U.S. Army Sgt. Jessica Keown, a native of Palmer, Alaska, instructs students during a class she holds weekly to help the community of Pul-e-Alam with health issues and first responder techniques. (Photo by Spc. Kathryn Carlisle)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (January 27, 2012) — In a building built for instruction and praise sits a classroom full of influential female Afghan teachers as a soldier assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, sits down and begins teaching.
The lesson is first aid and first responder techniques, and how to identify health problems and solve those ailments in young children.
“During a key leader engagement, we asked if there was anything we could do to help the community,” said Army Sgt. Jessica Keown, a native of Palmer, Alaska. “We offered to give them first aid classes they could take to the surrounding areas and help with lower level illnesses and injuries.”
“We devised a plan to give classes over the course of a few weeks,” said Keown, a medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion. “There are about 35-to-40 female teachers in the class. After they grasp it, they’ll get a certificate, and they’re going to go out into the villages and set up their own classes to educate the people with the hope this makes the surrounding areas more aware of health issues.”
“The main duty of the classes we give is to teach them how to heal sprains, breaks, fractures and bleeding,” said Keown. “They can identify problems with their students because the teacher-student relationship here is on a much more personal level, so a lot of teachers would be able to identify and correct health problems in their students, keeping the younger generation healthy and ready to learn.”
“It’s not just about women’s empowerment in Afghanistan,” said Army Capt. Jasmine Walker, a Lawnside, N.J. native. “The Afghan system for education is much different than ours in America. The schools are government funded, and they are solely responsible for the care of those children in most cases.”
“The families of those children are in some cases very poor and depend on the schools to provide everything from notebooks to pens,” said Walker, the HHC, STB commander. “Providing health care classes for the teachers within Pul-e-Alam district will be a great benefit to the children and families of the district.”
“These teachers are very influential to the children from a young age into teenage years, so helping them ease some stress off the families to tend to the health needs of children will hopefully build the relationship between schools and families,” said Walker. “Our goal, in short, is to set up a train the trainer scenario with these influential women of Pul-e-Alam district so eventually they will teach the lessons they’ve learned and spread it throughout the district and hopefully the province.”
“We want to build relationships with these teachers in the hopes that we will earn more trust, as they realize we truly want to help their community in any way we feasibly can,” said Walker. “Using this as a stepping stone, we hope that this helps us keep our ‘foot’ in the door as to ways we can help, be it building a well or helping with construction within the district.”
“Anything that we do here I believe will be very influential to the district seeing how this is the capital and us being so close to Kabul, but all we can do is plant the seeds for a better tomorrow in the hopes that they groom and nurture them,” said Walker.