Unlike my husband, who does this for a living, I have never claimed to be a teacher. Perhaps this is the chief reason that I love the CHE (Community Health Education) lessons. Each lesson plan has been designed to meet the needs of oral learners and to present truths using a high degree of learner participation. Each lesson begins with a problem using a simple role play or diagram, which helps the learner to understand the problem and its importance to their situation. The participants are involved in discovering the causes and solutions to the identified problem and are then encouraged to share these with their neighbours.

In the lesson on the use of alcohol, ten seeds are used to take the participants through a voting process to determine the extent of usage amongst men, women and youth.  It is fascinating to watch movement of the seeds from “bottle” to “no bottle” and  the animated discussions until they finally agree on a percentage of households that use alcohol and then the percentage of the average household income is spent.  In our target area the youth insist that 80% of their income is used for alcohol, the women felt 70% and the men 30%, so we settled on 50% for the purpose of the exercise. We then have them agree on an average household income and use this to calculate the amount of money spent annually on booze.  In our target community of 12 communes each with about 210 families, they were totally shocked to discover that more than $1.5 million dollars leaves their very poor community each year.  With eight members of the Commune Council and Women’s Committee participating in the training some good discussions ensued.

In the afternoon one of the CC leaders in the training took us to his small village where he rang the gong until a crowded gathered in the village pagoda, then he and several others practiced the lesson.  The crowd was largely women and it is the men and youth who are the heavy drinkers.  It was just awesome to see these women, for the first time with a powerful tool to prove their case and a Chief who taught it to them.  We left him there making promises that the CC would address this issue in the near future. One CC Chief had in fact been through this lesson about six months ago and he was only too delighted to share his story with everyone.  I will share that in my next post.