Blog Post – Trip to Linguère
Last week, we went to Linguère, which is a 6-hour drive away from Dakar. For more details about Linguère, see our previous blog post when we traveled there the first time: http://volunteerblog.worldrenew.net/current-volunteers/davidandjessica/fatick-linguere
This time, we went with Gidéon, one of the World Renew staff who is able to drive standard as well as translate, to Linguère for 4 days of teaching first aid. It was quite hot in Linguère this time around; around 40 degrees, but it was very dry which was a nice change from Dakar. We also had the luxury of sleeping in an air-conditioned bedroom. We actually had to turn the temperature up the first night because we were so cold! Mariame, our host, laughed when she heard that, and said, “The Canadians were cold…in Linguère!”
We arrived on Sunday, late afternoon, and spent some time with some of our work acquaintances there. Because of the Pular population in and around Linguère, there is quite a bit of beef (and hence, cows, as well as goats and sheep). We were excited to not eat fish every day, but to have some delicious beef dishes. One of the dishes was made of beans and beef and tasted exactly like pea soup, which was a nice reminder of home. Since there are many cows, there is also delicious “milk” in Linguère as well. I write, “milk”, because it’s not like North American milk. Some types of milk here are like a mix between yogurt and cottage cheese, and some are like thick, vanilla milkshakes. Needless to say, we both greatly enjoyed the milkshake “milk”.
On Monday, David taught a basic first aid course to a HIV support group. This is one of the projects that the Lutheran Church here works with and it is included in the health programs they support and run. We had met this group of people before, and we greatly enjoyed seeing them again. They are a very close-knit group as it is a confidential group. No one else in the community knows what the group is for, but it gives those people living with HIV, an outlet to talk about their illness as well as have a sense of community. If others were to find out that these people were HIV positive, they would be shunned from their families and community; no one would touch them, they would not eat with them, and they would be completely isolated. Hence, they are very close to one another and you can see that in the way they worked together through the first aid simulations and how they would tease each other.
From Tuesday to Thursday, David taught a trauma-based first aid course with 20 health hut workers from 10 different villages around Linguère. These health hut workers are technically just volunteers from the villages who are willing to attend to basic first aid needs such as weighing babies, taking blood pressure, etc. In reality, however, these villages are too far away from the hospital in Linguère for many people with health problems (for example: heart attacks, major bleeds, amputations, childbirth) to make it all the way there before they die. Most of the health hut workers do not have any formal training and just learn what they can from midwives and peace corps workers. They really appreciated the training that they got from David. They also appreciated the fact that the sessions were image and practice based. Some who had had training from other organizations over the years stated that it was auditory learning only and normally expected that they had a much higher education level (remember that many of the people in the villages do not know how to read and write). They went over everything from basic first aid (airway, breathing, circulation) to carrying techniques to taking blood pressure correctly. David had previously asked if the health huts had blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes, and most had said that those that had them, were in very bad condition. So with some of the funding that we had raised, we were able to buy those and thermometers for each health hut. We also gave them some splints and bandages that we had made from local materials so that they would have an example to use when they got back to the village. David also showed them how to use tourniquets that he had made from local materials as well. Because they live so far away from the hospital, and only have donkey carts, they lose many people on the way to the hospital from loss of blood. We were told after each day that David had a very direct, clear way of teaching and they were able to understand the material well. Mariame, the woman in charge of the health programs for SLDS (Senegalese Lutheran Church) who lives in Linguère, stated that they were very interested and appreciative, otherwise they would not have asked David so many questions.
We enjoyed our time in Linguère, we enjoyed having a change of pace/lifestyle (Dakar is always much busier and hence, louder), enjoyed eating beef instead of fish, but were happy to get back home to Malika (suburb of Dakar) on Friday. On the way back though, we ended up with a flat tire that David and Gidéon quickly changed, but not before several women and girls stopped by on their donkey carts to take pictures of the toubabs (foreigners). To be fair, I (Jessica) was also trying to take advantage of our unexpected stop by taking pictures of the donkey carts. The carts sometimes have 3 or 4 donkeys pulling them, which reminds me of chariots, except these chariots go extremely slow even with 4 donkeys.
We were happy that we could spend more time in Linguère, and that our time was profitable there as all of the participants enjoyed the training. We were also thankful that we could get there in an SUV as opposed to taking the bus (which would have taken much longer than 6 hours). We were also happy that sometimes having translations into 3 or 4 languages was not as complicated as we thought it could have been. Normally, David would teach in English and Gidéon would translate into Wolof. If some of the participants did not understand a term, Mariame would translate from the Wolof into Pular. And as usual, there were many French explanations thrown in too, for added comprehension. We came away from this time there, being extremely grateful for the health care system we have in Canada, as well as here in Dakar, and for the utter ease of living we have in Dakar. We spoke with several volunteers from the Lutheran Church who live in Linguère, as well as some Peace Corps volunteers who live in the villages, and their life is completely different from ours. It made us especially thankful for the amount of water we have (we never run out and also have more than enough), for the cool temperatures (even though we complain about it), for electricity, for internet (even though we complain about the speed, or lack thereof), for the lack of bugs and spiders, and for the abundant supply of vegetables and fruit. There are so many things to be thankful for and this trip helped remind us of them.