I’ve been involved with The Water Well Project as the Project Administrator over the last year. As a doctor, it’s been a rewarding experience to participate in the community by helping this project grow. In this post, I’d like to share some observations about how our grassroots organisation is seeking to positively impact public health.
Sometimes you have to adjust how you do things
When we set up The Water Well Project last year, our model was to pair two doctors with a specific community group, and leave it up to the doctors and the community groups to self-organise their times and dates for sessions. Although good in theory, fewer than expected sessions were being run.
We quickly realised that by leaving it up to our stakeholder groups (volunteers and community) to self-organise, we removed ourselves from facilitating a connection between these two groups. Doctors struggled to reach community groups. Community groups had difficulty contacting doctors given their forever changing rosters, and difficult to reach hours.
So, we changed our model.
This year, we put The Water Well Project in the middle. As Project Administrator, I contacted community groups directly, and organised a time convenient for them to book their first health session. Then, we did a “call out” to all of our Inducted Volunteers via email and Facebook. We quickly found available and interested doctors to present health sessions.
Once our volunteers had presented their first session (and in so doing established a relationship with the community group) we then offered those same volunteers any opportunities to do subsequent sessions with that group.
These simple changes have made a big difference. We’ve run as many sessions already in 2013 as we had in the whole of 2012.
Speaking with the community builds understanding
After each health session I rang community group leaders to request their feedback. I’ve also coordinated feedback from our volunteers after each session.
Hands down, gathering this feedback has been my favourite part of the Project.
We love seeing the different ways in which doctors will run a session, always coming up with ways to make the sessions more engaging and interactive.
The communities have really enjoyed the interactivity of the sessions. They've found useful interactive exercises such as sorting food packaging into ‘healthy zones’, seeing medical models and methods of contraception, and even demonstrating how much sugar goes into popular soft drinks (this is always a highlight much loved by groups!). Many of the community leaders I’ve spoken with have appreciated the opportunity to bring together members of their community from all age groups in a way that allows them to share their stories and experiences about specific health topics.
I've also been continually impressed by the dedication and creativity of our volunteers. From the feedback I've received, many healthcare professionals find it an enriching experience to participate less formally in providing health education. Many of our volunteers have had excellent ideas how to improve sessions, and we always capture these and discuss them as the Project evolves.
It has been a real pleasure to watch the project grow over the last 12 months, through the commitment of volunteers and community groups. It’s been empowering to see how small things can gain momentum and make a positive impact....at first across hundreds and very soon thousands of people.
Dr Anna Brischetto was the Project Administrator for The Water Well Project from 2012 to 2013 and has been a tremendous help to the project since it's inception.