Ghostbusters (guest post by Mary Adam) (20/12/16)

In 1984, I was a medical resident in pediatrics, living in Arizona.  Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd starred in the hit movie Ghostbusters and Rod (my husband) and I went to see it in the movie theater.

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood?
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
If there’s something weird and it don’t look good.
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

Little could I imagine that 30 years into the future the song would still play on a loop in my brain, not just because of the recent release of the movie remake, but because now the question kept coming up in real life.

Mary and the Maternal Newborn Community Health Team

Mary and the Maternal Newborn Community Health Team

I am no longer a pediatric resident out for a laugh. Now I have real life questions. I run the Maternal Newborn Community Health Program at Kijabe. I have a staff of 6. We work outside the walls of the hospital with lower literacy adults who we train as community health volunteers.

These wonderful Kenyan volunteers encourage mothers to deliver their babies at a health center, help communities understand the importance of building and using composting toilets (pit latrines), and do health promotions including hygiene. We work in marginalized vulnerable populations in Kenya’s rural agricultural communities, pastoralist communities in the arid regions of northeastern Kenya, and peri-slum communities.

Training Maasai Community Health Volunteers with simple diagrams and tools.

Training Maasai Community Health Volunteers with simple diagrams and tools.

In the routine course of our work, we end up in strange places where sometimes the work is risky and can feel unsafe.  The song echoes…

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood. Who you gonna call?

I don’t call Ghostbusters, I call Andy Steere.

Training Community Health Workers in remote Northeastern Kenya.

Training Community Health Workers in remote Northeastern Kenya.

Andy has helped our team assess and manage risk.  All kinds of risk:  security risk from working in unstable geographic locations, understanding how to manage the risk of cash-based work when functioning outside the formal economy, assessing work functions and resource-leveling the workloads amongst our six full time workers so that we don’t risk wasting their time and talents.

Local community members building a hand washing facility called a "tippy tap", located outside pit toilets. CHV's are trained to build facilities like these using local materials as part of their training and certification as "Community Health Volunteers".

Local community health volunteers in training:  building a hand washing facility called a “tippy tap”, located outside pit toilets.  CHV’s are trained to build facilities like these using local materials as part of their training and certification.

Andy helps me think about the big picture, coaching me on team management in complex and dynamic conditions, and helping me think through what progress means when the sand is literally shifting beneath our feet.  In between he throws in a strong dose of encouragement, a cup of coffee, and reminds me of the God I ultimately serve and like a good compass points me to the One in charge.

Community Health Worker on a home visit

Community Health Worker on a home visit

Next time you hear yourself humming the theme song from Ghostbusters, or find yourself wondering, “Who you gonna call?” I have a recommendation.  Skip Ghostbusters; call Andy.

-Mary Adam

Author: steeres

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