Taking It Viral

Taking It Viral

"You have to use the media, the methods, that fit your audience."

The difficulty of providing clear, accessible information about communicable diseases might seem like a problem for white-hatted development workers in foreign countries. But even though it’s primarily an issue for minority language groups, it’s important to remember that medical messaging is a problem that can affect anyone, anywhere…

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How to Fight Child Stunting - One Language at a Time

How to Fight Child Stunting - One Language at a Time

Malnutrition affects over twenty percent of children in the world today. That’s roughly the equivalent of the entire population of the United States—a huge problem.

One of the barriers to addressing this problem is language, as a high percentage of the children affected by malnutrition live in indigenous communities where the primary language is different than the that of the culture at large. How do you educate parents about the vital importance of early nutrition in their children’s development if they’re not proficient in the language in which that sort of information is available?

Problems this big can seem insurmountable. But there is hope...

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Where Education and Health Development Meet

CCIH Annual Conference, 2015: Yoram Siame, MPH, MSc, Advocacy and Public Relations Manager,  Churches Health Association of Zambia  

CCIH Annual Conference, 2015: Yoram Siame, MPH, MSc, Advocacy and Public Relations Manager, Churches Health Association of Zambia 

Development programs in education and health are often quite separate from one another. So it was refreshing to attend this year’s annual conference of Christian Connections for International Health with its theme of “Ending Extreme Poverty”. As part of that broader theme, I was invited to co-lead a session on “Lifting People out of Poverty with Innovative Educational and Economic Development Programs” in which several of us shared about the connections between education, health, and economic empowerment.

The positive responses to my presentation on “Reading in the Mother Tongue” told me that health specialists are no strangers to the challenges of local languages in health programs. One fascinating example of the intersection of health and education was a presentation on training illiterate women to serve as community health workers. The agency involved used very creative means to equip these women to interview mothers and identify any health issues warranting a referral to a clinic. It struck me that some of the reading and writing readiness activities we use in the education sector could be helpful for enabling such women, who do not know how to write, to be able to use a pen or pencil effectively in marking interview sheets with illustrations of various health concerns.

Author and SIL LEAD Executive Director, Paul Frank, giving the opening plenary presentation at this year's CCIH conference. 

Author and SIL LEAD Executive Director, Paul Frank, giving the opening plenary presentation at this year's CCIH conference. 

Given my normal focus on language and formal education I don’t often think about other sectors of development, but the common thread of empowering people to take charge of their own development and the common goal of ending extreme poverty helped me take a step back from my default viewpoint. During the conference, I was challenged to look at things from a more holistic perspective again. It was humbling to hear about some of the difficulties people in the health sector face as they work to bring adequate medical care to the most rural and unreached areas. I am encouraged by the possibilities for collaboration and contributing our experience within SIL LEAD and our partners into projects that address the pressing health needs that many minority language communities face.

Related links: 

HIV and AIDS Case Study: Kande’s Story

Community members share and learn through Kande's story together.

Community members share and learn through Kande's story together.

“I have been attending HIV and AIDS seminars but I had never come to understand well about it. However, I will live to remember this week, for from my own language I have learned more about this epidemic than what was taught to me for the last 20 years.” 


Kande’s Story is a true-to-life short story based on a Nigerian pastor’s account of the ravages of AIDS in his community. In the story, Kande is a 12-year-old African girl whose father and mother die of AIDS. She and her five siblings are left as orphans and must fend for themselves.

Simply told and illustrated, readers of all ages are able to follow the storyline in their own language as Kande and her siblings encounter problems and dangers trying to survive. People in their community, especially believers from the local church, help them in their time of need.

Kande’s Story has essential health information concerning HIV and AIDS packaged in a five-chapter story. The story and illustrations are laid out in a master book (or ”shellbook”) ready to translate the content and adapt the book to the language and cultural setting in which it will be used.

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“This is my story. I thought I was the only one who had this problem, but I actually see now that there are others.”


 Often health workers assume that people will understand material disseminated in world languages like English or French or national languages like Swahili or Bahasa Indonesia. Translating Kande’s Story into local languages has proven more effective in engaging readers, allowing them to more fully understand the story.

The story also incorporates the role that African Churches can play in reaching out to those in need, linking it to foundational Biblical principles. Church leaders testify that now they have a tool to help address the stigma and break the silence surrounding HIV and AIDS in their congregations.

Providing people with an avenue to talk about and constructively respond to the disease according to their circumstances and in their language has been a significant step towards addressing AIDS at the most local level, where its impact is the most substantial.

  • One Kenyan Church group made plans to build a shelter and make a garden for a family of orphans after the first lesson of Kande’s Story.
  • Another class of 70 participants agreed to go to the local clinic and get tested for HIV together.

Kathie Watters, a Scripture use consultant for the Africa Region of SIL International, developed the Kande’s Story toolkit, which has now been translated and distributed in 24 countries and almost 200 languages.

For more information or a free download of the Kande’s Story toolkit, visit the Bloom Library. The information can be freely distributed; Watters and SIL ask only that the contents of the story be maintained, credit given appropriately, and electronic copies of new translations shared freely with others.

Additional links for Kande’s Story: