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Published: December 19th 2009
Imparting First Aid skills to the youth of Malawi
One of my main focuses while working with St John Ambulance in Malawi, is working with Fred Demster on the First Aid for Schools program. Started in 2007, it was set up when it was realised the shocking lack of basic First Aid skills in the general population, in an effort to improve this schools and school children were targeted, and over the past 3 years training has been taking place.
The 12 hour course, over 2 or 3 days (though this is flexible to suit the schools needs), focuses on basic first aid skills such as casualty management, cardiovascular disorders and bone and joint injuries. In the past several schools have been visited, mostly in the Bangwe area of Blantyre, though a couple of others as well, we are hoping to extend this to a wider area all over Blantyre and possibly in Lilongwe as well once the office is set up and working well.
While I’ve been here so far the progress has been slow, only visiting a few schools, because the school year was coming to a close, so were either busy or closed. Last week however the new term (and year) started. We have had a busy week going around getting into contact with more head teachers or the teachers we are in contact with, that have shown an interest, to introduce the program. After we have talked to them over the phone, we visit the school and talk in more detail about the program. So far everyone is very positive and can see the benefit of teaching the students and teachers these skills. Sometimes we are asked to speak to the students that day to talk about the program and see who is interested.
I have only been on a few courses so far, but the students seem attentive and genuinely interested in taking part, and overall positive about the course. The assessments have shown they have learnt the skills to a degree of competency in a short space of time and could be useful in an emergency (as is the aim of the course).
Once the course is over we don’t want it to end there and leave the skills to get rusty. To prevent this we try to set up first aid clubs where the students and teachers trained can get together and refresh one another on the skills and practice. We try to visit these clubs about once a month, however because the clubs all take place on Thursday afternoons, as the number of schools trained increases this is becoming increasingly difficult. Other than visiting new schools this week we have also been revisiting trained schools to reignite the clubs.
My role in the schools program has been in joining Fred to visit schools (though I think I will be able to do this on my own before too long), I also take on a role in the training, sometimes as a trainer, talking to the class or demonstrating the skills (though I was never very good at this), and sometimes just as a dummy, being bandaged, immobilised and likewise treated for my non-existent injuries. I have also helped in a more technical aspect behind the scenes designing and making leaflets, fleshing out and improving the existing power-point presentation and things like that to improve the aesthetics of the program.
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