During September, which is considered Sickle Cell Awareness Month in most parts of the World, yours truly was busy behind the scenes doing all she could to raise awareness about sickle cell in line with the #BreakTheSilence Campaign. As usual, technology was my biggest asset and daily posts especially on Whatsapp status updates targeting those who are not on Facebook was great, the feedback from those who followed thrilling.
Nevertheless, the highlight of the September Campaign happened on September 21, 2018. On this day, we decided to leave the big screen to the field. Our target audience was the senior primary school children of the Etouge’ebe Baptist Hospital, Yaounde. There were some misgivings as some felt these kids were too young to understand all the jargon around what sickle cell and genotype were all about but my adage is always start them young and they grow up knowledgeable and empowered.
We did our best to break down the dynamics of sickle cell in a way that they would understand. Well, it was a struggle to get the pupils hear and understand me especially as not everyone could hear what I was saying easy. Thankfully, my formidable support team was present and thus we got around to this obstacle, ending with an interesting one hour or so with the kids. We were all impressed with their inquisitiveness in wanting to know what caused sickle cell, how they could know they have sickle cell, if it was contagious and how they could help someone with sickle cell. At the end, they gave out some interesting points like taking the person with sickle cell to the hospital and ensuring they take their drugs amongst others. They also wanted to know where they could go to get their genotype test done. By breaking down this important information in a way that these kids would readily grasp and understand, we hope we did not only impart knowledge but also helped their generation to grow up making informed decisions and debunking myths and stereotypes around sickle cell anemia. While the focus was on sickle cell, we also hoped that we have helped opened their inquisitive minds to knowing not only about sickle cell but also about other health situations through their genotypes which may affect how they view and understand relationships and people with health challenges in future for the better. Knowledge remains the best defense in fighting the unknown.