Friday the 13th and our Open House

 

Friday the thirteenth, the day we were all expecting with a strange mix of excitement and dread. We were super excited about Healthy Living’s open house. The open house was HL’s closing event, where we would be showcasing what the team and the community members had been working on together for the past few weeks. On the other hand we were dreading two things: the bad luck of a Friday the 13th- which fortunately waited until the event was finished to manifest- and, more than anything, we dreaded the thought of having to say goodbye to the people of Chaquizhca, Guara and Bella Maria. People who had so warmly opened their homes, schools, and their hearts to us.

We arrived very early in the morning to set everything up, gosh I had like 300 drawings from the story telling and participatory project I was working on at the local schools. Lucky for me the children arrived shortly and came to my rescue. Later, some folks from our french ally institution Tsiky Tzanaka joined in, and we were done in the nick of time. The party started at around 10 in the morning, it was the perfect mix of a cultural fair and a gathering between good friends. There were booths with local produce and crafts, others with some creative work from the members of the HL team, and some from local partners and institutions. There were interactive activities like the solar clock, which aimed to show community members traditional alternatives to new technologies that have been forgotten; the family photo booth and community photo shows; the balance and jumping ropes for the children. I was in charge of the children’s room, where the drawings from the story telling and participatory sketching activities were showcased, along with art projects from the children’s class work. It was a very nice experience, having people come and explaining what the children and I had worked on for the entire month, why it was relevant and what was next.

Later on, there were performances from the children and community members. The best moment for me was when I found out the community members had set up a snack post with traditional Latin-American delights like empanadas and salchi-papas (fries and wienies); I always loved those back in Colombia and had missed them a lot. We concluded the event with a nice lunch and warm goodbyes. The children asked me “Lily, Lily!!! are you coming back next year?” I smiled cautiously and answered “God willing, I will try ” I was sad about the uncertainty of it all, but I felt worse about people who were probably asked the same question, but knew for sure they were not coming back. Still, whether we planned on coming back or not, we hoped that the communities had found our presence as enjoyable as we had found their company, and that our work had impacted their lives at least half as much as it did our souls.

Going home, Friday the 13th started kicking in: two vans had flat tires, we encountered all kinds of crazy stuff on the road, but at the end of the day there was nothing but satisfaction in the memory of that day. As we shared dinner and drinks we also shared warm and happy memories, funny anecdotes and jokes about some not so pleasant experiences. The open house had closed, but we hope that the hearts we tried to reach during our time there would remain open.

Apart from the display of children’s drawings, there are also other booths of Clinic, Entomology, Mammal, Entomology, Healthy Living, and some agriculture products and souvenirs bought to the Open House by local people. Let’s see what we have for the day.

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Link to the original post: http://oueduabroad.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/open-houses-open-hearts-and-bitter-sweet-farewells/

Focus Group on Healthy Housing

One particular thing about Healthy Living Project is that we have always used participatory approach while working with the communities here. This has been proved to be the appropriate method to approach the local people, who better understand their different aspects of life here and see things in a different way than the development experts or professionals. What we think may be good for them is not the same as what they think it is. Therefore, participatory approach is necessary to better comprehend the needs and necessities of local people and to bridge the gap in knowledge and understanding between local people and experts.

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The housing component is one of the five major components of HLP and has been the most critical part in our fight against Chagas and to improve housing and living conditions of the communities here. To engage local people in developing the idea of a healthy housing and living, we invited some women from the communities in Chaquizhca, Guara, and Bella Maria to conduct a focus group on Healthy House and Healthy Living.

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The participants were shown some pictures of houses in different conditions and were asked what they see in the houses that need to be improved. After the evaluation of houses, we went on gathering ideas of how a healthy house should be. They were divided in two groups and each one tried to sketch an ideal house that can keep the bugs away and help them maintain a healthy living condition. From their sketching, it looks like they already had a clear idea of the house they want. The most encouraging thing that we found is that their picture of the ideal house also fits the requirement of a healthy house that we think of, which is built of nice materials, has fence, no animals in the house, and has cages for animals and pets located outside the house.

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The focus group ended up with the question of how to build the house that has this ideal conditions and what kind of assistance that local people require from donors, organizations, and from us. The participants supposed that they can build their own houses or improve their current place if they have enough money, and of course they need assistance in building houses, but they also believe they can do it with their labor.

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It was such a productive meeting as we could better understand the needs of people in building the houses, how they want to build their houses and how we could help them in achieving the goal. We are also happy with the fact that three out of five women came to the meeting will become our health promoters, which mean they will spread the knowledge and information within the community. We believe they will be the positive deviants among their communities and will help to promote how to live a healthy life and the importance of having a healthy house. Way to go, health promoters!!!!

Yes, participatory sketching works!

We had two days in a row working with children in different schools, one in Guara and one in Chaquizhca. Last year I visited the school in Guara twice for health education and so this time we came back with the booklet to see how well they remember the information. We were surprised that they could remember almost everything as they were drawing the answers to the evaluation questions. We used storytelling and participatory sketching to help them absorb the information more easily, and it works! The children are really interested in drawing and coloring is probably their most favorite thing to do. There were not a lot of students in the Guara school, about 10 in total but they were all very engaging and captivated with the booklets we delivered to them and with the drawing and coloring activities that we facilitated. Some of the drawings are so good that you hardly can tell it is from a 6-year-old girl, every picture that they draw just makes us more proud and happy about the process that we were going through. More than that, we feel more than pleased that the information from the booklet would be helpful to keep them away from Chagas disease and to live a healthier life. 🙂

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the booklet and drawing of one student

 We did the same activities with the school in Chaquizhca. The only difference is that there are many more students in this school than the one in Guara, which makes it more difficult for us to facilitate. However, we also received quite satisfying responses and beautiful drawings. We are happy with what we have got so far from both schools. There will be another activity in the school in Bella Maria next week and that is supposed to be done with storytelling and participatory sketching this summer. I am glad that we have made some impression about Chagas, which would help them to live healthier.

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On the other hand, knowing that I will hardly see these faces again after this summer, it is really hard when they come and ask every morning: “When are you coming back to our class?” Although I may not ever come back here to see them draw and color and ask me questions again, I hope they will remember me anytime they look at the booklet and remember the information I tried to remind them of through participatory sketching. That would be the biggest reward ever for me and the Healthy Living team after all our hard work and efforts to get the community to become more engaged in our fight against Chagas disease. I hope what the children have learnt will last long in their memories and will be helpful for them long in their lives. There would be nothing better that I could wish for the children and the communities here, and that is also what I have been trying to do with all my heart.

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