Our Operation Mercy Community Health team in Khorog works in some very remote and inaccessible villages. It is difficult for the villagers to make it to a medical point when they are sick, so the nurse who works there asked us to come and give lessons to the women.
Gulrez* was one of the women who came to the first lesson. She was very thin, quiet, and lacking confidence. Whenever our health trainer, Mina*, taught a new topic, the ladies attending the lesson would point at Gulrez and say that she needed the information. Gulrez was not treated very kindly by the other women, and she would sit in the corner by herself. One day when Gulrez did not show up for the health lesson, Mina noticed and told the village nurse to encourage Gulrez to keep coming to the lessons.
When the next lesson came around, Gulrez saw our health trainer and went out to walk with her to the lesson. Gulrez trusted her and opened up to her. Gulrez told Mina that her mother-in-law is very controlling and does not treat her very well. She insists on doing the cooking, but she is not a good cook, and everyone in the family is undernourished and hungry. Gulrez tries to prepare meals quickly for her children when her mother-in-law is away, but it is not enough. After her last baby was born, Gulrez suffered from post-partum bleeding, and her mother-in-law said it was normal and would not let her get treated. Gulrez became anaemic and passed out and had to go to the hospital. Now, her mother-in-law will not allow her to be tested for iron levels. As they walked, Mina listened closely and gave Gulrez information on healthy eating. She also told the village nurse to test all the women for haemoglobin (so Gulrez would not be singled out) and to pass out iron tablets.
Our health trainers don’t just “tick off the boxes” after they teach a lesson, but they pay attention and try to see the women, to understand them, and to show compassion and support. They are teaching the village nurses to do the same. It is not just through lessons that lives will be changed, but through compassion and understanding.
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