Twanda learning to floss

On June 30, 2011, my fellow ETSU Frist Global Health Leader, Megan Quinn and I had the opportunity to meet with the Orphan and Vulnerable Children Coordinator of a local NGO in Munsieville, Lagae La Bana (Home for the Children). This organization focuses on servicing orphaned and vulnerable children with daily meals and social support throughout the year. During that meeting, it was decided that a program for those children would be implemented during winter break from school. The program focuses on engaging children in the area of academics, arts, sports, and health issues of the community. This program also seeks to engage pensioners and non-working adults in developing a cooperative. This cooperative will seek to start a project that benefits the community through government funding.

The program began officially on July 5, 2011 with introductions of all participants and a teambuilding exercise called the Human Pretzel. During the introductions the children were given the opportunity to introduce themselves through expressive drawings without the use of words. The children seemed to enjoy these activities and they opened the lines of communication and partnership among the children. Due to the success of the team building exercise and we decided that it would be a good idea to begin every session of the program with a teambuilding exercise. These exercises would give the children and adults a sense of confidence and self-awareness.

The second day of the program was all about basic hygiene techniques such as oral health and hand washing. I led the oral health education of the session, while Megan led the hand washing education. We thought it was best to open session with one question posed to the group, “What is the smallest thing that you can think of?” This question received an array of answers from birds to germs. Of course we were looking for answers related to “germs”. I then asked the group, “What is the first thing that you do when you get out of bed?” Again I received a variety of answers from “eating breakfast” to” brushing my teeth”. These open-ended questions led to the importance of oral health. During the oral health session the group was taught the proper method of brushing their teeth in a circular motion, brushing the tongue, and the proper method of flossing. Most of the group had never seen or used floss before; so this was another new, yet exciting experience for the group to engage in. To conclude the oral health education, I asked the group, “What happens if you do not brush your teeth on a regular basis?” The group responded with tooth decay, bad breath, plaque build-up, and diseases. We then went further to discuss the types of diseases that occur from bad oral hygiene, such as gingivitis and bleeding of the gums. The oral health education ended with questioning from the group, which was very impressive. The group asked many questions ranging from sharing toothbrushes to the proper time to change a toothbrush. Each participant was given tooth brushes donated by the Thoughtful Path: Munsieville.

Megan then led the hand washing portion of the workshop. She taught the participants the importance of hand washing, the difference between using cold water and hot water, and the importance of using soap. Megan also discuss how easily germs spread from hand to mouth, person-to-person, and described the infectious diseases that can occur if hands are not washed regularly or properly with warm water and soap; especially before meals and after using the restroom.

Beginning July 7, the adults serviced by Lagae La Bana decided that they would love to begin a bakery cooperative for the community. With the help of Megan and me, it was decided that we would assist the group in developing a proposal for funding from the local government to develop the cooperative. We are also trying to establish a relationship with other businesses in the area so the cooperative may have mentors in the areas of their interests (i.e. bakery, ceramics, business development and CV building).  During this day, the children were asked to divided into to groups and list common health issues that affect their community and to suggest solutions. The children were then asked to present their ideas. This activity showed the children how to work in groups, communicate, and to serve as leaders in their respective groups.

The first week of the program ended with the children participating in “book clubs”.  With this project, the children were divided into four reading groups and four of the older children were chosen as group leaders. We selected the leaders based on their communication and writing skills, and overall confidence with being leaders.  Each child was then given an age appropriate book donated to the Thoughtful Path: Munsieville program by Project Hope UK last December.  Throughout the book club program; the children will continue to meet with their respective groups, develop their reading skills, and summarize their books to the best of their ability.

This week’s experiences have been exhilarating to say the least and we are looking forward to next weeks’ events. Next week the program will focus on teen pregnancy, sexual education and substance abuse; CV/resume’ building; and sports and art. The program will close with a showcase of the displayed projects developed by the participants of the program. Participants also will be presented a certificate of participation.