12 February 2010
© InfoA pioneering first aid project for Somali women in Bristol is helping build bridges between the local community and the British Red Cross.
Bristol’s Somali population now numbers around 20,000 but they have not traditionally used the wide range of Red Cross services. As Julie Linter, programme manager, put it: “The Somali community has many needs, particularly medical ones, and we wanted to let them know what we could offer.”
The first step to launching a successful project was recruiting a member of the Somali community to run things. And that’s where Sahra Adan, already a Red Cross therapeutic care volunteer, stepped in.
“My big advantage is that I can talk directly to people,” Sahra said. “For this project to work, we were always going to need a Somali speaker who could directly build relationships with people in their own language.”
She added: “It was also crucial that the courses were run by women for women because, if men are present, Somali women can’t lie down or show their bodies. So, for example, it would be pretty difficult to practice things like the recovery position.”
The project uses a peer education approach. Sahra explained: “So far, we have trained nine women in first aid and then taught them how to pass on their skills – and they have gone on to train more than 50 women between them.”
Confident first aiders
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Word has spread quickly about the project, bringing in new recruits – and one woman recently went back to Somalia for a month and taught all her friends first aid skills while she was there.
Sahra couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out. She said: “Now that the women have completed standard first aid, they’ve asked to be trained in first aid for children and fire safety at home. Some are even volunteering for other Red Cross services.
“All the women really get something from the course. Besides the first aid certificate and improved employment prospects, coming to the group builds their personal confidence.”
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