Community outreach plays a major role in operations here at WellShare. Our Community Health Workers go into the field on a daily basis to ensure that they are maintaining their client relationships. From participating and tabling during events at local venues to freely going out to common areas (malls, community centers, etc.), the fieldwork is continuous. One of our program’s main priorities is to create comfortable dialogue amongst our staff and community members while also promoting a better understanding of family planning.
In early February, I had the opportunity to shadow my fellow Community Health Worker, Abdirahman during his trip to one of the local Somali malls here in Minneapolis. It was an early weekday afternoon and the mall did not have too many people around but before too long, we came across a few individuals in one of the barbershops. We approached two young men and a young woman and greeted them. Abdirahman shared with them about our Child Spacing education program and if they were open to a conversation surrounding family planning. After agreeing, Abdirahman asked the three young people what their views were on family planning and one of the young men immediately said “family planning maxa ka wadaa?” which translates to “What is family planning?” We then went on to talk about child spacing and if any of them had children of their own as well as their beliefs surrounding birth control.
Like many other people we speak with, their guard went up right away because of concerns related to Islam. I found this conversation to be especially important because Abdirahman had the chance to educate them on how Islam actually encourages child spacing for the well-being of the mother, the father, and the other children in the family. We shared our various brochures about child spacing and spoke about a few of the methods. Although hesitant at first, the young woman eventually expressed to us that she wished she knew this information sooner. She was grateful for her three children and confided that she is going to take this information into consideration for the future.
The two young men at the barber shop on the other hand didn’t seem persuaded by our informational materials, and continued to share their reluctance. “Sometimes,” Abdirahman shared, “it takes more than one conversation to teach someone new information. Especially when it is an unfamiliar topic for them. You may have to see them a few more times before the information actually sticks.”
And that is just one example of the many outcomes that come with doing community outreach. While attempting to create comfortable dialogue amongst individuals, we are still aware that not everyone has the same reactions.
Abdirahman adapts his messaging to various community members by providing detailed information on the work that we do in the community. He shared that “being transparent with community members helps build trust with regards to the projects that we focus on and who is funding our work.” Another method that he uses with community members is greeting them with the Islamic phrase “Assalamu Alaykum” meaning may peace and mercy be upon you. He expressed that using humble prayer wishes also helps build good relationships with community members.
If we are able to educate even one person and try and promote a better understanding of family planning, it is just as satisfying as educating 100 people. As CHWs we feel that it is just as important to allow ourselves to learn from the people we reach, so that we can be more prepared to answer the questions and share accurate, relevant information with our communities.
This blog was written by Sadia Ahmed, a Community Health Worker who spends her time between CUHCC clinic and WellShare’s office, supporting our Family Planning Special Projects initiatives funded by MDH.