With a close understanding of the community they serve and trusting relationships with residents which improve efficiency of service delivery, community health workers (CHWs) have been lauded for their role in improving access to health services by acting as a link between health facilities and the community.
CHS recognises the role of CHWs in promoting adherence and psychosocial support and strives to ensure that the required support is extended to CHWs through community support groups.
CHS supports Vision Garden Community Based Organisation, which works with 50 CHWs in Mukurwe-ini Sub-County, to reach out to persons living with HIV (PLHIV) at community level in order to support them adhere to their care and treatment and live positively. The CHWs are also vital in improving linkages between health services and the community. The CHWs have been very instrumental in supporting community based PLHIV support groups, under the umbrella of Vision Garden to establish income generating activities to ensure their self dependence and sustainability.
CHS support includes facilitating training activities, providing training materials and meals during sensitization meetings, transport and airtime to facilitate defaulter tracing, community mobilisation, psychosocial support activities among others.
Working as a CHW can be considered a selfless vocation given that most work as volunteers, expecting no monetary benefits. The commitment of the CHWs, some of who are either living with HIV or affected by HIV is evident as they strive to make a change in the community.
These are the experiences of CHWs from Mukurwe-ini, Nyeri County where CHS is supporting HIV Care and Treatment interventions using a community lens.
When Jane Njeri lost her husband to HIV/AIDS, she made a decision to dedicate herself to saving lives of PLHIV.
Njeri and her husband were in a discordant relationship and she considers this a second chance to make positive impact in her community. She was first trained by Tumutumu hospital in Nyeri County in 1998 where she worked as a community volunteer before joining CHS supported Vision Garden Community Based Organisation (CBO) in 2007. Njeri proudly acknowledges that her work gives her satisfaction in knowing that she is making a positive impact on peoples’ lives. She attests that helping has become part of her life and despite the challenges encountered; she cannot stop because she is determined to save lives.
Pauline Wambui, who has been a community health worker since 2008, emphasises the important role of CHWs noting that they played a great role in her struggle with HIV.
She acknowledges that if it were not for CHWs who supported her during a time of absolute need, she might not have made it. For this reason, Pauline, who was a peer educator before she became a CHW, resolved to help others in similar circumstances, as she does not wish to see anyone suffer due to HIV/AIDS.
Julius Karuga echoes Wambui’s views and acknowledges that everyone deserves love and care and human kind must learn to empathise with others. He is a strong believer in helping people and believes that no one should be discriminated against because of their HIV status.
According to Karuga, being a community volunteer is the best way to give back to the community and whether there are monetary benefits or not, the value derived comes from the gratification of knowing you have created an impact in someone’s life. Through trainings on health, nutrition and income generating activities, Karuga and colleagues have ensured that PLHIV live fruitful lives.
Edith Wairimu has been a CHW since 2007 and is one of the founders of CHS supported CBO, Vision Garden. Her philanthropic nature began back in the 1990s and she has mentored and educated several vulnerable orphans, some up to university level. Edith notes that when they started Vision Garden, there were many community members who were bedridden as a result of HIV/AIDS but have so far been empowered to live healthy lives. She is always delighted when PLHIV overcome denial, desire to live more and are accepted in the community.
Isaac Ndirangu recognises that his role as a CHW has transformed his life, adding that his journey as a person living with HIV has been more dignified because he knows many people look up to him as a role model. Ndirangu derives great satisfaction from his work and is highly motivated by the need to save peoples’ lives. It is also a way of appreciating the help he was accorded when he was struggling with HIV and would like for everyone to live with a positive outlook like he does.
A Real Sacrifice
The job of a CHW may be overwhelming and challenging. The results are however worth the sacrifice and it is always a delight to change someone’s life. Njeri asserts that being a CHW is more of a calling to help than a job. One must have the passion to help and have deep love for life and humanity. “It must come from within and become part of you.”
CHWs leave their businesses and families to attend meetings, trainings, home visits, defaulter tracing, community mobilisation and sensitisation, psychosocial support and other activities aimed at encouraging PLHIV to adhere to care, treatment and live positively, expecting no financial return for their inestimable efforts. Many sacrifice their resources, both physical and monetary, to ensure that their objectives as CHWs are met including offering their homes to orphaned children, financing their education, feeding the needy and offering their resources to support destitute families.
Theirs is not only a responsibility but also a real sacrifice.
|CHS supports 20 community based groups and one CBO in Mukwere-ini Sub-County, reaching 1,340 PLHIVs through psychosocial support groups|
50 CHWs work under Vision Garden CBO