Medical students run health workshops

Fourth-year UCT medical student Carmen Gaffley, standing, was part of a workshop on misconceptions about Covid-19.

A group of medical students partnered with Alpha and Omega Outreach to ensure the community was well informed about mental health and misconceptions about Covid-19.

Fourth-year UCT student Regan Boden, 21, said the students had been divided into groups to assist with health-promotion activities.

One of the communities they focused on was Mandalay.

“There has been a dramatic rise in people worrying about mental health issues. More people are stressed, and worried about the future since the lockdown period began,” Mr Boden said.

The founder of Alpha and Omega Outreach, Denise Bowman, is often the first port of call for people who need access to health-related information in the community.

They recently started using WhatsApp to connect people and share information.

“In this way, people can find the information through Ms Bowman and contextualise this moment in Covid-19. In that way, they can spread (information) among their various groups and in that way it can be carried throughout the community,” Mr Boden said.

After answering a few screening questions, people would be able to access support for stress, anxiety and depression through the initiative, he added.

Ms Bowman, who has been involved in community work for 15 years, operates out of her house in Mandalay, and runs soup kitchens in various areas in Mitchell’s Plain, feeding up to 200 people a day. She is also a foster mother, safe care parent and community worker, and runs an orph-
anage with her husband, Daniel Bowman.

And everything she does, she funds from her own pocket, she says.

“I am so grateful to the students for assisting us. They work really hard to give us the best information we need to help our community. This is important to have so that we can all prosper together, especially during this pandemic,” said Ms Bowman.

On Wednesday September 9, fourth-year UCT medical student Andrew Tucker, 23, and his group held a workshop on the misconceptions around Covid-19, with
the Alpha and Omega Outreach team.

Among the topics discussed were alcohol consumption and how it was a factor in depression, how to sanitise your
hands, and how the elderly and younger people were affected by Covid-19.

“Everyone still needs to remain cautious, wear their mask, sanitise their hands and physical distance themselves. In level 2, we should not let our guard down,” said Mr Tucker.

Alpha and Omega Outreach administrator Sharon Austin said the pandemic had hindered their feeding scheme, but as the lockdown restrictions had been relaxed they had adjusted and assist as much as they could.

One of Alpha and Omega’s cooks in Eastridge, Sadra Europe, said they were very excited about the help they had received so far. Facilitator for the UCT students, Christolene Beauzac-Mckay, said they had been working with various community-run health promotion projects.

While the students spearheaded the initiatives, the community was left to take over after the students left, she said.

“This is not a one-time thing; the community will take ownership of these interventions. The students are assisting and helping with bringing health information to the community and spreading the knowledge to the communities,” said Ms Beauzac-Mckay.

If you would like to know about the health information or donate to Alpha and Omega Outreach contact Ms Bowman on 021 387 1272 for more information or WhatsApp Ms Austin on 073 382 5225 for access to the mental health information.