Breaking the 50,000 barrier; and a special thank you to our Malaria Faith Ambassadors
This week has allowed Faiths Act Sierra Leone the fantastic opportunity of bringing together all of the Freetown and Southern region Malaria Faith Ambassadors (MFAs) together in General Meetings, both to congratulate them on their hard work and to encourage them to continue to educate their communities.
After today's general meeting in Bo, we gladly report that over 52,000 homes have now been visited by Malaria Faith Champions to sensitise families about how to prevent themselves from getting malaria!
To show our appreciation for their tremendous work in their local communities, over the two general meetings, certificates of appreciation have been awarded to 59 MFAs who have completed their initial commitment of households sensitised. The other MFAs congratulated their fellow ambassadors and I am sure have been further motivated to see their champions continue the good work they have started.
The Faith Ambassadors, both existing and new were also able to give further feedback about how the programme was running in their communities. Many successes were discussed, however the most impacting are outlined below:
- There is tangible evidence of behaviour change in the local communities. Ambassador Chief J Corseh-Hindowa mentioned that people have begun to clear their environments and get rid of water cans and tyres which are a breeding site for mosquitoes. Another MFA mentioned that due to the work of champions in their community, people have come together to create communal dustbins.
- Religious tolerance is truly evident. Many of the faith leaders have enjoyed working in interfaith teams, for example, Rev Fred Karimu and Sheikh Abdulai Mansaray from Kailahun have trained 40 champions together and have signed up to train another set this month.
- Ambassador Kadiatu James mentioned that she was glad because 'Mothers now know that if there is a change in their baby's condition, that they need to go to hospital'.
- Though resources are limited, the programme has had a huge impact because of the use of places of worship as the communities meeting place for discussions.
There were many more successes including the fact that through the champions, the message is reaching both the rural and the urban communities. Such as is in a pilot programme however, there are still challenges faced by the MFAs in their communities, including the lack of bednets in some parts of Sierra Leone. There were also worries about how to continue to motivate both the ambassadors and champions. An MFA mentioned the difficulties of reaching some of their local communities which are often surrounded by water or terrains which are difficult to cross. For such journeys, more attention needs to be paid to how to mobilise them.
The Faiths Act Sierra Leone programme has generated so much interest both on a national and local level and we have found that those who take it on are ambitious with its implementation. The faith leaders want to see it succeed and are working very hard with the little resources they have. They are eager to expand in such a way that allows greater resources for them to do more and make this programme far reaching across the whole country.
There were also questions posed on how to tackle families that were not responsive to the messages, to which one of our MFAs, Rev Steven Allie wisely said, 'this is about behaviour change and that doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes we may have to revisit the households more than once in order for them to take on the messages.'
In spite of all the challenges faced by the ambassadors, they were still very optimistic about the impact of the programme and one of our MFAs from Pujehun duly noted that, 'Since we are the pioneers of this programme, we want the organisation to ensure that when this programme expands, that you do not forget the faith leaders who worked hard to make it a success.'
All in all, with two successful general assemblies, 59 Certificates awarded and over 50,000 homes reached in first visits, the four of us out here in Sierra Leone anticipate the coming months and look forward to continuing working with such dynamic leaders.