HEART-TO-HEART WITH HERSHEY
My name is Brenda Hershey, I’m the current field coordinator and manager at STEP-IN’s Dawoodia Clinic. The clinic is situated in Dawoodia IDP Camp which sits at the foot of the Mateena mountain range in northern Iraq, the camp is home to approximately 4,000 Yezidis.
Throughout February, our community health workers completed their project visiting the caravans in Dawoodia and screening community members for hypertension and diabetes. They also invited each family to a weekly presentation on the topic, giving in-depth information on prevention and the mitigation of symptoms. Hypertension and diabetes are two of the most common reasons for patients to visit the clinic. We aim to address what’s most relevant and beneficial for the people we serve. The fact that the community health workers are residents of the camp themselves helps us more adequately assess what the people need and our part in fulfilling those needs.
After completion, we launched a campaign community members on influenza and coronavirus, mainly focusing on the symptoms and preventive measures. It is the intention of the community health workers that when they leave each caravan, the family feels more informed and subsequently more calm. Having knowledge truly empowers people and enables them to protect themselves and their families, and we’re fighting fear through the distribution of accurate information, not just face masks!
This is just one of the projects we’re currently implementing in the camp, but the nearly 1,000 patients we receive monthly can speak to the accessibility of primary health care we are providing. Our services range from prenatal care and child malnutrition screenings to physiotherapy and microbiology and clinical laboratory services. The presence of the Dawoodia Clinic is essential to the health of the community and surrounding area.
I take great pride in our team and the work we’re carrying out. I’ve managed teams in different professional settings before in the US, but working in a camp-setting while something like coronavirus lurks nearby inevitably causes unique challenges for the health sector and all of us working to make healthcare more accessible to those who need it most. I have a degree in International Relations and have recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Community Development. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to contribute in such an impactful way to such a resilient community as Dawoodia. Our efforts the best example of grassroot impact and our numbers (as shown in the February summary) continue to reflect the time and energy our team exerts in the field.
Personally, I have volunteered in natural disaster relief, taught trauma-recovery somatic therapies to refugees in Greece and the US, volunteered in Palestine, and more, and I am continuously inspired by the generosity and resiliency of populations affected by disaster and
conflict. Working with my team here only solidifies that even more.