Friday, March 2, 2012

ORS, Beignets, and Headhunters

For the second Care Group meeting, I taught about diarrhea and how to make oral rehydration solution.  I was impressed that every woman in the group showed up, and each woman had a list of 7 women in their mini-group that they will be teaching after our main group meeting.  Kaba has been a rockstar counterpart for the project and has made sure that each woman understands the group and that they each came to the lesson with a list of names.  I have an energetic group of women, and they all seem eager to learn and teach others.

I started off the meeting with a discussion about diarrhea, asking the women what it is, how it is caused, and how they can prevent it.  Everyone knew what diarrhea is, but there was some confusion about how it is caused and how it can be prevented.  I drew a cycle on the chalk board showing one person having diarrhea, then not washing their hands after going to the bathroom, and then eating out of a communal bowl and spreading it to other people.  This situation is very familiar to them since it occurs daily.  Getting people to wash their hands with soap is a battle I haven’t tried to fight yet, but maybe a topic for another meeting.  We also listed other causes of diarrhea such as drinking contaminated water, eating food that has not been cooked properly, etc.  To really explain the effects of diarrhea on the body, I made a diarrhea baby out of a water bottle.  The water bottle had a hole where the diarrhea would be coming out, and during the lesson, I unplugged the hole to show all the water that drains from the body.  On the top of the water bottle, I put a wet piece of cloth that represents the fontanel, which is the soft spot on the baby’s forehead.  The soft spot usually closes between 7-19 months.  When a baby is dehydrated, the spot sinks inward, which results in a sunken forehead.  When the water drained from the diarrhea baby, the cloth sucks inwards, showing the effects of dehydration.  The demonstration was a good visual example to explain to the women that the body needs to be rehydrated while having diarrhea. 

To rehydrate the body quickly, we made oral rehydration solution (ORS) with salt, sugar, and water.  The recipe we used was 8 spoonfuls of sugar, 1 spoonful of salt, and 1 liter of water.  The women know that for adults and large children, people should be consuming 3 liters of ORS each day.  I brought water, salt, and sugar to the lesson, and women took turns coming up to create the solution.  They passed the cup around and each tried the ORS and even started giving it to their children during the meeting.  One woman asked if she could take extra home to her family so she could give it to her other children.  At the end of the lesson, I asked the women to summarize the lesson so that I was sure that they would be able to teach their mini-groups the same information.  I was amazed at their information retention!  Some of them were able to teach the lesson and cover all the points that we had talked about, and this is without taking any notes!

Only a few days after the meeting, my Care Group ladies were coming up to me in the village to tell me that they had already taught their mini groups the lesson and that they had made some ORS!  I couldn’t help but feel proud of these strong female leaders in the community!  The Care Group is working, and I am so excited about the work we can do this year!

Another big success recently has been the English Club.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, the two English teachers in the village approached me to be involved in the English Club they were starting at the school.  This is the first English Club Nafadji has ever had, and the teachers are extremely motivated and enthusiastic to get the middle school students speaking English.  At our first meeting, about a hundred students showed up.  It was great to see the excitement and interest, but it was an overwhelming number of students.  We held an election to choose the officers of the club, and it was very chaotic.  At the second club meeting, only the officers came, which was more manageable group of seven.  One of the English teachers asked me to lead some English games with the group as an example of games that they could then lead in later meetings.  I pulled games from my days of teaching English in Thailand, and we had a lot of fun!  Ian was also in Nafadji visiting for the day, so he helped lead some games as well!  We played charades, splat, and hangman, and the students seemed to be having a great time.  I’ve also given the teachers a lot of American music, which they plan to incorporate into future club meetings.  It is so exciting and hopeful to see how motivated the English teachers are to make learning fun.  Along with learning English, they also want the students to explore issues of health and early marriage in the club.  This club is going to be a great way for me to be able to connect with the middle school students, and the teachers have asked me to be the go-to person for the girls if they have any problems they need to talk about.  They also would like me to lead a discussion on sexual health later on in the year.  There are so many possibilities for this club!

Ian and I are still working on our student relais training, and we just handed out applications to the middle school students last week.  Over a hundred students attended our informational meeting, and everyone wanted to apply to become a student relais.  We will be selecting 6 girls and 6 boys to take part in the 4-day training, and they will learn about sexual health, HIV/AIDS, family planning, early marriage, and opportunities for careers.  After the training, the student relais will be expected to lead talks with their peers and their local villages on the information they have learned.  They will become the point people at their school if anyone has any questions about these issues.  Ian and I will be collecting the applications this coming week and will then select the 12 trainees.  The training is scheduled to happen from March 24-27, and some of the Saraya hospital staff will be coming down each day to lead sessions.  The middle school students are very excited about this opportunity, and Saibo pulled me aside at home and told me how much he wants to be selected.  It was very endearing, because he told me how much he loves learning new things and how he has a great memory.  I really want to pick him!

As for daily village life, I’ve started making beignets with my friend Sadio in the afternoons.  She sells beignets each day, and I finally took her up on her invitation to fry up the beignets.  She has two adorable daughters who helped us as well.  Before I arrived, she had made the dough and sprinkled Moringa powder into the mix to make them healthier.  I balled up the dough and put globs in the pan as she turned the dough as it fried.  We made a huge bowl full of beignets, and of course I helped her taste them along the way!  It was a fun afternoon activity, but I later realized it’s not a good one to do right before a long run. 

As we were sitting around the dinner bowl one evening after I had returned from a run, Mbamoussa mentioned to me that I should no longer run on the road I usually run on.  When I asked her why, she told me that a Guinean woman had come to the village that day and told everyone about a premonition she had.  This woman is apparently clairvoyant, and she saw in the near future that a woman would get her head chopped off on that specific road.  The people in my village are very superstitious, and everyone was now telling me that I shouldn’t run or bike alone on that road.  This was coming at a time when I had been in village for close to 2 weeks and we had lost cell reception for 5 days, so I was feeling extremely isolated.  Now they were telling me I couldn’t even bike out of the village?  As weird as I thought the premonition was, I felt very frustrated that my family wouldn’t let me leave Nafadji unless it was in the car that only comes once a week.  When I told Sarr the story, he laughed out loud and told me I shouldn’t be worried about biking alone on that road.  He seemed to think the premonition shouldn’t be taken seriously.  I’m not sure what to think, but the last time I left village, I did it in a car instead of by bike.  If this belief keeps going, it’s going to become very hard for me to get to and from my village.  Although, Mbamoussa told me that if I traveled with a weapon, it would be ok for me to bike alone.  So I may start biking with a machete…

After a very productive stint in village, I’m getting ready to head up to the neighboring region of Tambacounda to run a Half Marathon this weekend!  One of the volunteers organized the race to raise money for girls’ education.  I’m excited to race since it’s been a long time.  Hot season is coming fast, so hopefully they provide plenty of water along the course!

Making beignets with Sadio, Bobo, and Aissata


  1. I'm always amazed at all the diverse projects and experiences you are involved in and your posts never disappoint! Biking with a machete? Guess it's all part of the experience, although it makes me nervous. (Let's hope the clairvoyant is a lousy one.) Good luck with your half marathon this weekend and hope you stay well hydrated!! xoxoxxo

  2. Hi Marielle---Just caught up with your blog! Great descriptions and wonderful pictures. Seeing all 'your' women in all their colors reminds me how colorful the women in Liberia always were; no matter how little money, they were like birds of paradise. Keep up the wonderful work! xox/Kevin

  3. Hi Marielle! very encouraging updates! your work is teaching so many others in bettering their lives.

  4. Thanks for the comments!

    Mom, I bought my machete and have been biking with it, and everyone in the village thinks it's hilarious. If anything, it's a deterrent, right?

    Kevin, yes, the women are always dressed in bright colors! I think my idea of what's fashionable is changing, so my wardrobe may be a bit out of date and bizarre when I move back to the States!

    Don, thanks for the feedback! Hope all is well in San Diego!