This past week focused on maternal health 101 and culminated in small group mock Care Group meetings with women from the Sé community. After preparing all afternoon on Friday, Christy, Mark and I left school on Saturday morning to meet with seven women at a nearby house. Our objectives were to outline the purpose of a care group, define the care group model, describe the role of each key player and finally teach some facilitation skills that the women can use when interacting with their beneficiaries.
Since I have not explained the Care Group (CG) approach, I'll outline it for you now. The basic premise behind CGs is to create a low-cost, sustainable and grassroots mechanism to quickly transfer information to a large number of people. The model was started in the mid 1990s in Mozambique and has since become a commonly adopted approach for disseminating health related programs.
A Care Group in its simplest form, and the form which we will be applying here in Benin, consists of three different groups of people. First, the volunteer (PCVs) or a health educator, conducts monthly or bimonthly meetings on various health topics. The volunteer prepares lessons with a counterpart (person 2), who assists in translating both the language and cultural appropriateness of the conversation. They are usually a community health worker and are crucial to helping the volunteer become acclimated in the community and integrated with the women she is working with. The third group, and most important, are the leader Mothers. Each Care Group should have between 6-10 mothers who are highly motivated and dedicated to bettering the health of their community. Each mother is responsible for attending meetings and then visiting ten families of pregnant women or households with children under 5 to share the information. In this pyramid approach, one educator can reach up to 100 households by only training 10 women.
Our practice session in Sé went off without a hitch. We still aren't used to speaking in short sentences for a translator, but that will just take practice. The women in our group were very interested in learning more about preventing child diseases, malaria treatment and prevention, and nutrition. This next week we will be meeting up with the women again to practice a nutrition session, but unfortunately these are just exercises and we won't be continuing with these groups in Sé. Either way, it gives me something to look forward to implementing when I get to post this fall!