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Featured Article - 17 August 2020

Saving lives through education: A personal story from a local rabies champion in Algeria.

At the beginning of May 2019, officials from the Algerian Ministry of Health invited me to represent my organization (“Billy for compassion humanity and empathy, BCHE”) to a Stepwise Approach towards Rabies Elimination (SARE) workshop hosted by GARC - an organization that I was not familiar with beforehand. Unfortunately, the workshop was cancelled due to political turmoil in Algeria, which was upsetting to me as I wanted to contribute towards rabies elimination in Algeria. I decided, however, to use the opportunity to learn more about GARC while waiting for the workshop to be rescheduled. What a revelation! I discovered so much about GARC, their activities and their free resources.

“What a revelation! I discovered so much about GARC, their activities and their free resources.”

Of particular interest were the online educational certificate courses that were freely available to the general public and skilled professionals. Not only did I immediately enroll and graduate from all the courses, I also saw the benefit that these courses could have on the members of my community. I thus posted the information on my organization’s website where I told people to enroll for the foundational course – the Rabies Educator Certificate (REC). In October 2019, I had an idea where I wanted to ask people everywhere in the world to become certified rabies educators, and when they passed, they would get a “BCHE” membership card for the first year for free! Since then, many people have become certified rabies educators after which they told me that they have learned a lot and value the information provided in the coursework.       

While the coursework benefited many people in Algeria and elsewhere, I decided to host offline workshops focusing on people who do not have internet or cannot read or write. Educating these people is critical as these people are the most at-risk of getting rabies and cannot become certified rabies educators without some assistance. With the help of the GARC team, I prepared all the course material in Arabic and set out to educate my own community members. During my first offline workshop on Friday 10th July 2020, I gathered a family of 8 people (a father, mother, son, daughter, grandmother, aunt and a family friend) who would not normally have access to the knowledge provided in the REC course. It was a great experience for myself and the family members – they carefully listened to me because the information was new and beneficial to them. In fact, all the participants learnt something new, and even the eldest members of the family actively participated by asking questions and talking about what they had learned about rabies before the courses. Hosting the offline workshop was an honor for me and I left feeling very proud of what I had accomplished as I saw the youngest members of the family (14 and 15 years respectively) and older members of the family - who are illiterate - become interested in rabies control and prevention.

On behalf of my organization (“BCHE”) I would like to tell everyone not to wait and just go out and do what you have to do with tools that you have. Teaching even one person makes a difference as that one person can go out and save the life of a stray animal from foolish culling or spread the life-saving information about rabies to members of the community!

“Teaching even one person makes a difference as that one person can go out save a life" - Haifa Rezagui

All my thanks to GARC for their hard work in helping me host the offline workshop and doing more with the donations that we receive. Many organizations have a lot of resources, but rabies is often forgotten and it’s not easy to do what we do every day in our fight to end human rabies deaths. 

Article contributed by Haifa Rezagui, Billy for compassion humanity and empathy (BCHE), Algeria.