Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cervical Cancer Awareness Training

Along with a few other Volunteers, I've been helping out with an ongoing collaboration between Peace Corps Volunteers and an NGO called PeaceCare that is aimed at improving cervical cancer prevention and treatment in Senegal.  

We've been coordinating trainings for local health workers intended to raise awareness and improve understanding of what cervical cancer is and what resources are available to prevent ant treat it if it develops. The training that happened in my village was lead by a trainer from the District Hospital and the local midwives. They gave a presentation and then lead discussions with Community Health Workers and Community Liaisons, or "Neighborhood Aunts" as they call them here. They talked about on anatomy, the basics of cancer and cervical cancer, testing, treatment and barriers to care, and then discussed ways to broach the topic with people in their neighborhoods. My role was to arrange all the things that make a meeting happen: announcements, renting a room and chairs, borrowing a projector, hiring someone to cook lunch, and handle things like reimbursement for transport. 

Despite the language barriers - the District trainer spoke only Wolof and French; most of the local women only spoke Pulaar - the women had really valuable, engaged conversations. The midwives and the head of the women's groups did a lot of translating, I drew some basic reproductive anatomy illustrations, and everyone was impressively attentive. Many of the local women aren't literate, but I noticed that several of them had carefully copied the anatomy drawing into the notebooks that had been handed out, which really made my day. I didn't talk much at all, but I learned some interesting vocabulary ("cervical cancer" was translated as "the sickness of the stomach of the mother of the baby") and as women got more comfortable they started telling stories and jokes, some of which I even understood. It was really heartening to see how many people showed up - traveling even short distances can be such a pain in rainy season - and very encouraging to see how interested and responsive people were to the issues being discussed.

And then, just after the training was all over and I was just beginning to get a little self-congratulatory about how well it had gone, several things happened in rapid succession. First, I realized that there was a hole in my pocket and the key to the rented room had fallen out at some point during the day and after quite a bit of hurried searching I had to accept that it was lost. Since there's no back-up key I promised to pay to have the locks changed and then set about cleaning up and returning the rented chairs to the other side of village, but because the car had already gone over to the market and we couldn't call it back because the cell phone network suddenly went out a helpful neighbor kid and I had to carry the chairs, stacked on our heads, up and down the ravine that now runs through the center of our village. On the last trip I slipped and scraped up my shin, ripping my pants and making my eyes tear up a little bit.

I still had to run around to collect all the receipts, grab my backpack from my hut, and say good-bye to my host family before heading off for several weeks (for project work and summit) and my ride back to Kédougou was getting impatient. Once they saw I was bleeding and upset, though, everyone was really, really nice about having to wait a few extra minutes.

So, now I'm in Kédougou working with a couple other PCVs to finish up prep work for the PeaceCare team's upcoming visit and things are going pretty well - lots of unexpected schedule changes, but that's par for the course here. As you can see from the photos, even after just a few days, my scrape is healing up quite nicely. I'm very pleased with my immune system. 

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