What a day it’s been! Somewhere between 140-150 women had breast and cervical exams today for free at the sbitar (clinic). Ham-du-li-lah! But I get ahead of myself.
It’s amazing how much time this Women’s Saratan (Cancer) Screening Day has taken. I’ve dragged the Coop into it, as you don’t do anything w/o an Association of some type sponsoring it. They’re worried about hidden costs. I’m paying for the 60 disposable speculum. What about the chicken for the MD lunch? They remember Jess and I saying we’d pay for it. Bssa? Ymkn. Fine, I’ll pay for it. They’ve got someone else covering tea and they’ll cover the couscous, drinks and fruit. Waxa. Now I’m also feeling guilty for getting them committed to a program that is not only costing them some flus (even if only swiya), and does nothing for their marketing of the Coop (local folks can’t afford their weavings). Gulp.
So, between the fact that we moved the program up a week (to take advantage of referral pgm in Sefrou next weekend), and how do you get the word out to an illiterate constituency, and we've had freezing rain/snow the last 2 days, I fear that we’ll have 4 MDs w/few women to examine. My concerns were unnecessary. I arrive at the Belladya at 9am Monday for a program that’s supposed to start at 10:30. Over 60 women are already there and signed in. By the time the MDs show up, we’ve got over 120 women waiting. Only 2 MDs come-not the 4 we expected. They’ve committed to examining 100 women. What do we do for the rest? They’ll do full breast and pelvic exam on all of them. Mushkil-they didn’t bring the 40 speculum, I’ve bought 60, now we need 90 more. Between 2 pharmacies in town, we round them up and I pay for them. (And I still don’t know why there’d be 90 disposable speculum in a town where this is obviously the first time women have had such an exam). Let the exams begin.
Mind you, these are women who strip down weekly at the hammam together, so despite what we might think about Morocco being a modest culture, they have fewer nudity hang-ups that the average American woman. There’s a single exam room with 2 exam tables. There are no less than 10 women in this room all day long-either disrobing, getting examined or getting dressed. Some wait from 8am when they showed up until their exam after 3pm. Most of them are pretty nervous-ask those coming out of the exam room about it. Lots of them have bleeding from the exam, indicating problems. Both MDs work like fiends and examine all the women, working straight thru, until they have to leave to return to Sefrou after 5pm. Ham-du-li-lah. Exhausted and exhilirated.
We’ve had several women not even associated with the Coop helping out-on their feet-directing traffic, answering questions, etc., all day long. President of the Taeawniya Zitun (Olive Coop)-the only guy all day-fills in forms for the women as most don't read or write, all day long. Sarah-Environ Volunteer comes and helps-speaks great Tamazight so can tell the women about the breast self exam paper in their native dialect. Find out that women are told to go to Sefrou to get the results of their pap smears. Need to follow up MD in sbitar to see if he can get the results sent to him for women to stop by when they’re in town here-not logical for them all to go to Sefrou for these results. All the exams and any needed follow up will be free. The next obvious question is why don’t they do this type of thing more often? Hmmm.
Key learnings from this project: Listen to the locals-they pointed me to the Health Delegate. They wanted the exams. They convinced me to schedule it on souk day, as that may be the only day each week that women can get into town. Despite illiteracy, you can get the word out. Have to check all the administrative boxes several times and get official stamps on documents-helps sell others to join in. When you tap into motivated women, amazing things happen. Despite the hardships, 140-150 women showed up, and Drs. Asma and Mimi saw them all. I've just been given a priceless connection to women all over town that will serve me for the next 2 years. This may have been the most important thing I do in my 2 years here.
This program comes on the heels of a one-day meeting in Fes for my training group. A new concept in getting PCVs together every 3 mos. Hmmm, seems like in all my Sales Mgmt jobs I got my field based teams together at least every 3 mos-for exchange of ideas, problem solving and morale. Sounds like a good new plan for Peace Corps (seeing lots of positive changes w/new Country Director). Not surprisingly, the mtg has desired effect, as everyone was talking about all the new ideas they had to bring back to their sites. Back to Fes Tues morning to help out on the Spring Camp until Sunday.