Health Animators

A component of our village partnership program

When Children of the Nations (COTN) began ministry in Banta, it was apparent that a huge gap existed between COTN and the communities, especially in terms of health care.  Because many people in Sierra Leone believe in curses, there are many incorrect ideas and superstitions about illness and injuries.  In an effort to introduce modern medicine and health care practices and create a link between Children of the Nations and local communities, our local staff developed a program where two individuals from each village were selected to be trained in proper health care practices.  After receiving training, these individuals, known as Health Animators, would go back to their villages and share what they learned.  The goal was to dispel many of the health care misconceptions in their culture and to pass on knowledge that could help save lives.

During the initial meetings, the Health Animators discussed the most common problems among the communities—namely, malnutrition among infants, illness attributed to a lack of a clean water source, and an absence of latrines.  Once the issues were identified, these individuals took on the role of village advocates for healthier conditions in their communities, addressing such matters as clean water, sanitation, childbirth practices, myths and superstitions that affect health, etc.

The most impressive aspect of this program is that it was created by Sierra Leoneans for Sierra Leoneans.  This program has empowered our national staff local community members to develop their own communities and to take pride in their villages.  It has also created leadership opportunities, especially for the women, as the majority of the Health Animators are female.

A common saying in Krio (the native language in Sierra Leone) is “How for do, na so God say,” which means simply, “This is what God says, what can we do?”  This saying has become a crutch for many Sierra Leoneans—fostering the belief that they have no control over their present poverty and lack of development.  But because of the Health Animators program, the bonds of poverty are being broken and people are seeing that a better life is within their grasp.