Day 2 Of The Learning Tour!
Day 2 of CARE”s Learning Tour from my colleague, Julie Bernstein:
CARE Maternal Health Advocate Christy Turlington Burns arrived in the wee hours of the night and joined the delegation for day two of our journey. We flew an hour east to Dire Dawa, a beautiful rural town surrounded by plush, green mountains. It felt great being out of the hustle and bustle of the capital city. I”m sure it helped that the sun was shining and the temperature was about 20 degrees warmer.
Upon our arrival at the Dire Dawa airport, where we were greeted by curious Vervet monkeys, we traveled two hours out to visit the Hades Health Post. We were welcomed by our CARE Ethiopia colleague Berissa who runs CARE”s Social Change for Family Planning Results Initiative, a project that strives to educate rural populations about basic family planning. Berissa explained how he and his team are “challenging the villagers” attitudes toward fertility’ as they openly discuss sexual and reproductive health issues with vulnerable and marginalized groups including widows, divorcÃ©s and newly married couples.
(In this photo: Jenna Bush Hagar, Representatives Aaron Schock and Laura Richardson, Christy Turlington Burns and Helene Gayle. Photo: 2010 Evelyn Hockstein/CARE
We also learned about a unique yet simple training project that promotes household change. Hades Health Extension Workers (HEW) target ten families to work with over three months. After the couples learn about family planning, they graduate and become a “model family.’ These model families then serve as advocates within their village and spread their newfound knowledge across the community’”woman to woman; farmer to farmer. This community-based training creates buy-in at the local level and gives the project its greatest shot at sustainability. Berissa spoke about the progress he”s already seeing.
Next, the delegation had the opportunity to hear from village women who are participating in the Results Initiative and the HEW who is leading the charge. Their personal stories about adopting family planning methods were a clear sign that the project is gaining traction.
Congresswoman Richardson, Deb Derrick, Christy Turlington Burns, and CARE CEO Helene Gayle listen at a clinic. Photo: 2010 Evelyn Hockstein/CARE
Walking into Hades village…
Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) shook nearly every child”s hand and they chased him along the rocky path into the heart of the village. Congresswoman Laura Richardson (D-CA) and NBC”s Jenna Bush Hager were equally smitten with the children who greeted us along the way.
Jenna Bush Hagar looks on while Representatives Aaron Schock and Laura Richardson shake a few hands. Photo: 2010 Evelyn Hockstein/CARE
We visited with a pregnant woman in her small house near the main drag of Hades. The chicken she was about to prepare in celebration of the end of Ramadan didn”t like us crowding its tight quarters and nearly chased us out of the house.
NBC News” Jenna Bush Hager, here with us working on a maternal health story for The Today Show, spent the afternoon interviewing pregnant women and learning about the positive impact the Hades Health Post is having on these women”s lives. Hager also interviewed CARE President and CEO Helene Gayle about the challenges women in Ethiopia face through pregnancy and childbirth. From cultural challenges to women”s status in the community to lack of access to care, Dr. Gayle laid out the dire situation women face here every day.
Jenna Bush Hagar meets a young girl. Photo: 2010 Evelyn Hockstein/CARE
For me, the highlight of this Learning Tour is the village experience. Dozens of beautiful girls followed my every move as I navigated my way through Hades. Before I knew it, small fingers were wrapped around my hands and I was leading a group of excited children down the muddy path. Their eyes were filled with hope and curiosity. Smiles were universal.