Hundreds turn out for MRC Unit The Gambia’s Open Day in Keneba

“The first of its kind in Keneba” according to the feedback received from people who came from all over the surrounding villages in West Kiang to find out more about MRCG

MRC Unit The Gambia’s Open Day in Keneba on the 19th May 2016 attracted over 1000 residents of  West Kiang. All ages were represented, from students looking for information on a potential career to mothers seeking  an insight into both the projects being conducted and services provided by MRCG in the region.
The main event consisted of a tour  of  six stands – Field, Lab, Science, Clinic, Supplement Centre and Quiz – with groups of 25, guided by MRCG Staff,  making 10-minute stops at each stand.

The Field stand comprised of a drama to make people aware of and explain the process of the ethics committee.The ten-minute drama included all stages of the ethical approval process leading to the point at which villagers themselves are approached.

The Lab stand took the form of a drama to show the process of blood taking: how much blood is taken in relation to the volume of blood in the body, and what blood taking actually involves and including explanations of the equipment used.

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Science stand

The Science stand incorporated 2 poster presentations focusing on the selected themes of ‘Early Growth and Development’ and ‘Calcium, Vitamin D and Bone Health’ respectively. ‘Early Growth and Development’ highlighted  the importance of healthy growth across the first 1000 days, which is essential in ensuring a productive and fulfilling life.  The Calcium section  emphasised the importance of calcium and vitamin D for the development of healthy bones .

The Clinic Stand described the process of attending the clinic: opening hours, specialist clinic services, and the process of moving through clinic. A flow chart poster with photos of all clinic areas was used to illustrate this. Public health posters relating to birth spacing and healthy aspects of pregnancy were also used, as the midwives explained the benefits of early antenatal booking and warning signs to be aware of in pregnancy.

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Supplement Center Stand

At the Supplement Center Stand staff explained the process of making nutritionally rich porridge, demonstrating with readily available foodstuffs and explaining the importance of this in healthy weaning.

The Quiz segment was a fun and interactive way to test what visitors had learnt from the tour. The first section tested general knowledge about MRCG Keneba while the second focused on specific questions relating to the 6 Stands visited.
Throughout the tour, there was ample opportunity for attendees to voice any concerns and raise any questions that they had regarding MRCG’s activities in the region. Such open dialogue allowed many of the myths surrounding MRCG to be dispelled and issues addressed, thus further strengthening the already special relationship that the unit shares with the surrounding community.

The day concluded with food and refreshments for all who participated in the day’s activities. Entertainment was also provided in the form of the local ‘Manduar Women Cultural troop’ and ‘Nyodema Kafoo’ from Kantong Kunda. Perhaps most importantly of all, the event provided an opportunity for the staff of Keneba to thank the people of West Kiang for their ongoing support which enables cutting edge research to be conducted in Keneba.

Rita Wegmuller, Head of Keneba Field station, said: “I was impressed by the diverse mixture of people attending the Open Day and by how attentively they listened to all presentations at the different stands and asked questions. Clearly, this Open Day was very much appreciated by the communities and will help to maintaining our great relationship with all the West Kiang villages.”

When asked to comment Prof Umberto D’Alessandro, Director said “It is extremely important communities in which we are working are fully aware of what we are doing and why. This Open day in Keneba  has offered the perfect opportunity to show, explain and discuss with the local communities our research. It has been a moment of sharing and I am extremely pleased with the number of people we were able to attract.”