During my first week volunteering with the FED I joined the Health Team on a community visit to a remote Burmese community on the island of Koh Kho Khao. The drive into the depths of the rubber plantation can only be described as a rollercoaster, along several miles of rough and rutted road wide enough for only one vehicle. On the one unfortunate occasion we did meet an oncoming vehicle we engaged each other in a complicated dance of forward, backward and side-to-side movements until we negotiated our way past! We eventually found our way to the community who were nestled deep into the plantation.
As we arrived, a group of men were playing a game of net takraw in which players use their feet, knees or heads to pass a woven rattan ball over a volleyball net. Children were running about outside and the women were inside preparing the space for the Health Team to make their presentation. We unloaded the truck and had some refreshments before the Health Team began the presentation. Around 25 people in total, men women and children, gathered in the room to listen to Health intern Min-Min talk to them about hygiene, basic healthcare and Dengue Fever. Dengue Fever is a threat for those living without easy access to healthcare and can be fatal if not treated properly. Even just a basic understanding of symptoms and treatments will help people identify when someone is infected much faster, aiding their recovery significantly. Even though the presentation was in Burmese, I was still able to pick up the gist of what was being discussed from motions and gestures. And from the pictures on the presentation poster! The health talk was followed by a discussion about the different ways of presenting oneself in society. We all stood in a circle and demonstrated different ways of standing, such as with your arms folded or your hands behind your back, and discussed the impression that each stance would make on an observer. Again, my limited Burmese language skills didn’t seem to limit my understanding of what was going on too much! When all the talking was done, the Health Team conducted medical checkups, taking blood pressures, checking heart rates and recording peoples’ weights. For the most-part everyone seemed in good health but for those who were suffering from minor ailments, medicines were distributed and recommendations for treatments and further preventions were made.
The visit was fascinating for me as it is so hard to believe that there are many communities living without the most basic knowledge about hygiene and healthcare. The work that the Health Team do in spreading important healthcare information and providing medical checkups is vital as these communities may not have any other way of accessing these things. While these basic rights might be taken for granted in the developed world, they make such a huge difference to the quality of life for these remote communities.