If we are learning anything this week from all the calls we’re getting, it is that the communities are as varied in personality as they are enthusiastic about the drops this last week and the start of ETCHE!
With our response rate about 65%, we’ve heard from communities as large as 1500 and some as small as 350. Although each community targeted has in common that they are located on the lake’s edge, they have so far each been unique in relation to factors such as distance to the nearest clinic, existence of a school and/or latrines, and community water source. In talking with community members, it continues to be eye-opening when they share some of their challenges with us via crackly phone lines. For example, ETCHE bag #A019 which landed in Akotoe, was received by a local school teacher who, in describing his community, told us that his people are forced to get their water from the lake because the water from the two boreholes nearby have become salty and undrinkable.
It has been interesting to hear from the communities how they received their ETCHE bags. For example, a representative from Dzogba called me yesterday to apologize for not calling sooner but that their school children had only just found the bag in the wooded part of their community that day. He informed me that the community has called a meeting for tomorrow and will call me again once they have read the letter from MoM and had a chance to discuss it with the people.
My favorite part by far though has been the initial and continued interaction with community members. The excitement in their voice is unmistakable. When you answer an unknown number on your phone and the chipper voice on the other end immediately says happily, “Good Afternoon Madam! We are pleased to have received the bag from your airplane and we wanted to let you be aware that we want to participate!”
Many of the phone calls from the communities have come with a representative on the direct line and you can hear the entire community in the background as they all wait for this initial contact. In many cases, the community’s chief (or Dademantse, as he is called here) or a teacher is usually the one to make initial contact, but that has provided a perfect venue within which to answer questions and explain to them our vision for a community-identified health volunteer.
We will do one more round of pinging drops in the coming week or two in order to gather information about the communities, but we hope to have our kickoff and initial training in the weeks following.