Chris Hagarty in Delhi and Grace Lo in Geneva
To the casual passer-by, the first-ever consultative workshop on community-based first aid (CBFA) in Asia-Pacific, held in Nepal in September 2006, may have looked more like the aftermath of an explosion in a paper factory than a gathering of community based first aid and health practitioners from across Asia and the Pacific.
In an innovative consultative process, 25 participants from Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as Federation delegations, were asked to draw and write on paper and charts of various sizes and colours, before placing them on the floor, the walls and even on the ceiling! Individual and group comments and ideas were brought together after each discussion and activity in order to build a life-sized, three-dimensional model for future CBFA practice, based on real Red Cross and Red Crescent experiences.
A similar consultative process took place a few weeks later in Nairobi, where African Red Cross and Red Crescent societies developed their version of a first aid model, based on their own experiences. This new, flexible model is a major contribution to the development of common content and standards in community-based first aid, adapted to local contexts.
CBFA is an approach used by many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to work more closely with communities and enable them to identify their own health and social needs, and to develop community-driven solutions addressing these priorities.
However, first aid is only one component of what CBFA volunteers do. They also participate in other activities such as HIV/AIDS prevention and care, road safety awareness campaigns, measles immunisations, improving the community water supply or malaria prevention. The communities’ own needs drive these activities and sustainability is ensured thanks to the active involvement of the community in every step of the process– a concept known as Learning by Doing!
Participants in both workshops agreed that volunteers need to turn their training into action by using their skills in real situations, at the household and community levels - a ‘volunteers in action’ approach, which requires coaching and management support.
The consultative workshops brought together experienced community-based first aid practitioners from 21 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (*) to discuss, appraise and make recommendations in order to develop newly-revitalised training and implementation manuals. The manuals, when complete, will be key tools to put in place community based first aid programmes with indicators to measure progress and impact.
Grace Lo, Federation Senior Health Officer at the Secretariat in Geneva, and one of the organisers of the workshops noted that: “One of the most positive outcomes from both workshops is a renewed momentum and enthusiasm among all Red Cross and Red Crescent practitioners, representatives and delegates to work together to revitalise CBFA so that it becomes more holistic and connected with other community activities.” All participants returned home with a set of key messages and action plans to present to their leaders.
In the African meeting, participants expressed support for working together to conceive new tools, foster understanding and go forward in turning CBFA into action. Mrs Konio Nori, a community-based first aid programme coordinator with the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society for the past 14 years, said that she was very interested in listening to what other Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were doing in their programmes.
“The workshop gave me a great feeling of solidarity with other colleagues in the Pacific and Asia. It was really interesting how we all were able to contribute our experiences to the development of new training manuals.”
The widespread interest in the CBFA revitalisation project has spread beyond Asia and Africa. The European First Aid Education Network has set up a task force to work with vulnerable groups in first aid learning. It brought 10 national societies together in London to share their experiences. The suggestions and results from the two consultative workshops will help to produce the new manuals.
(*) Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Eritrea, Finland, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Timor Leste and Zimbabwe.