Exactly one year after leaving America for Cameroon to develop and test an audio program to promote exclusive breastfeeding we done finish, as it is said in Pidgin. Yesterday we had the fourth and last listening session for our intervention group. After a year of seeking funding, planning, and preparing in the United States and another year in Cameroon of determining existing exclusive breastfeeding knowledge, beliefs, and practices, developing the audio program, recruiting 284 pregnant women and their partners, finding voice actors, recording and editing the audio program, writing an accompanying discussion guide, arranging for food and transportation for 350 participants, hiring local assistants, and collecting data for all of the participants I feel a huge sense of relief and thanksgiving to reach this point. Although the project isn't completely finished yet, the bulk of the project is certainly done and what is remaining does not rely on many external factors such as electricity, political stability, reliable assistants, language translation, finances, and 350 people willing to travel far distances to arrive on time and listen and discuss pertinent health matters.
As I look back on the past two years there certainly have been obstacles, but it has always worked out, just not the way I think it will. One of our recurrent obstacles was electricity failure on the days that the participants came to listen to an audio program segment. I was able to record the audio program on my iPod and then played the segment on speakers operated by batteries. Below is a picture of Gilbert holding the speakers while the participants listened to the program. Gilbert really should be called Jack because he is a Jack-of-all-Trades at the District Medical Office. He's a driver, logistician, photocopier, translator, and food procurer. Each week he would arrange with "Mama Chin-Chin" and "Mama Fish-Roll" to provide food for all of the participants. Although I only met Gilbert a few months ago, I could not have orchestrated all of the listening sessions without him. He is an example of how God has provided in many unexpected ways this past year.
I included this picture because of the man wearing a baseball cap. He and his wife live in Oku, about an hour away from Kumbo. His wife came to the first listening session, but on the way back she had an accident on the motorbike and hurt her leg. Because of this and the late stages of her pregnancy she couldn't attend the remaining listening sessions, so she sent her husband. He feverishly took notes during each listening session so he could report back to his wife. This and his congenial attitude certainly won my respect for him.
Since we began recruiting the women in July many of them had given birth by the time we started the listening sessions. Having about 10-15 babies in attendance sometimes made for a noisy environment, but I was relieved and grateful with the mothers' attempts to keep them quiet (usually by breastfeeding them!) so that the others could hear. Sometimes the babies were just as interested in what was happening as their mothers as shown below:
Nurse Margaret was another Godsend in the project. After listening to the segment she would engage the participants in a post-listening discussion. I also only met her a few months ago, but was very instrumental in recruiting the women and translating the pre and posttest.
Although we didn't have as many men as we anticipated, some of the ones were quite dynamic. Seeing them there and caring for their "pikins" certainly warmed my heart.
Two times a week I attend morning devotions with the LAP staff on the compound where I live. Each time I am always struck by how Cameroonians pray. Since many of the workers have to travel far distances to visit rural health centers they often pray for safe travel and health and strength to carry on the work. They inevitably end their prayers by saying, "So we can give God the glory and reason to thank Him for all that he is done." Although the reasons for my prayers have been slightly different these past two years, the outcome certainly has been the same.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our door.