By Lison Garrel, Safidy (Community Health) Programme Coordinator, Belo sur Mer
Last month the Belo sur Mer team travelled to Andavadoaka to attend the annual Blue Ventures conference. We spent four productive days catching up with colleagues from all over Madagascar, as staff had journeyed from as far away as Ambanja, Maintirano and Antananarivo to attend. Each project gave presentations about their progress made over the last year and plans moving forward, with discussion workshops facilitated on topics ranging from working with government authorities to our integrated PHE approach. The conference ended with an afternoon of sports (the BV Olympic games!) and celebrations to mark our 10th anniversary. While everyone dispersed back to their sites, the Belo sur Mer team stayed in Andavadoaka a little longer in order to participate in a village outreach tour, and get some ideas for environmental and health education in Belo.
The Safidy programme is well-established in Velondriake now, having started there in 2007, so this visit represented a perfect opportunity for the Belo team to learn from our more experienced counterparts. Every two months they go to more than 30 villages in and around Velondriake, facilitating a variety of educational activities including school workshops and community presentations. We joined them for a trip to the commune centre of Befandefa, where we received a warm welcome from the Mayor, who is a keen supporter of Blue Ventures.
The afternoon started with a school workshop about octopus closures to get everyone ready for the reserve opening at the end of August. The benefits of this management technique were discussed, both for coral reef ecosystems and fishers. Then, with music and games, we moved onto the importance of handwashing to stay healthy. As a way of evaluating the impact of these activities, the team always does simple surveys and quizzes about the subjects covered by the previous tour, and I was very impressed by the young people’s knowledge about health and environmental issues.
As the night fell, traditional kilalake music interspersed with health songs resounded throughout the village, signalling that it was almost projection time! More than 300 people gathered for the presentation, with integrated messages relating reproductive health to food security and octopus reserves. It was really great to see the Safidy community-based distributor (one of the local women trained by Blue Ventures to deliver counselling and contraceptive options in her village) present some of the health slides, and to observe the various methods used by the community organisers to engage people in the presentation topics.
We finished the day by sharing a big meal with the Mayor’s family, followed by an energetic dancing competition. In the morning we travelled back to Andavadoaka by zebu cart; the handwashing song was ringing in my head, along with lots of good ideas for how we can move forward with our educational activities in Belo.
Since returning to Belo, we‘ve done a small village outreach tour to introduce the Safidy programme and explain the links with Blue Ventures’ environmental work. Eight new community-based distributors completed their first training at the end of last month, and now we’re busy planning more educational activities and recruiting a community organiser to join our team. Watch this space for more updates!
Blue Venture’s Safidy community health programme recently expanded to the Belo sur Mer area following a needs assessment conducted earlier this year. Community-based distributor training is being delivered in collaboration with MAHEFA, while Population Services International and Marie Stopes Madagascar are partnering with us to supply a range of contraceptive options.