CBCHS Bids Farewell to German Intern.
Laura Satitu a German student on internship has received a certificate of completion of field placement with the CBC Health Services (CBCHS). This took place August 5, 2016 at the Baptist Centre in Nkwen, Bamenda.
During her five-month stay, Laura worked as a field worker rendering services under the Community Based Rehabilitation programme of the CBCHS, HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment and the New Life Club programme that seeks to rehabilitate commercial sex workers. She equally gained experience working with children living with disabilities under the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (SEEPD) programme.
The Chief of Administration and Finance for the CBCHS, Mr. Warri Denis, while handing over the certificate said Laura’s choice of the organization for internship is testimony of the quality services rendered to humanity.
Laura’s stay in Cameroon has been impacting. “Everyone was very welcoming. The services of the CBCHS are very wide, so that a lot of people can get support to live a healthy life and also be socially included,” said the German intern while noting that she has learned a lot from her work with people living with disabilities especially how they are supported in the Northwest region of Cameroon.
Laura continued, “I also got involved with the AIDS Care and Prevention programme and New Life Club. The latter is a good programme that gives an alternative for men and women not to sell their bodies. While working with these people, I was able to gain new experiences, knowledge and skills to improve on what I already knew. I have improved on my intercultural competence by doing my practical placement in a country where I have never been before. All the new skills and knowledge will be used in my future work as a field worker. I really enjoyed my stay in Bamenda and Cameroon”
These are the impressions Laura Satitu leaves Cameroon with as she travels back to complete her studies in International Social Work at the Protestant University of Applied Science Ludwigsburg, Germany.
My Year in Cameroon.
“During my voluntary service with the CBC Health Board in Cameroon I have seen the world from a different point of view. The voluntary service gave me the opportunity not only to get to know another culture, but also to live in it. Furthermore, I´ve developed an understanding for different world views, global connections and culturally determined patterns of actions and communication. In my work and everyday life, I have learned to deal with different perspectives and approaches.
Flexibility played a very important role. It was necessary to react quickly and flexibly and to change plans because of unexpected events. Also, I’ve learned to deal flexibly with time and local/place circumstances. I always saw new situations as learning opportunities. I’ve also learned to achieve a lot with few resources. Here, you have to work with existing resources and achieve the best with them.
I also used the time to adapt to work and live successfully. Patience and staying power were needed for it and so I’ve strengthened these characteristics. I have also learned that large projects can be mastered with distinct lines, open and consistent communication.
I worked with the CBC Health Board in different fields.
HIV/AIDS education and psycho-social care
I’ve worked in the HIV Care and Treatment Center in Bamenda for about seven months. I participated in HIV/AIDS awareness workshops and HIV screening for young people. Furthermore I worked in psycho-social health counseling. I did the following tasks:
- Personal counseling before and after an HIV test.
- Developed and carried out presentations and workshops to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Did conception and elaboration of a project proposal for HIV/AIDS education for young people in rural areas.
- Prepared radio broadcasts on the subject “Youth and Health”
- Did data collection and analysis.
- Was involved in in psycho-social counseling sessions.
- Carried out “adherence counseling” (counseling of HIV positive clients who have not taken their anti-retroviral drugs used to strengthen their immune system for a certain period).
Life Abundant Primary Health Care (Health care in rural communities)
Life Abundant Primary Health Care (LAP) is a programme that builds up medicalservices for remote villages and coordinates and supervises the created Primary Health Centers. Furthermore, the LAP carries out studies on health care. I’ve been working with this project for about 5 months. During this period I did the following tasks:
- Carried out a survey of the health situation in two places.
- Participated in the collection of data and creation of a “city map” of the villages.
- Was independently responsible for statistical data analysis.
- Participated in support visits, including the implementation of “compound cards“ and participation in Health Committee Meetings.
- Developed teaching and learning materials for effective meetings and goal achievement.
- Participated in a Resource Pool Meeting (half-yearly evaluation meetings).
- Worked for about three weeks in a Primary Health Center.
- Did data entry and analysis.
My feeling is that I learned a lot during the voluntary service. It was not always easy. But I think that all difficult situations strengthened me.
I spent most of the time in Bamenda working with the Youth Network for Health programme. Through this, I learned how young people in Cameroon think and behave. Furthermore, we went to rural areas and saw the differences between city life and village life in Cameroon.
During my work with the LAP, I went out to villages and experienced how people in these communities work and live together. Because I already did social work, it was very interesting for me to see how people are interacting with each other in the villages. I really feel that this time working with the LAP was a big gift to me.
