An educational experience

The sickle cell team along with Creating Possibilities staff/translators, Shyam and Man, getting ready to deliver educational modules to children aged 13-17.

The main focus of the UBC SCD team’s work this year has been to increase screening and awareness of sickle cell disease through education. To work towards this goal, we visited two local schools in Dang along with Creating Possibilities staff to teach educational modules about sickle cell disease as well as basic hand hygiene.

These school visits were very highly anticipated as we were all very excited to interact with the local children. Proudly wearing our UBC sickle cell t-shirts, fuelled by poori and curry, and equipped with the educational posters we made on our first day in Dang, we made our way onto our tuk-tuks for the trip to the local schools. The travel time was about 45 minutes, and we got to see more of the Lamahi landscape on the way.

When we arrived at the first school, we were immediately greeted by wide eyes filled with excitement, and ear-to-ear smiles. We were warmly welcomed by the school principal and teachers. After short introductions, we split off into two groups of three UBC students along with a CP translator, and we were off.

A buzz of excitement filled the room as soon as we walked in. With our posters in tow, we started our presentations. Some of the students understood basic English, but we definitely could not have accomplished our goals for the day without the help of our translators. We were pleasantly surprised to see how many female students there were in the classrooms, and also thought it was interesting that boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the classroom.

We were very impressed by how passionate and proficient the CP staff are in the knowledge translation of sickle cell disease. The translators did an amazing job of making the session interactive and engaging for the children with their charisma. Based on the questions we asked the class at the end, it was clear that our message had gotten across and we were impressed by their understanding of complicated concepts. To conclude our presentation, we taught the kids about proper hand washing technique, and we also taught the kids a few English phrases with the song, “head, and shoulders, knees and toes.” The reactions from the students were priceless!

At the end of the modules, we had the opportunity to speak with the principal and some of the teachers to learn more about the local educational system. The English teacher explained that in this area, there are both private schools (which are quite costly) and government schools, which are “free” to students. In reality, these government schools are not completely free as students must provide their own supplies and uniforms, which many marginalized families simply cannot afford. Furthermore, a shortage of government-employed teachers obligates some government schools to hire additional teachers privately, incurring extra costs that families then have to pay in order to enrol their children. These hidden costs are prohibitive for many families resulting in alarming school dropout rates in this region.

After teaching at the first school, we visited a local health post, where the initial screening test for sickle cell disease is conducted. We were warmly greeted by the local doctor and the lab assistants who showed us the patient rooms and the lab facilities for analyzing blood samples under the microscope. CP Nepal is currently helping this health post purchase additional lab supplies to increase its screening capacity. Once patients screen positive at this health post, they must travel to Ghorahi regional hospital for a confirmatory diagnostic test.

Adjacent to the health post we visited was the regional municipality office. This is where patients go to receive their government letter of recommendation after being formally diagnosed with sickle cell disease at Ghorahi hospital. With this letter, patients can receive government subsidized medication for sickle cell disease. We were once again warmly received at this office, this time by local government officials, and we spoke with them about the goal of our project, which is to increase awareness and screening for sickle cell disease.

By the time we finished this meeting, it was already close to 2 pm, so we quickly jetted off in our tuk-tuks to the second school, which is supported by CP Nepal. There, we were happily accepted the refreshments they offered us, as we were all feeling the 40ºC heat. The kids at the second school was just as excited as the first, and with our stomachs full, we enthusiastically taught our educational modules to the students and teachers.

This was probably one of our most packed days as of yet, and by the time the evening rolled around, we quickly said our goodbyes after dinner, and returned to our rooms for a night’s rest – grateful for and satisfied by the day of hard work and humbled by the entire experience.

– Nepal Sickle Cell Team 2019

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