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Medics Teach First Aid to Afghan Students, Teachers

By Pfc. Cheryl Ransford, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

HERAT, Afghanistan, May 26, 2004 – With the help of the soldiers at the provincial reconstruction team here, students and teachers of a few Herat schools are learning first aid.

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Students at Mehri High School in Heart, Afghanistan, pause to watch the demonstrator during first aid training conducted by soldiers assigned to the provincial reconstruction team in Herat. Photo by Pfc. Cheryl Ransford, USA

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The soldiers -- from the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army Reserve, Webster, N.Y. -- go to the schools and teach the students and their teachers the proper way to perform first aid, said Army Cpl. Shannon Kelley.

"Each week, we go out to the schools and teach the boys and girls how to perform first aid properly, so that if they come across someone who is injured, they will know how to help them," she said.

Mehri High School has three classes, each made up of 18 students and two teachers. The soldiers teach the same lesson for all three groups and begin a new area of first aid every three weeks, when the rotation begins again, said Kelley.

"The students are very eager to learn about first aid," she said. "When we started the program three weeks ago, we asked the students what they would like to learn about, and their response was great," she said. "They told us they were interested in learning about a variety of subjects, including nutrition, bleeding, AIDS, hygiene, insect bites, and fitness."

The classes are held at the school during the normal school day, and are focused on the areas in which the students and teachers showed interest, the corporal explained. The girls and boys are taken to a room that has been set aside for the first aid training.

"Right now we are training 60 people per school," she said. The teachers at the girls school, she added, have told the soldiers they have 480 girls they would like to have go through the training. "We are looking into adding a second day each week that we go to the girls school, so that we can teach all of them," Kelley said.

When the soldiers arrive at the school, they receive a warm greeting from the staff and students. The soldiers also bring snacks and water to hand out to the members of the class before they leave, said Kelley.

"We are very happy to have them here to teach us," said Gul Makay, a Mehri High School teacher. "We are able to learn things from them that we would not be able to if they did not come."

First, the class receives verbal instructions, followed by hands-on training, said Kelley. This is to ensure they know how to use the proper techniques.

"I have never done this type of stuff before," said Ziya Gul, a Mehri High School student. "I am very happy when they come because I get to learn something new."

At the end of the program, the soldiers will test the students and teachers to ensure they have retained the material. They also will certify the teachers so they can teach the material to others.

"We are making up certificates and books for all the members of the class to be able to take home to their families," said Kelley. "We are writing down each lesson in English and having one of our interpreters translate it into Dari for the class members."

The program is expected to continue for at least the next seven months, and the hope is that it will continue with the PRT staff that replaces the 401st, Kelley said.

"This program is very good for the people of Afghanistan," she said. "The first aid techniques they are currently using aren't very safe. Our hope is to teach them a better way of caring for themselves and for others."

(Army Pfc. Cheryl Ransford is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Cpl. Shannon Kelley, 401st Civil Affairs Battalion, talks to the class while giving a hands-on demonstation of how to control bleeding at Mehri High School in Herat, Afghanistan. Photo by Pfc. Cheryl Ransford, USA  
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