Friday, December 17, 2010

Not Another Faceless NGO

I live here, and I am coming to you for help with a project that is deeply important to me and the people of Ngaraff: we are working to rehabilitate the non-functional health structure in the village.  As I describe in the last post, many of the my early conversations with the members of my community made apparent the need for such a project.  Currently, the village has two small buildings that function as a Health Hut - the smallest unit in the top-down Senegalese health structure - but they are rendered largely ineffective due to the lack of a viable compound-type area that is safe, inviting, and conducive to larger gatherings and other health-related purposes.   The people of Ngaraff face a persistent set of health challenges, including malaria, respiratory distress, child malnutrition, and complicated pregnancies.  Under current circumstances, villagers have to travel over six kilometers, by foot or horse-drawn cart, to reach the health post in the next town over.  Often, however, they just don't make the trip, leaving illnesses untreated, preventative reproductive health measures untaken, and malnourished babies without recourse.

Obviously, there are a number of steps that have to be taken for the health system in the village to function well.  Some of these are already in place - For one, Ngaraff has two highly competent, energetic, trained health workers. Their opportunities to conduct effective health care, however, are just about entirely stymied by the fact there is no viable setting in which they may do their work.

My conversations with these health workers, as well as with the village health committee and other community members, has made it clear to me that, in order for the Health Hut to function in a robust and worthwhile manner, it needs to become a secure, inviting compound-type health facility, contained and protected from the road and the elements. Thus, my plea for money.

Through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), I have put together a grant to build a wall around the village Health Hut.  Through a separate funding source (see if interested), we will also build a water tap and latrine within the Health Hut Compound.

Together, these improvements will serve to create a safe, sanitary, and pleasant compound-type area that will service the community across the spectrum of health-related needs.  Additionally, a walled-in location will make possible a garden and tree nursery on the Health Hut grounds, both of which will reinforce the importance of healthy practices with the community.

I'm fully aware that, despite what I've described here, a wall might seem like an insignificant or symbolic improvement to any locale -- this would have been my reaction as well.  Living here, however, I fully grasp the necessity of such a project.  Given the sandy terrain of the village, coupled with the extreme heat and prevalence of strong winds in the region, the small health hut buildings, by themselves, are nearly unusable - what is necessary is a protected, shaded outdoor area that lends itself to being a gathering space and a setting in which a health worker can function in peace.

Of course, a functional health structure consists of more than a functional location.  That is why, both before and after the completion of the health hut wall, I will work with the village health workers, as well as the district doctor, local nurse, and other third party individuals, to plan and implement a variety of health-related activities.  These will include: monthly baby weighing in conjunction with baby/child nutrition demonstrations; other types of nutrition education; regular HIV testings in conjunction with education on HIV/AIDS sensitivity, prevention, and general awareness; family planning discussions; seminars on the importance of pre- and post-natal visits; and other activities.

Over time, the health hut compound will enable the community to address a number of principal and entrenched community needs, including expanded youth education and reproductive and family health discussions.  I truly believe that this project has the potential to heighten gender parity in the village and generally boost the morale of community members as medical care becomes effective and reliable.

PCPP is an international Peace Corps initiative that allows volunteers to fund projects by collecting money from friends and family back home through secure, easy online means.  If this project is something you would like to support, you can do so by going here:

I've described some of the build-up to this project below in the first part of that last post.  For those of you that want more information, I would LOVE to share my entire grant proposal with you (makes for fascinating bedtime reading!) or to answer any questions or concerns you have.  Just contact me here on the blog or at

Thank you, sincerely.

"So, I can't tell you how, exactly, health care is a basic human right.  But what i can argue is that no one should have to die of a disease that is treatable."
-- Paul Farmer --

1 comment:

  1. you look beautiful in african clothes, i think you are the first white woman i have ever seen donning them