Last year we visited Prangbung – a remote village that belongs to the Panchthar District – for the first time. Upon our return we realized how much awareness about Diabetes & Hypertension we were able to create by just doing simple blood sugar and blood pressure tests last year. We were excited to bring a mobile laboratory for blood drawing and a doctor for diagnosing and educating the potential patients to the village. But before the doctor and the lab assistants came to join us, we wanted to reach out to the furthest ward in Prangbung – Ward 7 – due to the low participation of this ward during last year’s checks. Early morning we headed out with Mr. Chandraeshowr, the Health Post person in charge, and after 3 hours of walking on small trails crossing previous landslides we reached Ward 7. Many people were already waiting and at the end we tested over 50 people for diabetes and blood pressure. Any suspects were re-invited for the next day to come back on an empty stomach. On our way back we stopped by at a local school offering class 1-8. (Any student who wants to continue until class 10 will have to go to Prangbung – 2,5 hours or more one way of walking) The kids were curious, some scared of seeing a foreigner for the first time, but at the end lots of smiles came our way. It is quite sad to see 3 computers at that school, covered in dust, 2 printers (one broken – one new one, but not connected), but no one really can work with it or re-set the system and there is no position for a computer teacher in many schools. What the students know about computers is what they read in their study books. But this is not the only school that we saw these issues. We hope this will change over time with more support from the District Education, but even there the budget is limited.
Once back in Prangbung the Doctor and the lab assistants have arrived. After a short briefing on what we expect on the following morning, the lab assistants were trying to figure out how the equipment will work. On the next day after setting up the laboratory the first suspects arrived and many more new villagers wanted to get their blood sugar tested and blood pressure taken. At the end of the day we provided over 100 checks for villagers from all different wards (brings our total checks in Prangbung to over 310) and we were able to draw blood for 16 suspects. Communicating to come on an empty stomach was more difficult than expected as people think a milk tea with sugar wouldn’t harm. The good news are that most of the initial diabetes suspects came back with normal readings. Some need to change their diet and continue more follow up checks. Some villagers with continuous high blood pressure readings were educated and some of them got medicine. Overall the follow up quote was 41 % from all initial suspects during last year’s checks. Considering that some suspects already came back to the Health Post after our last visit to get checked and especially the distances some villagers have to overcome, we were really happy with this follow up. We heard from many sides how thankful people were that we started bringing awareness about diabetes and hypertension and the necessary supplies to the village. At the end of our health checks we donated more testing supplies to the Health Post as this is currently not on the list for materials they get from the District Health. (At least diabetes and hypertension medication is now on the list of medications they can get from the Health Post) The District Health gave us some medication, so we were able to stock up the rare inventory on these items.
Additionally to the health projects we did, we also brought 4 sacks of books for the government school in Prangbung for their first and our second established library and we donated some school supplies. It was very encouraging to speak to the local headmaster Mr. Kishor. He is very motivated, has great ideas, is currently in the process of changing one empty room in a study space with the library included. We also saw that he implemented a regular clean up to keep the ground waste free. Some of the students built a garbage bin out of bamboo – very simple and hopefully put in place in more areas of the school ground. We discussed the problem of attendance with him and learned that many kids are not allowed to come on Fridays (half day) because their parents need them at their farms. Another issue was the students’ inability of communicating in English and we came up with the idea of creating a volunteer position at his school. Learning English from a foreigner would improve their English skills immediately as the students won’t have any other choice than to speak in English with the volunteer. During current English classes it is still common to communicate in Nepali. And for the volunteer it will be a great opportunity to learn more about Nepali culture. So if you know someone that can teach English, can handle students and is willing to stay at least one month in a remote village, please share our website with anyone interested.
Talking about garbage and creating a solution for a better way of handling was also on our list, however the interest was not quite there either – YET. We won’t give up and knowing that the local headmaster will support us and is doing his part at the school, gives us hope for the future.
What is next in Prangbung? – More education on prevention and management of diabetes and hypertension, more checks in wards with low participation, and ideally donating a laboratory for the Health Post as this Health Post is in charge of 4 different villages. This could mean that 10000 villagers from Prangbung, Memeng, Sidin and Ekteen would have easy access to blood checks – not only for diabetes – at any time. Let’s hope that the District Health is creating a position for a laboratory worker soon. We also would like to start the implementation of yoga however it requires a longer stay to get the women’s group involved. For the school we would like to bring a volunteer for English classes and more books for the library. These are currently our first thoughts for upcoming projects… More to come!