For the past 10 months, I’ve been posting blogs, pictures, and videos of my time in The Gambia. But I’m sure some of you have been asking yourselves (I sometimes even find myself asking), “What do you actually do?”
Peace Corps volunteers have some of the most independent, self-driven, and often times perplexing positions in the US federal government. And my “work” in The Gambia is vastly different from the “work” of another volunteer in another country. The best part is, it rarely ever feels like “work.”
My official title is a Health Extension Volunteer for Peace Corps The Gambia (PCTG). As mentioned in previous posts, I work in the spheres of Education and Agriculture as well, but I’ll just focus on Health here. In PCTG, we have a Health Project Framework that guides us, along with our Community Needs Assessment, to the projects we carry out:
Maternal and Child Health (Working for Gambian women to have healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries, positive birth outcomes, and healthy children):
– Women educated on essential maternal care services
– Women adopting healthier feeding practices
– Community members reducing the burden of malaria
Environmental Health (Healthy behaviors to reduce diarrheal diseases and improve the community’s health):
– Improve water system operation, maintenance, and management
– Utilization of clean water and proper hand hygiene
– Clean water and sanitation facilities at schools
So those are the overall targets set forth by Peace Corps The Gambia and the Ministry of Health in The Gambia. Volunteers tackle these goals in several different ways. I try to do so by:
1. Building capacity of community health workers
We hold workshops for Village Health Workers and Community Birth Companions on topics like malaria prevention, family planning, non-communicable diseases and many more. The workshops are meant to improve the effectiveness of Community Health Workers in my village and others.
2. Establishing peer to peer education for students and adults
I work with our Village Care Group to conduct compound inspections, bed net checks, hand washing station construction, soap making, and cooking demonstration. We teach the 15 members of the Care Group, and they’re tasked with teaching their neighbors and friends. I also work with the Peer Health Club at the school, using the same method with students.
3. Assisting with the weighing and immunizing of children throughout 15 villages
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, we hold Reproductive & Child Health clinics for pregnant women and children under 5. We weigh and immunize each child, work on a birth plan with pregnant mothers, and give a health talk on a different topic each clinic. Lately we’ve been doing Nutritional Surveillance for moderately and severely malnourished children using the MUAC (Mid-Upper Arm Circumference) tape.
I do something different every single day. I don’t have an office, I never wear business casual, and my morning commute is a walk up the hill to the clinic. Some days I just hang out with kids, other days I just drink tea with old men, and some days I go into the city and have a pool party with friends.
I have a really cool “job,” even though I rarely think of it as a job. I’m learning a new language, I’m always hanging out with people, and I’m working to try and make our village and the surrounding villages a little healthier.