I’ve been here a little while now and I’m starting to get a picture of what’s going on and some ideas for work that I can do in the future. These are all just ideas at this point and surely some of them won’t work out, but it’s nice to imagine myself doing some work.
a) First of all, there is a need in my site for people to help with births. My douar is the closest one of the commune to a hospital and it’s about an hour away, if there is transportation (which there isn’t a lot of the time). So women mostly give birth in their homes, which leads to infant and maternal mortality. Having spoken to a few people, there are no official midwifes, people say that other women just help with the birth.
Fortunately, a volunteer who has been here for a year already has organized a training of midwifes. So my job is to meet with people and identify potential candidates for the training. It’s tough because I’m a guy and it’s kind of a taboo topic, but my host mom is being helpful.
Also, in October, there is a “training of trainers,” for midwifes. My hope is that the nurse in my health clinic will go and be trained. Then, she can help me to train other women. This will be especially helpful for training women in other, further douars because it is more difficult for them to get to the initial training. Basically, I’ve got two opportunities to facilitate the training of midwifes, which I think will be good for my community.
b) Another big thing is potable water. My douar has a chateau (water tower) and everyone has a tap in his or her house. In other douars, there are public fountains fed by springs, where people gather their water daily. This is a problem for two reasons: first, gathering water is very time consuming and women and children end up bearing the brunt of the work. Second, the water from the springs (as I’ve found out) can make you sick. So I think it would be good to build chateaus in the outer douars and pipes to go with them.
One obvious obstacle is money. Peace Corps gives a little money for infrastructure projects, but I’m hoping to speak to the president of an association in Midelt (a nearby biggish town) who donates money for projects like this. We’ll see. The other big obstacle is that a chateau requires constant upkeep, or the water can become contaminated. So it’s important the community buys into the project and is invested in it.
c) School is out of session now, but when the summer ends, I’m hoping to go from school to school, doing simple health lessons with the kids. Really easy stuff, hand washing, teeth brushing and the like. But doing lessons in schools requires the permission of the Ministry of Education. And since the processing of such permission takes a long time, I’m going to try and get my lesson plans figured out so I can get the application started.
d) I mentioned in an early post about the depletion of resources in my community, specifically collection of wood and over grazing. Well yesterday I met a man who is the president of an environmental association in one of my douars. I’m going to work with him to see if we can get people to buy into these more efficient wood stoves that are available nearby. The stoves are subsidized, but still expensive. Also, it requires action from people on a topic that may or may not be important to them. But I’m hopeful that there will be a positive response since a number of people have talked to me about this issue.
e) One extra fun piece of work that I’ll be doing in August is attending a soccer tournament. Hopefully I will get to play. The tournament is hosted by a fellow volunteer and during breaks in the action; there are opportunities for other volunteers to do little lessons. As I’m not very confident in my ability to speak to a large group at this point, I will probably collaborate with another volunteer to do a lesson.
f) Speaking of collaboration, hopefully I’m going to be working with a nearby volunteer at her site. She’s been around for a while and has set up some lessons with kids, including painting murals. I’ll be going to help out and also learn from her experience.
g) My final “project” right now involves sanitation and nutrition in the home. This is the least well-formed idea and the hardest to pull off because it requires that I talk to women. But I also think it is the most important and will make the actual biggest difference in my community in terms of public health. I’m hoping to enlist my host mom to help me out. She’s from a bigger city and so is a little more aware about these sort of health issues. It’s also been really easy for me to talk to her about stuff that she may not know. The big step then is getting her to help me teach other women (or better yet, her teaching them on her own).
As you can tell, I’m working a lot at this point with other, established volunteers. It’s good to have them around to have something to do and get ideas from them. During these hot summer months of lots of talk and little action, it’s good to think that I might be doing something one of these days.
I’m reading a book called “The Spider’s House” now, written by Paul Bowles. It’s set in Fez during the uprising preceding Moroccan independence from France (1956). Bowles prides himself on knowing the Moroccan culture very well and representing it accurately. It’s tough for me to judge since he writes about a different region during a different time, but it seems to capture some of the feelings I get about the culture. Coincidentally, I’m also reading a book translated by Paul Bowles, which is called “The Oblivion Seekers,” which is interesting (Thanks Mom). I’m also plodding through Ulysses, but awaiting a companion book in order to help with comprehension.
Other than that, things are good. I celebrated the 4th of July by hanging out with Americans (we had hamburgers, potato salad, and lemon squares). After 5 days of medicine, I’m over the dysentery, thankfully. And I’ve got a potential house to rent, starting in August. It’s small and has a lot of work to be done on it before I can move in, but it’s nice enough. It’ll be good to have my own space and cook my own food.
Hope all is well, happy belated 4th.