CHE (Community Health Education/Evangelism) is at the heart of what we do medically through HeartBeat for Africa. It is about educating local trainers to not only lead, but to be involved in solving the pressing health issues of their community. After all, they know the language, the culture and the issues that face their community. Who better to be the leader in finding the solutions? Thankfully, we have gotten to meet and train remarkable people living in the rural communities of West Africa who want to make a difference in the lives of their people. We have taught them lessons on hygiene, nutrition, avoiding malaria, etc. Our medical teams have been apart of assessing the health of young children & providing this information back to community leaders. With this information, community transformation begins and we have worked with local medical professionals in their medical clinics.
Story of one young man:
Bursting into the village, a group of raiders ordered everyone out immediately. Within hours they would be back and anyone left would be murdered. Whatever possessions were left behind would be taken. Jonathan (assumed name) fled with his family to a nearby country. He was so close to finishing his high school education, but now that dream was not attainable. He would just have to do what he could with his family to survive. This is unfortunately, the story of one of the remarkable young men we met in our travels. He knows more than 6 languages and was being trained to work in the local church medical clinic. Now, through the support of the mission and others, Jonathan has finished his high school degree and is in nursing school, to one day return and run the church medical clinic.
In the community where we are currently working, there is no running water, latrines or electricity. Animals and people defecate on the ground as latrines are not used, because the human waste is the primary source for feeding their pigs. There is not scrap food available to give to the pigs. Because there is no running water, hand washing is more difficult. Very little fruit and vegetables are available besides rice, so under nutrition is a big issue, especially in children. But adults are affected as well as the average life span is in the late 40’s. Ten percent of children don’t make it to the age of five.
Yes, we see patients in the clinic and bring medicines and try to meet the community’s acute needs too, but if that is all we do, our brief trip’s effects will not last long after we leave. That is why the heart of HeartBeat for Africa’s medical outreach is supporting local missionaries, leaders and healthcare workers who are already live there, to serve their own community. I can’t wait to see Jonathan return home and help lead the healthcare outreach in a community that has no other clinic. Not only seeing patients, but teaching them to avoid diseases which can be prevented through hand washing, safe cooking practices to avoid burns, training on ways to reduce the risk of getting malaria, etc. We are just at the early stages, but are beginning to see the fruit of what it means to support local leaders to make a difference long after we leave.