By: Cadet Casey McNicholas, Washington State University
Cadets from Senegal Team one gained an understanding of development in emerging countries on Saturday 21 June, when they visited two small Senegalese villages outside the city of Thiès. The Cadets, who are finishing up an English teaching mission with the Senegalese Military through the Army’s Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency (CULP) program, received a small understanding of what it takes to develop one aspect of a nation’s infrastructure in a conflict free zone. The purpose of the trip was to teach the Cadets “how much time development really takes” according to the mission commander Lt. Col. Scott LaRonde.
The team visited Health Huts, which are small medical facilities located throughout the country and are funded by Non-Governmental Organizations and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Out of the 4,000 huts nationwide Team one visited two, one hut in Thiaye–population 2,100–and another in Pambal–population 3,000. According to Cadet Anthony Sinagoga of Gannon University, “the villages were eye opening in the fact that they were so far away from any major medical center.” He further added “that as a future platoon leader this experience helps in realizing the challenges and decisions that have to be faced in a deployment atmosphere.”
When the team arrived in the village of Thiaye, they crammed into the Health Hut and were swarmed with flies and overwhelmed with the high temperature. Cadet Jacob McNicholas of Purdue University said in an interview afterwards that he “was amazed with what the hut could do in such conditions.” Adding to that, Cadet Ryan Sullivan from the Vanderbilt University said that USAID utilized its “little resources effectively, despite the rough conditions.”
The Health Hut’s primary goal is to provide local health care to the villages, but to also educate the locals about infant and maternal mortality. Cadet Michelle Larson of Georgetown University, who is a nursing major, said that she “was impressed to see the uniformity on the teaching between the two huts on sex education and contraception use.” She added later that “many of the lessons the huts were teaching mirror the concepts that are taught in the United States.”
The lessons have proven invaluable to the local villages as most all of the married women are enrolled in the birth control program. That being said, the villages of Thiaye and Pambal both lacked necessary supplies for their respective populations. Cadet Suzanne Avery of the University of Idaho said that “the huts had basic first aid necessities but nothing that could provide long term care.” As a future Army officer that made her realize “that supplying a hut takes time and work and is not something that can happen overnight.”
For sustainability, Maj. Thai Le, a preventive medicine consultant in the U.S. Air Force and Team one’s leader, and Cadet William Nelson of Indiana Wesleyan University, agreed that the huts need a better trained staff to handle the medical situations that arise in the villages; however, both require time and money.
USAID initiated this ongoing program, which is designed to link the Senegal Ministry of Health to the community level. The Community Health Hut program is in its 11th year and is currently in phase two, which has a goal of turning over control of the huts to the Senegalese Ministry of Health. In the 54 years since Senegal’s independence, the country has remained virtually conflict free as compared to other African nations. In understanding the situation Cadet Eric Villeneuve, of the University of South Carolina, said that he “didn’t realize the time it takes to build a country’s infrastructure.” He went on to say that he, “can’t imagine trying to do this in places like Iraq or Afghanistan where workers have to worry about people preventing infrastructure from being built.”
The members of CULP Senegal Team one, who have been together since late May, all agree that seeing just one aspect of Senegal’s infrastructure has given them perspective in regards to time and money. The Cadets learned that when it comes to helping develop other countries, patience is a much needed aspect of a leader on the ground and for leaders at home.