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Success Stories

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USAID Facilitates Inter-Oblast Collaboration to Improve Access to FP/RH Services

Valentyna Shevchuk, center, Director of the Rivne Family Planning Center meets with colleagues from Volyn.(Photo: S.Demchuk)
Valentyna Shevchuk, center, Director of the Rivne Family Planning Center meets with colleagues from Volyn. (Photo: S.Demchuk)

April 2010 - USAID's Together for Health (TfH) project supports partnerships to improve reproductive health (RH) and family planning (FP) services in 15 oblasts across Ukraine. As Natalia Karbowska, Deputy Director of TfH explained, "The success of TfH is based upon collaboration between public and private organizations, professionals and laborers, young, and old. Each region, or oblast, develops its own strategy that best meets its specific public health challenges and operational organization."

The neighboring oblasts of Rivne and Volyn, however, worked together from the beginning to improve reproductive health in their communities. Their collaborative effort has, it seems, been twice as well-received. "I could go on and on about how popular our joint trainings are," exclaimed Svitlana Demchuk, TfH Coordinator in Volyn and Rivne. "In one village, a woman who couldn't come to our training because she was working chased the trainers on her bike to get information about modern contraceptives. In another village, women brought their children and husbands to the second day of our training so they too, could learn about family planning!"

"When we came to work in Rivne oblast in 2008, people were eager to learn about reproductive health, but finding qualified trainers was a challenge. We just couldn't find specialists with the necessary background," said Ms. Demchuk. "So we turned to neighbors in Volyn." At Ms. Demchuk's behest, representatives from the Volyn and Rivne TfH teams came together for a round table at the clinical maternity in the central city of Lutsk. The warm and friendly atmosphere facilitated a productive conversation and an inspired meeting.

Participants discovered that their neighboring counterparts were also stringent about trainer qualifications, and together they came up with a plan to find the best. Their agenda advanced quickly when they began to develop and co-host trainings, seminars, and site visits. Over time, each oblast established individual programs, and, although there was no expectation that trainers would continue to collaborate thereafter, Volyn and Rivne maintain an informal collaborative relationship.

Although similar partnerships were initiated between other oblasts, they did not work as well. "We really didn't expect that the trainers from neighboring oblasts would continue to collaborate. A lot depends on personalities, timing, and luck. The TfH teams in Rivne and Volyn were open to teaching and learning together," said Ms. Karbowska. "Their communication, training, and working styles are similar. As a result, they complement and bolster one another. There is no competition or hostility. Maybe we should ask them to do partnership workshops in other regions!"

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