I am a strong believer in health promotion. Health education is one of the most straightforward ways to promote health among a population. Teach a child about how to ensure they have clean and safe drinking water (and give them the necessary tools and resources), and you can prevent all kinds of diseases down the road. It saves time and money, and it just makes a lot of sense.
This really hit home for me during an excursion I had while traveling in Eastern Africa in 2008. One day, I had the opportunity to tag along with a group of volunteers to a rural Masaii village. We were going with a local organization to do a presentation on HIV/AIDS and safer sex options. It was a completely humbling and life changing trip. We drove over an hour and arrived at a small village, and proceeded to the one room school. The children were cleared out to continue their lessons outside, and slowly, the adults of the community filtered in. Soon room was packed, including people listening in through all the doors and windows around the one-room building.
And so the presentation began, with two Canadian girls and a translator. They talked straightforwardly about what HIV/AIDS is, how it is transferred between people, and what can be done to prevent the transmission of the disease. It was a pretty straightforward presentation about the topic, one that you would expect to see in a junior high or high school in Canada. However, what was different about this population was that it was a group of adults hearing this information for the first time. When the standard banana/condom demonstration was brought out, the whole audience was giggling and couldn’t take anything seriously. It was funny, but at the same time it wasn’t. How would the information and skills taught at this presentation be used in real life if it was a laughing matter and only presented after sexual habits had been engrained. It probably wouldn’t.
While it is important to teach health promotion information and practices to adults, it is even more essential to teach them to children so they can establish habits and a community of safer health practices. This is what makes the approach taken by the NSGA so efficient. The NSGA provides peer health education on a wide variety of essential health topics, including (but not limited to) HIV/AIDS, malaria, environmental sustainability, landline awareness, and clean water. Educate children in junior high and they will use those skills for the rest of their lives. They will establish a community and norm of making healthy choices, and pass these healthy practices on. It is a lot of bang for not much buck.
Here in Canada, we have health education in our school systems that inform and protect our youth. However, this is not the case for many children in Africa. Luckily, for many students in The Gambia, access to this vital information is available through the NSGA. This is why I am taking the time and effort to run across The Gambia in support of the NSGA peer health education programs in The Gambia. Please support me in this cause by donating here (please select love4Gambia from the drop down list). Any and all help is greatly needed and appreciated!
I will leave you with one of my favorite Nelson Mandela quotes:
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice”
Thanks for the read and much love,