It Takes a Village

Basse Health Center

Basse Health Center



From: Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps



In my quest to line up in-service training speakers for the auxiliary nurses at the Basse Health Center in The Gambia, I found many helpful agencies in our village.

Once I went with my husband Bruce to the hydro-meteorological office, a weather monitoring station, so that Bruce could use their short-wave radio to call Yundum headquarters to order, or try to order, necessary supplies. The hydro-met supervisor, happy with our interest in his work, showed us around. They measured rainfall, when it infrequently happened, evaporation and temperature. They had about 15 different thermometers, some measuring air temperature, soil surface temperatures, and several at various depths in the soil. We were surprised to see that it was 85 degrees four feet underground. No wonder our well water felt so warm.

Another day I encountered a policeman on my way to market and asked if I could visit the police station. Delighted with my request, he showed me around. Stepping inside, the two desks were stacked with papers. The room itself was relatively comfortable with ceiling fans. Since he currently had no prisoners, he asked if I would like to see the jail. I agreed and he opened a heavy door to a dingy, hot, stuffy room with four cells. The place smelled of urine and sweat. If there was ever an incentive to stay on the right side of the law, that place was it.

The policeman took a long time with me, discussing his various duties. As I left, he said, “Mariama, if you ever have trouble, come to see me. I will take care of it.” I didn’t doubt him for a minute.

The Catholic Relief Services was pleased to be asked to speak at my in-service training program. CRS’ main goals are to provide emergency relief, long-term development, particularly in agriculture, and health care education. They were good about gearing their talk to make it clear they were supplementing the Health Center services, not acting as competition.

I also called on Planned Parenthood to invite them to speak at our in-service program. . Apparently Muslims had no problem with Planned Parenthood, though abstinence didn’t seem to go over well. They were okay with the women taking “the pill,” but with the supply chain being chancy, it sometimes caused more problems than it solved. The tubob I spoke with said that in one case, many women in a village had taken the pill, but when the supply ran out, most of them became pregnant, all in the same month! Planned Parenthood was mostly concerned with the mothers’ health after multiple births in relatively few years.

These various groups added to the auxiliary nurses’ knowledge of health agencies available in the Basse area. Learning about the various agencies helped me to understand how The Gambia worked and what it took to manage the well-being of a community. There were other groups, too, such as the Chinese agriculture team who helped teach Gambians how to grow rice, and various missionary groups.

I was pleased with the reception I received from the various agencies operating for the welfare of the Basse area. I found the spirit of cooperation encouraging. Together we could strive toward making a difference.