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first aid training at kesho

Kesho Leo is located in a community about half an hour from the nearest hospital; ambulances here are few and are hindered by poor access and communications, and few locals have cars. This relative isolation from emergency health care means local community members must be their own first responders in the event of a serious illness or injury, often having to handle several stages of care - from neutralizing the causes of the emergency, and providing initial medical care through to transporting the casualty to a hospital. As if this were not challenging enough, the basic materials for First Aid are often unavailable - clean water, bandages, tape. In this context, having appropriately trained First Aiders on hand takes on an enormous importance.

First Aid Africa is an organisation that has been working on this problem across the continent, developing treatment and training protocols that are relevant and practical in Africa's challenging environment. They approached us earlier this year to arrange a partnership, with Kesho Leo acting as a hub for First Aid Africa to provide local community education, and KL staff and residents receiving in-depth training.

Three talented trainers - Lydia, Arike and Clare - were duly dispatched from England, arriving in Arusha to face a gruelling teaching schedule that included 60 - 80 kids a day for a First Aid Aware course, about 30 people - including the Kesho Leo Mamas, some staff and community members - for Initial First Aid classes, and 6 Kesho Leo staff and volunteers for an Advance First Aid course.

For the whole month of August, Kesho Leo and the surrounding area was a hive of hands-on First Aid action. When students weren't bandaging hands, setting fractures, treating snake bites and handling seizures, they were acting out all these injuries to give their fellow trainees a go (often giving frighteningly realistic performances worthy of an Oscar or two).

The training was intense and the pace fast, with frequent pass-or-fail assessments in each course keeping everyone on their toes.

There was an amazing level of commitment to understanding and learning the material; with injury and illness so frequent here, the training was taken very seriously indeed, but it was also approached with this community's characteristic high spirits; there was lots of good-natured laughter as friends and colleagues found themselves treating, testing, carrying and calming each other.

All the techniques taught were designed for the resources available here. When latex gloves can't be found, a First Aider can use plastic bags to prevent HIV transmission through bleeding. When sterile bandages are unavailable, sanitary pads provide the perfect replacement. And when discussing transporting casualties to the hospital, time-frames were measured in days as well as minutes to cover difficult rural situations.

So it was with a huge amount gratitude that we say goodbye to the trainers, who taught a total of about 900 people in their short time here. They were sent off in true Kesho Leo style, with the Mamas cooking them a traditional meal, performing songs and dances and presenting them with gifts of local crafts.

The girls left behind not only some well-stocked First Aid kits, but also a pool of individuals trained and motivated to save lives - plus a lot of fun memories of the courses.

Asanteni sana (thank you very much) to First Aid Africa, we can't wait to have you back next year!

Thursday, 12 September 2013