An Informal Workshop with My Colleagues: Let’s Talk SCD
‘You can never tell who you impact by the way you act or choose to live your life.’
It is a slow Friday at work and the ‘Cat’ is not around, a perfect opportunity for the ‘rats’ to come out and play. The pouring rain gives the day a somber look. Caught between the walls of no work and no chance of stepping out for lunch, I seized upon the opportunity to have an informal workshop with my colleagues.
Inspired by Busayo’s Digital Empowerment trainer example of how she started her workshop with her colleagues, I decided to do same. Unfortunately, rainy weather did not favour me to organize one. I was at a loss as to how I was going to have this done, and then Busayo’s idea came up like a beacon. The idea was expressed to one of my colleagues, who helped me spread the word.
Two of my long-time colleagues agreed to participate in the informal facilitation workshop. After discussing the idea with my mentor Ms. Debra, I chose a question-and-answer session as the basis for the training. I asked my colleagues to share their views on:  Sickle cell disease in general and people living with the condition in particular.  How working with me over the years has shaped their view about sickle cell disease.  How any knowledge from these years of association has helped them deal with or empower another sickle cell patient.
In response to question one, one of the participants mentioned that she has a niece who is also a sickle cell patient. Seeing her struggles during the throngs of a painful crisis breaks her heart and always moves her to want to do anything possible to ease her pains. I thanked her for that response and said maybe she felt that way because the patient is directly related to her? She said NO.
She went on to say she feels all people who are sick—especially sickle cell patients—deserve care and compassion since they didn’t wish it upon themselves and they had no way of avoiding it. I asked what she would do if a random person or even a close person called her niece ‘badluck pikin’ ‘witch.’ She said she would feel more pity towards the person because they are the ‘badluck’ people—so warped in their ignorance that they are not willing to learn anything to change their narrow views about some strongly held beliefs. [Smiled].
In response to the second question, the next participant said when I just started working with her, she never knew about my condition. The day she knew, all she thought about was how to protect me and minimize the crisis as much as possible. However, after a few years watching me at work and seeing how much effort I put into my job, her perception completely changed. She still wanted to protect me, but she came to realize that society need not define people because of perceived disabilities, but rather should give everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential. My example made her start believing it is possible. We can be taught to fish and care for ourselves rather than continuously be made to beg for fish.
For the third question, the lady with the sickle cell niece said seeing me makes her feel inspired and hopeful for her niece. However, she felt her niece doesn’t have that much desire to achieve anything in life because, according to her, she will ‘die soon.’ So she is always motivated to use my example to encourage her niece. Both participants said they are impressed by my drive and professionalism, especially since they have noticed I never use my health as a trump card to gain favours. For that reason, they are more than ready to use my example to empower and encourage others they may come across to continue to aim high.
To say I was overwhelmed by what was disclosed that Friday was an understatement. I never could have guessed they had such admiration for me nor used me as a role model to empower others. It was humbling as I realize that we truly can never tell who we impact by our actions and the way we live our lives. One thing I learned was that using open-ended questions is an effective way of teaching as it helps to draw people out. I also learned that we do not always need much to make an impact. We can always start with what little we have.
The language barrier was the major difficulty faced. In my next training, I will make sure to have volunteer translators to facilitate easy communication.
And finally, I learned people are willing to express themselves and talk about their opinions on sickle cell disease if given the chance. The workshop lasted for an hour, and the ladies were happy to express their opinions. It left me inspired to continue in my campaign #BeASickleCellVoice...