Even though I have been in Cameroon for about 11 months, some things are still not easy. Some people here still look at me with strangeness and at times they will look at me and shout ‘White man’. I prefer to live in Kumbo because it is more relaxed to go to the market or walk through the streets there.”
My Workplaces in Cameroon.
Pharmacy: At the beginning of our stay in Cameroon, I worked in the Pharmacy. Here, I was involved in counting and prepackaging drugs for most of the time. I equally helped with the registration of patients’ cards and with the production of Syrups and Disinfectants. I equally noticed that the hygienic conditions are not as good as in Germany, but I never really expected them to be. I tried to introduce the boiling of reused bottles to disinfect them, but some of them melted in the hot water. During my time in the Pharmacy, I learned many things about drugs and asked many questions. It helped a lot in preparing me for my Pharmacy studies, which I will be starting in October 2016. When we were less busy, I discussed cultural differences and politics with my colleagues. Those discussions helped me to understand Cameroonian culture and to adapt more easily.
Youth Network for Health: Working with Youth Network for Health, I learned to understand Cameroonian youths and their problems more easily. We carried out workshops and presentations (mostly on STDs, but also on other youth related topics like puberty, smoking, etc) in schools, communities and youth camps. In October 2015, we went to schools where we carried out Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). We pre-counseled the students in groups and then gave them their results one by one. I was equally able to do some of the HIV-tests. This exercise took us to far-off places like Lus and Kom. The roads were a big challenge for me – after only one hour I felt so sick, that I almost wanted to turn back. When I used the same road for the second time (this time with LAP) I could no longer understand, what was so horrible about it. In one school, I was really facing trouble: I had to counsel some students in French, which I had not spoken for long, but somehow I made it. And the students even got what I was saying. Another thing, that the Youth Network for Health programme taught me, was to accept different working styles. At first, everything seemed to be totally chaotic and unorganized to me. In Germany, you could not just go to a school and say “We’re this or that organization and we want to do VCT here” and get an appointment just one week later.
Laboratory: Most at times, I was handling the Registration bench on my own. I registered the patient’s books, gave them urine containers and sent them to have their specimens collected. When the results came out, I registered them and gave the books to the patients. Especially the giving of results was funny – at least for the patients: I had to call their names outside to give their cards back. It took me quite some time to master the pronunciation of Cameroonian names. I was equally able to prepare samples for examination, to stain some of them and the Lab staff taught me how to recognize Malaria parasites and some few other things under the microscope. In the discussions with the Lab people, I learned about the importance of belief in everyday life.
LAP Bamkika’ai: Working with the Life Abundant Primary Healthcare Program, I enjoyed going out to the villages. I went on a ten day support visit to Oku. We visited different Primary Health Centers (PHCs) to see how the village health workers do their work and how activities are carried out in the PHCs. In most villages we didn’t have much work, so we had the opportunity to learn some words in the Oku language and to learn how to prepare food in a firewood kitchen. We were privileged to see a delivery. Since we saw how the child was delivered, the parents asked us to name the baby. A German parent would never ask a complete stranger to choose the child’s name!
After this trip, I went out for some one day visits around Kumbo. We vaccinated children and I had the opportunity to see a circumcision. The next support visit was an adventure: There was no way of getting to Kichowi by car, so we had to trek for four hours before reaching the village. Only ten minutes before we reached, we had to cross a hanging bridge. I almost wanted to turn back – it did not exactly looking safe to me. I was right: two days before we left the place, we got news that the bridge had collapsed. The work in Kichowi was really nice, I realized how important LAP is for the people. Many people came in from neighboring villages to consult. The last experience I had with LAP was the surveys. We went to two villages, counted the population, checked everybody and went around asking questions. I had so much fun during the surveys, and I noticed that I was actually able to communicate with the people living there in Pidgin-English. Kathi and I helped with the statistics. In the second village, we were even doing the statistics on our own.
Care and Treatment Center: I learned how to take vital signs (weight, blood pressure, temperature, height and head circumference for children) and was able to work on my own. I helped new patients to get around. Unfortunately, after all the offices were moved, there was no more space for me to sit without blocking the window.
ANC/ Infant Welfare Clinic: At ANC, I was equally taking vital signs, as well as assisting in prenatal care and the Women’s Health Program. I filled clients’ registration cards, listened to the babies’ heartbeat or measured the fundal height. I assisted in cervical cancer screening before the team started going out to villages. On Infant Welfare Clinic days, I weighed the children and put the weight in a diagram that shows the child’s growth.
