children. Now parents rely more on the health nurses with the midwives’ assistance. Still there is conflict between the traditional and the modern ways. The session lays out the controversy including how some grandmothers say tradition is inherited and therefore, should not be lost. But the reliance on tradition often means illness or death since modern practices are not followed.

An animated conversation follows. It is clear that some grandmothers have embraced the modern ways but a few still don’t believe the new ways are better.

It’s a message of hope that transcends geographic boundaries. As Anne tells the group, “I think any child would be lucky to be born in this village with so many mothers, elders, and grandmothers who care. I will remember this day a long time, and when I am a grandmother I will tell my grandchildren what I learned in this village.”

No comments: