Saturday, May 7, 2011

Building Capacity for Psychosocial Wellbeing Service Providers

After 14 years of conflict, Liberia's day-to-day affects of war have evolved from post-war emergency needs to more challenging problems that require holistic and integrated psychosocial approaches. This has also prompted the humanitarian agencies to reflect on the need to adapt more appropriate interventions to the suffering populations. The need for relevant interventions has been a top priority of LCIP and other international NGOs funded by the USAID here in Liberia.

A five week intensive Psychosocial Training (theory & practice), took place in Monrovia and the NGOs that participated included; Save the Children UK, International Rescue Committee, World Vision Liberia, Christian Children Fund, Africare - Liberia, with other players; Christian Health Association of Liberia, and the Lutheran Church of Liberia.

The ultimate goal of the LCIP-led workshop was to enhance the understanding of the psychosocial issues, approaches and appropriate methods of interventions among all service providers covering more than nine counties, serving children, women and ex-combatants to best restore communities back to normalization. The key facilitator expounded on logical approach to psychosocial support work step by step using community participatory approaches and experiential learning for all the participants. The general consensus was that, this is very dynamic field, and service providers need to up-date their skills with time. The integration of the traditional and conventional approaches in psychosocial during the training, enabled the participants to internalize the added value of incorporating the useful community-based coping mechanisms.

In the words of trainees, Esther Musa from the Lutheran World Federation and Caroline Bryant of World Vision Liberia said, "it is their mission to develop appropriate models in line with their organizational goals integrating the new theory that impacts the larger community."

Another challenge influencing the past and present services in mental health is derived from 10 to 15 years of varying models of western diagnostic systems to individually focused services aimed at persons rather than groups or societies. Most of the participants felt that the training helped to unveil gaps in skills and provided a new understanding and realization of the need use more holistic and integrated approaches.

The field practice took the trainees to Living Water International (ELWA), Shefflin Army Barracks, Jahtondo Displaced Camp, (Brewerville), and Save the Children, (Paynesville). The practical assessments and application of role plays, skits and simulations enabled the trainees to realize that - "not every one is traumatized" - as it has been the belief. Most people could recount a terrible experience, but were managing to rebuild their lives with the reassurance of security, water, and food; basic survival elements. Using a skit on alcohol abuse at the sites, the trainees realized a new beginning for application of relevant psychosocial support models for Liberia. Combined field findings revealed to trainees the added value in applying the levels of intervention according to valid assessments. Reinforcing the "step by step" in psychosocial support, Dr. Baron's said, "A hungry stomach has no ears." They found that while 100% of the community contacted had in-fact experienced a traumatic experience, only 20-25% were affected, but going on with life, while 10% could not function without support, with 1-3% actually being mentally ill.

Speaking in the forum, LCIPs Social Reintegration Manager, Rachel Muiru summarized the importance of the integrated approach to psychosocial interventions with the story of the seven blind men who went to see the elephant. The synopsis, each "blind" man touched a different part of the animal hence their own individual understanding. The second touch provided by this training opened the participants "eyes" and can now see the whole elephant, as it stands.

At the end of the training, the participants agreed to continue with networking to ensure a complete "mind shift" and, that the newly acquired skills and knowledge reach many other stakeholders in particular, those at the grassroots levels. The training will continue for another three weeks this September.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Are Moldy Schools Destroying Our Kids?

Mold is a big issue these days. One reason is the damage it does to lungs and immune systems. And who does it damage the most? Kids and senior citizens.

Well, let's just talk about kids right now. And let's narrow our conversation to the school systems. Why? Because kids spend up to 8 hours a day there, breathing in whatever is floating around in the air.

Let's talk about schools now.

Every year, somewhere in the USA schools are being closed down
because of mold. Why are so many schools moldy?

The main cause of any mold problem is ultimately water. Something is too wet.

Now if a building floods, we just dry it out and that usually stops mold from growing, right? Well, if you get the building totally dry within 48 hours the answer is yes. That's the time it takes for most mold spores to start growing actual mold colonies. Most of the time it takes bureaucrats 48 hours to find out there has been a flood. Then there are committees to decide how to dry the building. And then there are bids
to get the lowest cost.

So drying isn't enough. Takes too long. Mold is growing and it can continue to grow after the building is dried. All it needs now is moisture in the air.

Speaking of air, we also have to consider air conditioners. Most schools use air conditioners that are bought cheap and maintained by the lowest bidder.. Air conditioners that aren't maintained properly sweat and the moisture can cause mold growth.

Also associated with maintenance is changing air filters. Many times this isn't done due to school budgets. Filters cost money. Not a lot of money, but money. Some schools don't change there A/C filters until someone from the state comes to inspect.

Then there are carpets. Carpets are moldy. Kids spill food, milk, and glue onto carpets. They throw up on carpets. These things feed mold. Teachers make kids sleep on the floor at nap time.Their faces are pressed into the moldy carpets. Results: sick kids.

But the ultimate reason for moldy schools is politics. This applies to everything mentioned above, ie carpets, filters and drying.

Schools have to report to taxpayers. That's YOU. If a school board member says to you the taxpayer, "We can spend the money on books, football uniforms or healthy air." What are you going to say? Most people want things they can see and touch and point to.

So if you want healthy kids with strong lungs and good immune systems, the responsibility is in your hands. Go to school board meetings, talk to the radio and tv stations.If you need ammunition, tell the politicians that mold free schools win more games in sports. Championship teams are something