Monday, March 11, 2013

First Aid Training

Hot season arrived early this year, and I had forgotten how miserable the heat could be.  I’m sweating throughout the day and most of the night, and the heat sucks up all of my energy.  It’s still cooling off around 5 or 6am, but I’m not looking forward to a couple weeks from now when it will never cool down!  I’m dreaming of being cold in the US next month!

As you may have read in previous blog posts, Ian and I started a Jeune Relais program with Nafadji middle school students last year.  Last spring we trained 6 boys and 6 girls to be health leaders at their school and in their communities.  Our initial training was in reproductive health, family planning, and life skills, and our Jeune Relais spread the information they learned to their peers by presenting in their classrooms and leading health talks in their communities.  Right before rainy season, Ian and I led another training with the Jeune Relais about malaria, and they went back to their home communities for their summer vacation with the homework assignment of teaching the community about the importance of early treatment and how to make neem lotion (a natural mosquito repellent).  We’ve continued to meet with them on a monthly basis to review the material they have learned and to check up on how their health talks have been going.

This past weekend, we went back to Nafadji to lead a First Aid training with the Jeune Relais.  We invited Pat Linn, my Saraya site mate, as a technical trainer since he trained as an EMT and knows a lot about First Aid.  Last weekend, Pat, Ian, and I all made our way to Nafadji the day before the training to meet with Mr. Ngom, our local counterpart for the project.  Mr. Ngom is an extremely motivated English teacher and a great friend, and he has worked hard to keep the Jeune Relais program going after I had to leave Nafadji. 

We were warned prior to coming that the students were having a party at the school the night before the training and that we couldn’t start too early the next morning.  Unfortunately, my hut is right next to the classroom where they always throw parties, so on party nights, I usually get very little sleep.  This night was no exception.  The school rented a generator to blast music until 4am.  Ian, Pat, and I went to bed around 10pm to get a good nights rest before the training, and then the music turned on.  Around midnight, it stopped for about 10 minutes while they fixed a problem with the generator, and we thought we were in the clear.  But then the loud hip-hop music started up again and blared into the night.  Our alarm went off at 7am, and no one wanted to move.

When we saw the Jeune Relais in the classroom the next morning, it was clear that none of them had slept as well.

To liven up the group, Pat asked everyone to get up and do some pushups followed by jumping jacks.  Whenever we felt we were losing the audience, we did some more jumping jacks!

Pat did a great job of explaining what First Aid is and the rules the students needed to follow to be responsible responders when helping the sick or injured.  Along with showing them how to make arm slings and leg splints, he explained the steps that the students would need to take when approaching someone who was sick or injured.  They all learned how to examine someone and make a quick decision about whether to help the patient themselves or get him or her to the health post.  

Pat and his arm sling

Learning how to find a pulse

Teaching the students how to examine a patient

They practiced picking up a patient who needed to be carried to the health post, and they also learned how to immobilize the spine if they found someone who may have a spinal injury.  We finished off the training doing practice scenarios, where we took one student outside of the classroom and assigned him or her a sickness or injury.  Another student was chosen to be the responder who had to figure out what was wrong with the patient and what action to take to help him or her.  The scenarios went well, and the students were driven to prepare themselves to help someone who is injured or sick.

Scenario 1: Maimouna passed out from heat exhaustion

Learning how to carry someone

This was our last training with the Jeune Relais, and Mr. Ngom said that he would try his best to continue the program without us.  It has been incredibly rewarding to work with this intelligent and motivated group of students over the past year, and I hope they retain the knowledge and skills they have learned in the Jeune Relais program.  Many of them want to go on to become nurses, midwives, and doctors, and this program has been a great way for them to learn more about health and get excited about their future careers. 

Jeune Relais

This was the last time I would be in Nafadji with the teachers and many of the students since they will all be on Spring break when I go back to say my goodbyes at the beginning of April.  I started feeling nostalgic and remembering all the great times I’ve had with these teachers and students over the past couple of years.  The goodbyes are already starting, and I’m not sure I'm ready.  A little over 2 years ago, I was terrified of leaving the US and embarking on this crazy adventure, but now I’m terrified of leaving here next month.  When I’m sweating away in my hut, it feels easy to want to be back in the US, but saying goodbye to my family in Nafadji seems impossible.  I still have a month before I leave Kedougou, so I’m trying to stay present.  To keep us distracted, Ian and I have planned a biking adventure for the coming week! 

1 comment:

  1. Great photos, great program! Hopefully Mr. Ngom will be able to continue this with the kids. I'm amazed you were all able to function on such little sleep, however it looks like you got a lot done!