One of the things you come to appreciate as a traveller is that there are always different ways of looking at things. Local teachings, generations of beliefs and traditions, are all part of what colours our cultures.On a visit to one of the orphanages that I supported in Myanmar, I came across a teachable moment. In the rice storage room that we were inspecting, there was a huddle of blankets on the concrete floor. Underneath it, sweating profusely, an 8-year old boy was dying of dehydration. Thin as a stick, he hadn’t eaten in days. His high fever led his carers to deprive him of water in the folklorish belief that a fever must be starved and sweated out. No-one had called a doctor to check on the boy or confirm his symptoms and course of treatment.
I tore off the blankets and called for water, and quickly had someone bring ice from the market and cloth with which to sponge him down. The boy thirsted for water and I could hardly keep up with his need to drink and to replenish his dehydrated body. I was so thankful to be there – it wasn’t too late to save him.
At that moment I realized that not all native teachings had to be the way forward. There had to be a way to share basic, modern healthcare information with the caregivers of tucked away orphanages. How to provide health education and access to health workers to guide people to better look after themselves and those in their care? The seed for our caregiver program was born in that moment and over time developed with local doctors and educators. It combines practical tips and guidance to operate orphanages and care homes and it is delivered through a support network that ensures each facility now has a Caregiver Manual to which to refer instead of having to rely on self diagnosis.
Our fever boy recovered fully in a matter of days.