I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon. From the very first week I felt at home in Bamenda, although some things still seemed strange to me. The first time at the market, I was really scared. I had the impression that it was so crowded, one man pulled me towards his place and I couldn’t imagine buying anything there on my own. Bamenda seemed so huge and confusing. Today, it is completely normal for me to beat the prices in the market and to move around town on my own. Life in Cameroon became normal for me. When my parents came to visit, they noticed so many things that I had completely stopped seeing as different. They noticed how old the cars are, how poor the environment is and how beautiful the landscape is. Before returning to Germany, my parents told me that I had really become a Cameroonian. One thing that is still striking to me is how friendly and welcoming the people here are compared to people at home. It was so easy for me to meet new people and make friends in Cameroon”.
How Time Can Fly.
“The longer I stayed, the more I was shocked at how fast my stay in Cameroon was coming to an end. I still remember the first days in Cameroon, when everything was so new to me; the market and the way people were selling things on the streets on their heads, taxis and the crazy traffic, my new colleagues and the whole structure of the CBC Health Board. Nine months later, all those things became so normal to me that I even forgot the many differences between Germany and Cameroon.
At the market the people had now known us and most of them didn’t try to cheat us anymore. Some of the workers became friends and I was no longer confused with people who at first all looked alike to me. I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon. After our stay in Banso, I became aware that Bamenda had really become my home.
Maybe I should start from the beginning of my stay. For me it was very good to have a short seminar after our arrival in Bamenda. It was good to hear about the cultural differences and the expectations towards us volunteers from Cameroonians point of view. When we started work after this orientation, I was happy that somebody took the decision for me and told me where to work. With all the different programmes and offices I would have had a problem of where to go. That’s how I came to the lab. I enjoyed my time with Nico, Evelyne and Sylvie very much. Sometimes I was a bit annoyed when they were talking in Pidgin and I could not follow them. That’s why I decided to learn Pidgin as fast as possible. The work in the lab was interesting and I enjoyed the fact that my colleagues gave me more and more responsibilities for different machines and tests. With my interest in medicine, I was happy to learn more about HIV/AIDS.
While still working in the lab, the work with the Youth Network for Health (YONEFOH) started for us. During the seminar in Banso, I learned a lot about the lessons of YONEFOH and improved my knowledge especially about HIV/AIDS. I’m glad that we had this seminar and it made me to understand the values of YONEFOH and the way the programme functions. Still, the seminar itself was very charged with information and with the language that was still new to us (after a few weeks in Cameroon) it was sometimes very tiring. It would have been better to go through fewer lessons and instead have more time for discussion and questions.
After the seminar the work with YONEFOH gradually started. I enjoyed especially the month of October when we went for Voluntary Counseling and Testing. I enjoyed my work with Vivian very much because she always gave us the possibility to bring in our own ideas and opinions.
In November and December, I was working with the Extended Forum of Care. To me, it was very interesting to get an insight on contact tracing and partner notification. I really enjoyed the times we went out for field work. Despite my expectations towards myself, I did not feel ready to counsel clients. By that time my Pidgin was not good enough to have a flowing conversation about such a private topic. That’s why after sometime, I was mostly doing data entry. I enjoyed being with Eli and Winifred in the office but the data work was not really interesting to me.
In January after Salome had to leave Cameroon, I took her place in the Lab again. To be honest I didn’t enjoy the work so much again because I had planned to intensify my work with Vivian and YONEFOH. What I missed in the Lab was the chance to realize my own ideas or leave my own little foot print. Still, I know that I was of help to Nico because he was the only one working after Sylvie, Evelyn, and Salomé had left.
Early March Kathi, Hannah, and I finally moved to Banso to work with Life Abundant Primary Health Care. The work at Bamkika’ai was interesting but I’m not sure if I was really of help to anybody there. Still, I really enjoyed the trip to Oku, to experience the important work that LAP is doing in the one hand, village life and the friendliness of the people living in the village and working in the Primary Health Centers (PCHs) on the other. Also the Resource Pool (meeting of all the Field Supervisors, Field Assistants and PHCs) was very interesting to me because it gave me more insights into the work and structure of LAP.
Finally, I want to say that I really enjoyed my time in Cameroon. Almost everybody, not only at the workplace, treated me with so much love and understanding and – everybody in his/her own way – showed or taught me something about the life and culture of Cameroon. I want to thank Christy and Glory in a special way for their assistance especially during the first time. I know that even today, Christy is always there to help me if problems arise. I never felt homesick for long because I always felt like having a second home in Cameroon.
I am really happy that I met so many welcoming people but I am sometimes frustrated that I didn’t have something to give while receiving so much. Probably I had high expectations towards myself. I should accept that I was not supposed to help like a skilled volunteer but to learn from this stay in Cameroon! Still, I hope that, one day, I will be able to come back as a doctor and give some of the help and love that I experienced here back to my Cameroonian brothers and sisters”.