It was Saturday morning and, as planned with Agya and Ashma, we set out for the meeting with the Female Community Health
Volunteers (FCHVs) in our catchment Village Development Committee (VDC), Janalikot. We planned to give a dental hygiene orientation program for the FCHVs and I was excited. We printed materials on tooth brushing techniques and I was planning to teach them about the “modified bass method” to brush our teeth. Since we didn’t have any tooth model at hand, at first it was challenging for us to demonstrate the recommended method of brushing technique. But we had a better model! There couldn’t have been a better model than our own set of natural teeth. All we needed now was a toothbrush to show them how it is done.
I set off with my friends to Janalikot. I was prepared to walk, but the bus ride that saved us from the heat, was like free double
cheese topping on a pizza. The ride saved me from exhaustion and the girls from suntans. Before we headed to the actual meeting, Community Health Worker Leader (CHWL) Ganga Luhar received us for lunch in her home. We then walked up the hill to meet the FCHVs for one of their regular gatherings on Saturday.
The group of women gathered every Saturday in the local VDC office to talk about the diseases and patients they had met during the week. They seemed to be eagerly waiting for us. Agya was a known face and Ashma and I were excited to be introduced. Agya introduced us and the conversation began.
I was talking to the FCHVs in a group for the first time. The ladies were welcoming and the experience couldn’t have been better. One of them seemed a little too elderly to work and I asked her age. She told me that she was 60 and that she had already been working as a health worker for seventeen years. Although I felt that it was time for her to retire, I was well aware that under her belt she had important skills that only came with experience. Their work seemed to have empowered them in every sense of the word. All that I had read about them and heard of them was exactly what I was seeing in real life.
As the meeting started, we talked about our hospital follow-up system. This was the best opportunity to strengthen our ties by addressing the loopholes in the system. The follow-up system is vital for referring our patients to the hospital for checkups, and also for looking after the patients who go back to their communities after treatment at the hospital.
The real show began when we gathered some of their ideas about dental hygiene. I then tried to emphasize the importance of
brushing teeth daily in a proper way. I explained the need to brush away the germs from gingival pockets between the gum and the teeth, getting the right toothpaste with fluoride, and the proper method of stroking. They listened with patience and interest to what I was saying. Then we asked them to share this knowledge in the community.
We were done with the lesson but they were still around the VDC office, eagerly waiting for the polio vaccine to arrive. Since it was the national polio immunization day, they waited with hungry stomachs without any complaints to take the vaccines to the children in the community. I was impressed by their passion to work.
Going to the community was not just a learning experience for them but also a wonderful learning experience for me. Simple efforts on their side were making significant differences in the community. It is amazing how the FCHVs help create smiles and spread happiness.
Dr. Bibhusan Basnet , MBBS graduated from B.P Koirala Institute of Health Sciences,Nepal. He has a special interest in Emergency Medicine and Psychiatry and is currently the Medical Director for Nyaya Health.