Bij mid October I was in Prilep in North-Macedonia. The local CHE team has been working there in two Roma communities. Together with a team of American doctors they did a medical screening among the children there. These two communities are next to each other at the outskirts of town, and they have actually been built illegally: criss-cross, without permits, mostly with mud paths as roads.

This also means: no running water, no sewer. There is electricity, but that is mostly being tapped illegally, or: stolen. The conditions in these communities are truly pitiful. The water they drink comes from a higher reservoir from the mountains, which is actually irrigation water full of chemicals, which causes illness. The percentage of illiteracy is shockingly high, in one of the villages more than 60% of the children doesn’t go to school.

So that ’s where these medical screenings were held: length and weight were measured, sight check, bloodtest, teeth check, heart lung and gut check; and some general questions about life conditions, food security, schooling, medical care etc. At the last station the spiritual wellbeing was checked and the gospel was explained by means of a bracelet with five coloured beads.

The results were presented to the communities in a meeting after two days of screening, with the question if the people themselves wanted a healthier future for their children. Of course they wanted that, and at the question how to reach that goal, a few things stood out: clean water, garbage collecting, education and healthier food. The first and second thing is being worked on, because there is a project going to pump water out of the ground and get it to the communities through big reservoirs. In exchange for this the community will have to collect their own garbage. The third thing is something that has to wear in in time, but number four is something the local CHE team can pick up to teach to the community: how to do gardening with vegetables for feeding their own families. It doesn’t cost much, but can have a far reaching impact.

A screening like this is a special tool to get some insight in the life of a community. And it ’s also an instrument to get people thinking about improvement of their own circumstances. That ’s what we want to stand for as CHE: development, that comes from the people themselves.