In places where faith leaders are at the centre of everyday life, and are respected and listened to by their communities, their credibility and influence is instrumental in promoting collaboration.
In Sierra Leone our programme uses a cascade model for health prevention messaging. It identifies a common challenge and faith leaders willing to collaborate, and provides practical support to facilitate interactions between different communities, around this challenge. Working together and training together, often in each other's places of worship, faith communities are uniquely placed to bring their wide networks together to tackle a common challenge. In doing so, the opportunity for dialogue and understanding between the communities increases. In Sierra Leone, we help to exploit the country's wide network of churches and mosques to help tackle one of the key health issues there – malaria.
We train a small number of faith leaders on ways that malaria can be prevented, who in turn train community volunteers from their congregations. These volunteers then visit households in their community, and disseminate key prevention messages using a simple picture book.
One faith leader can train up to 60 community volunteers at a time, who in turn can visit 40 households each. This means that just one faith leader can help to reach up to 2,400 families with life-saving messages.
In partnership with GlaxoSmithKline and our local partner, Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone, our programme has reached at least 80% of the Sierra Leonean population.