Wednesday – Active search and learning!

It was very important to be punctual today at the school as we promised the children and their parents that we will be there from 6:30a.m. even when the teachers were on strike and classes were suspended. Because of the same reason, we were worried about the children not bringing the faecal samples and on top of that we also had to reschedule the activities we have planned for today Wednesday for Thursday and Friday.

However, we were just arriving to the school on a moto-taxi when there was already a mom with two children that wanted to participate in the Worm Hunt. They could not come the days before and they have heard of us. Like them other 23 new children were enrolled for a total of 109 new hunters!

Moreover, the response of the children bringing the faecal sample was amazing! They were coming with their moms or on their own and they also brought the comics to show me all the activities they have been working on, to ask us some questions and to stay and work with the comic and draw all together. Thus, I was surrounded by them and we worked together all morning.

Meanwhile Dora, Caro, Angelica and Maria Cristina processed every sample that was arriving and together with Jaime they were treating the children we diagnosed with infections with different protozoa and helminths yesterday.

Samples arrived until 4p.m. but the team had to activate plan B of the hunt as two of our microscopes were broken due to the problems with the electricity at the school. Thus, the team had to move all the samples to the local hospital to continue and be able to finish the search of the worms!

 

It is going to be a long day… after having the results, Jaime needs to prescribe the treatment for each child and we have to get ready for massive treatment and more activities at the school tomorrow. However, the thought of all those happy faces makes us work to the end!

Tuesday – Identifying the suspects

Excitement! This is the word that summarises today. Very early we had a classroom full with children and their moms, and sometimes their little siblings, all ready to be recruited as Worm Hunters. For a total of 87!

Everyone wanted to participate as they felt the connection with not feeling well and having belly pain and diarrhoea. It was then when we identified the suspects that cause the diseases and engage everyone to participate. No matter how long they have to wait until their turn arrived, they waited and the excitement of the children increased with every minute because they could see that we were looking at the whipworms under the microscope and drawing what we saw and working with the comic.

My station was full with great images and even the moms wanted to see under the microscope and got scared of thinking we can have in our belly the worms I was showing them.

We stayed working with their children until the early afternoon and when the last one left, Dora and Maria Cristina started to hunt the worms in the samples from the children we worked with yesterday. And as it happened, they found the first Trichuris trichiura egg in one of the samples.

A trichuris egg in one of the kids’ sample

This will continue tomorrow and we hope to identify all the nasty bugs that are infecting the children from the Enoc Mendoza School!

Monday – First hunter contact

What is starting school early for you? In Ciénaga children start at school at 6:30a.m… that means that all the Worm Hunter team was ready to get there at the same time! This is a blessing as the morning is fresh and one avoids the 30C degrees heat of 9a.m!

Upon arrival, all personal at the school were ready to help us set up, and we quickly organised ourselves in 4 stations:

  • The first one to explain the project and sign the inform consent with Dora, Angélica and Maria Cristina;
  • The second one, where Jaime measured height and weight of the children;
  • The third one, where Caro measured the haemoglobin
  • The last one, where I was giving the comic and showing whipworm eggs and adults at the microscopes and the children were drawing what they saw.

Jose was all over the place documenting every moment of the hunt.

It was the time for the parents to arrive and we got only one mom… there was a miscommunication last week and instead of inviting the parents from the morning session, the citation was sent for the parents of the children from the afternoon session. After realising this, the school coordinator helped us to call the parents of the morning term that live nearby and we sent an invitation for the next day to the remaining of the group. Slowly we started to get parents and their children and the fun began.

This was a very personalised session. We had the opportunity to talk for long with each parent and child and get to know their experiences with worms. Gradually they realised that they wanted to be part of the Worm Hunters team! Everyone wanted to participate and not even the blood sample prevented them to join.

At the end of the stations, I had the chance to interact with the children by first giving them the comic (some of them were very patient as they wanted to have it from the beginning). Then, the magical vision of the microscope really made my day. It is difficult to find the words to describe their faces whenever the children and their parents can see whipworm eggs and adults under the microscope! Just to close, every child spent a good time drawing all what they saw and filling with colours our morning.

The beginning of the hunt

It was an early start for all the hunters, still in the dark when we left for the airport. Some members more awake than others but after checking in and having some colombian breakfast (arepa de huevo, almohabanas, pandebonos), we were ready to travel to Ciénaga. Upon landing, we saw the sea and where received by lots of sunshine and 30C degrees outside.

It took us 30 minutes to get to Ciénaga from the airport, an extremely lively town, with a lot of commerce and a very busy traffic composed mainly of moto-taxis that move like bees and beep all the time.

We arrived to the hotel just to leave our luggage before going to the school. Moto-taxis are the best way to move around the town and helped us to get quickly to the school to collect the material we have sent previously. If you think a Moto-taxi has limited space, it is because you have not seen the organisation skills of the drivers who can put huge boxes even on the top to mobilise you around!

With all the material in our hands, we spent our first afternoon at Ciénaga organising and coordinating all the hunting strategy for the next week. The team is full of energy, a group of smiley faces always prone to help and very resourceful! I am extremely lucky to have such a special group of hunters working with me in this project!

After all organisation, we went for a walk around Ciénaga, enjoying its multicolour houses, the very loud tropical music and a beautiful sunset that filled us with the best energy for our hunt this week!