What would it be like to feel empowered to help another person where you previously felt helpless? What if this empowerment had to do with caring for someone with a medical emergency – even a routine or basic one?

During one of my follow up evaluation visits for a health training pilot project, one of the directors of an organization reported that after one of her staff went back to her village after being trained on first aid she was able to help someone in the village with a badly cut foot. The staff member reported that although she was freaked out at first, she realized that she had already learned what she needed to know to help this person and was able to do so!

Last week I was in Cambodia following up on this project. The organizations in the pilot are involved in after-care of abused and exploited women, either residential or community-based. The goal is to train staff of organizations within the entire Chab Dai network (including those focused on outreach and prevention) basic health care topics such as first aid, how to deal with headaches, women’s health problems, and many more.

leading a focus-group style evaluation of the training

leading a focus-group style evaluation of the training

Basic knowledge of health care is very poor, even among people with higher education. However, many staff members, including house parents, have quite low level of education and have even less understanding of health, hygiene, and caring for our bodies. This lack of knowledge is overshadowed by peculiar (rubbing garlic on a burn), and sometimes harmful (dung on a newborn’s umbilical cord), traditional healing practices.

The staff members of these organizations face many challenges. Increasing their competence and confidence in dealing with challenges (is this abdominal pain serious or not?) helps reduce the accumulated stress.

As the story reflects, training the staff has impact beyond their work place. A couple of the male staff said that although it was a bit uncomfortable to hear about the women’s problems, it was good for them to know the information because they could understand and help their wife better. That is how transformation works!