Laying the Foundation for Training Communities

Dr. Janice Edwards will never forget how she felt when Hurricane Dorian ravaged her hometown on Grand Bahama island while she was 130 miles away in Nassau, nervously awaiting news of her family and friends who stayed behind.

“I’m so proud of the strength of our people.” –Dr. Janice Edwards-Rowlands

Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Bahamas as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. When the Category 5 hurricane hit the northwestern islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September, it left some 29,500 people homeless, jobless or both. Despite the devastation and the disruption to their day-to-day lives, health workers like Dr. Edwards-Rowlands kept going.

These professionals included social workers, doctors, nurses and many more who, despite their own hardships, continued to provide lifesaving care to their communities despite the hurricane’s devastating effects.

For the past 35 years, International Medical Corps has helped those hit by disaster recover from adversity, then prepare for future disaster, by providing medical services and training. Given this history, it was only fitting that our response team on Grand Bahama island recently partnered with Dr. Edwards and her colleagues at the Public Hospitals Authority to provide a three-day session to teach community leaders and service providers to become effective trainers for community health volunteers (CHVs).

International Medical Corps’ Training of Trainers (TOT) session trained 30 participants, including community leaders, teachers, social workers and service providers at the Rand Memorial Hospital and clinics, which International Medical Corps supports. These participants learned how to train CHVs, who in turn will engage and educate their communities about health; water, sanitation and hygiene; and mental health and psychosocial support.

By training community leaders and service providers to become effective trainers themselves, we ensure that essential healthcare knowledge travels to the most remote communities of Grand Bahama—communities that often struggle to access the local hospital or clinics.

“I want to empower my community. Unfortunately, some people are waiting for information to come to them because they cannot travel to a clinic. That’s when we come in,” said Ortence Russell, a volunteer from 8 Mile Rock.

This is a great opportunity for me to spread important messages to teachers and to parents that will then share that information with children,” said Hilda Farquharson, school vice president. “This is where it all starts—with the younger generations.”

Sophia Thompson, senior mistress at a primary school, is “hoping to be trained and be able to put out positive information out in our community. I’m happy to receive this training and help our communities remain healthy and strive for a better future.”

“It is extremely important that we get these messages out there,” explains Dr. Maxine Gonzales, a Family Medicine Specialist. “The perception is that people should know some of these basic messages, but there is still a small pocket of our population that might not have access to this information.”

The TOT program does not just benefit the CHVs. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, it is easy for service providers to lose track of their own health, as they dedicate their time to the needs of their communities. Providing this training to community leaders and service providers not only teaches them how to help others, but also how to help themselves through disasters and other difficult events.

“We have been gifted with great knowledge, now it’s time to pass it on,” said Dr. Janice Edwards-Rowlands. “We’re planting a tree after Hurricane Dorian, and the roots will take us to all the communities in need of help and resources.”

Help us save lives.