1-8 I really am working

I really am working, I swear

I have been doing some work. I realized that may not be clear since all of my posts are about other things. The truth is, work isn’t that interesting but everything else is.

I am starting out by doing a health survey. The survey that the Community Health Volunteers two years ago wrote is 84 questions long. I have taken out a few and I think mine is around 75 questions, I’ve also changed some wording to make it suit my needs better.

I don’t think I will meet with success if all I do is look around and say “this community needs a toilet” and write a grant to get one. Though they would have a toilet, that is a one-time deal. There is not sustainability to that, once I leave the toilet breaks and then they don’t’ have a toilet. The community learns nothing about accomplishing their own goals, they just learn to let white people come a fix things. That’s not my style. I’m too much of a hippy for that.

Instead, I am asking tons and tons of questions about everything to try to get a sense of what the community wants from me and what I can help them accomplish. The survey topics are family makeup, nutrition, water and sanitation, substance use, family planning and reproductive health, oral health, non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases, general health care, economic situation and opinion questions. It asks questions about what kind of things people know as well as self-reporting on everything from substance use to having a cold. It takes about an hour to do a household. If they have a lot of opinions it can take two and a half. (Two and a half hours was Jason’s papa.)

Some of my more interesting results are that you catch STDs by having sex outside and strong work makes you sick. There is a mediocre knowledge of nutrition, the people who know it, know it and the ones that don’t eat rice and taro for every meal. Family planning is almost non-existent. Everyone brushes their teeth at least a couple times a week. Everyone wears sandals, but no one knows how to block worms. (Wearing sandals is the number one way of blocking worms. If you don’t step in poop, the worms can’t get to you.) Everyone knows that keeping animals and stagnant water away from the house and sleeping under a bednet are the best ways of avoiding malaria and dengue fever. TB is passed by coughing and working too hard. High blood pressure and diabetes can only be treated with Western medicine. The water in the area is consistently clean and drinkable and everyone uses a bush toilet. And my favorite, sex under a mango tree means you won’t get pregnant.

I’ve done 16 of these to date, all of them in Vansemakul. Next week, I’m going ‘on top’ to work on some of the other villages which should be fun. I’m interested to see what other kinds of answers I get.

One of the projects that I’m considering at the moment is the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) which is a WHO supported program to get communities to work towards improving their hygiene and sanitation abilities. I glanced through the handbook while I was at Alex and Lucas’ site for Christmas and listened to them talk about their experiences with it. I’m actually excited to dig in and get started on it. It is a mostly picture-based method of showing a community where they are and letting them decide where they want to be. Then they make a plan to get there. That plan could be writing a grant or it could be holding fundraisers, that’s up to the community in question, not the person running the workshop. Way more hippy, but also way more my style.

I’ll have more interesting work to report in a few months when I tally my survey results and start on the 6-month plan.

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