Seven students from the Public Health Without Borders (PHWB) organization in the University of Maryland School of Public Health delivered workshops this summer on nutrition, first aid and typhoid fever and cholera prevention in Calaba Town, Sierra Leone, a community with whom the group has partnered since 2014. The students also taught community members how to create simple oral rehydration therapies and gave handwashing lessons to primary school students. They conducted needs assessments and collected data to better understand the health needs and concerns in the community.
Among their other activities, PHWB students visited health centers throughout the area, interviewed members of the Ministry of Health, and met Dr. Ennet Chipungu — the only obstetric fistula surgeon in the country.
PHWB students have visited the town almost every year since 2014.
“We greet each other with hugs rather than handshakes because we know the community members,” said team lead and maternal and child health doctoral candidate Ms. Laura Drew on her third PHWB trip to the town. “We have a relationship with the community and with that comes a sense of responsibility and commitment.”
This commitment is year-long for PHWB students. They lay the foundation for each trip in the year ahead by researching and developing culturally competent workshops based on needs assessments from previous years.
Last year, community members relayed hopes for a more robust solution to Calaba Town’s lack of access to care. In response, PHWB students raised funds to train and support five women to become community health workers.
Empowering community members is key to building public health resilience. In Calaba Town, PHWB students are helping one fundraiser and visit at a time.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on July 19