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Category: 2024

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2024BlogCommunity Health WorkersEl Salvador

Relationship Building and Accompaniment in Global Health Work

As an intern, volunteer, and fellow at International HELP (IHELP), I’ve had the opportunity to train more than 100 Community Health Workers (CHWs) around the world. It’s easy to mention that I have many “favorites” that come with my job and training the CHWs. For example, my favorite training day on projects is first aid. My favorite Salvadoran dish is pupusas revueltas (corn tortillas stuffed with meat, beans, and cheese). By far, my favorite part of my role at IHELP is growing in relationships with and accompanying our CHWs while working with community organizations at the local level. We spend time truly getting to know the people, both community partners and CHWs alike. This looks like being welcomed in their homes, sharing meals and stories, and understanding each others’ lived realities. This relationship building allows us to build trust with CHWs and community partners, and to sustain our connections to best support our CHWs over time.

Ashley and Monica (back row, right) with Texistepeque CHW group leaders

In March 2024, I traveled to El Salvador for a different type of IHELP trip. We didn’t set out to do any Community Health Worker (CHW) trainings. Rather, we spent the week simply spending time with people, to deepen relationships with the people and communities where we partner. (Our focus was being, not doing.) During the first few days, we did an assessment visit at a future project in San Juan Nonualco. Our community partner is a local church, with sites throughout the municipality. We visited each location, hosting interest meetings for local people interested in becoming CHWs and focus group discussions to learn from the people themselves what they consider the greatest health needs in their areas. We shared conversations, stories, meals, and more. The next part of the trip was to Texistepeque, to visit each active CHW group. During each group meeting, we listened to the lived experiences of the CHWs, hearing success stories and challenges/barriers. We welcomed feedback on how to best support and accompany them and listened to their hopes for the future. I feel inspired by the CHWs by listening to the work they’ve put in to improve the health of their communities. 

Ashley leading an interest meeting during a site visit in San Juan Nonualco

I want to share a passage by the late Paul Farmer, whose work and writings largely influenced me to enter the field of global health. A prevalent theme in both Paul Farmer’s writings and the work of IHELP is accompaniment through Community Health Workers (CHWs). CHWs are trusted community members with health education and skills that are empowered to accompany people in their communities. In my role, I accompany CHWs through my relationships with them, hearing about their lives and work, which is beautiful. In his collection of speeches To Repair the World, Farmer writes:

“Accompaniment” is an elastic term. It has a basic, everyday meaning. To accompany someone is to go somewhere with him or her, to break bread together, to be present on a journey with a beginning and an end. There’s an element of mystery, of openness, of trust, in accompaniment. The companion [Community Health Worker], the accompagnateur, says: “I’ll go with you and support you on your journey wherever it leads. I’ll share your fate for a while”—and by “a while,” I don’t mean a little while. Accompaniment is about sticking with a task until it’s deemed completed—not by the accompagnateur, but by the person being accompanied.

Ashley (back middle) and Monica (front center) with the Chilcuyo CHWs
Ashley leading a discussion with the El Sunza CHWs

My March trip to El Salvador was a time to accompany our CHWs, to deepen our relationships with them on their terms. I’m reminded now more than ever of the importance of relationship building and accompaniment in global health work, this work that ought to be from the bottom-up, rather than the traditional top-down approach. Sustainable and effective change comes from community members, which I witnessed myself on this trip through the CHWs I can accompany. Our time in El Salvador embodied “I’ll go with you and support you on your journey where it leads.” I am excited to see where the journeys of our CHWs lead.

Monica and Ashley with newly certified La Y Griega CHWs

We will be returning to San Juan Nonualco, El Salvador in May 2024 to host Community Health Worker (CHW) trainings. But before we go, I will run the Greater St. Louis GO! Half Marathon on Saturday, April 27th. 

You can help us make this project a reality! My goal is to raise $1310, $100 per mile of my half marathon. All proceeds from this fundraiser will go towards implementation costs of our 2024 El Salvador projects. By sponsoring a mile in whatever capacity (whether that’s $1 or $100 towards a mile’s goal), you can help educate, empower, and equip CHWs in El Salvador this year!

Ashley Richard, MPH, CPH

Fellow

 

2024 spring interns
2024BlogFirst AidGraduate StudentsInternsMeet Our TeamSocial Media

Meet our 2024 Spring Interns and Volunteers

This spring we have 2 incredible new interns joining us for the semester! Olatunde will be helping us develop an advanced training to further educate, empower, and equip our Community Health Workers we have previously trained. Galia will be helping us with our social media accounts to reach a larger audience and share our mission with more people, as well as using analytics to track our interactions and engagement. We also have 2 volunteers joining us as well! Sarah will be working on an advanced maternal health training assessment, and Casee will be improving our training materials. See below what they will be focusing on in more detail, and learn about who they are!

 

Olatunde (Ola): He will be developing an advanced first aid training, similar to our advanced maternal health and nutrition trainings we have done in the past. He will be creating a first aid certification that covers topics that go beyond what we teach in the initial CHW training on first aid.

Galia: She will be doing more than just creating social media content, she will also be researching the best methods on how to use different platforms and how to expand our reach. Using our analytics on Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms she will help us engage more with our followers and cater our posts to what people like to see the most.

Sarah: She will focus on helping develop an assessment tool for our advanced maternal health certification.

Casee: She will help improve our training materials by adding more practical information for pain management, first aid, and general care based on her physical therapy knowledge and expertise.

 

Olatunde Oladipupo

I was born in Nigeria and am currently pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree with a focus on Epidemiology at the University of Texas Health School of Public Health in Houston. As an International Medical graduate, my goal is to become a Family Physician in the USA. I am deeply committed to utilizing my expertise in Public Health to improve the well-being of underserved communities and enhance the overall health of the population, extending my impact beyond the patients I will care for in the clinic.

Outside of my professional endeavors, I have a strong passion for English Premier League soccer. During my free time, I relish spending quality moments with my wife and children outdoors, enjoying the beauty of the world around us.

 

Galia Yonaty 

Hi, My name is Galia Yonaty. I am studying graphic design and digital marketing at Santa Monica College. In my free time, I enjoy reading and baking. The organization’s crucial mission of educating communities on treating preventable diseases resonates with me deeply. In my role as a social media intern, I am eager to amplify and share the impactful work that International Help does.

 

Sarah Poirier

Hi my name is Sarah! I am in the second year of my MPH program at Saint Louis University, COE and I am concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. I have spent the last 9 months working on pre-assessment work with Title V at Vermont’s State Health Department. I am very excited to be working with IHELP for my capstone project and to have the opportunity to have an impact globally. I am passionate about reducing maternal mortality and closing the healthcare gap for historically marginalized communities. I enjoy hiking, trying new coffee shops, and traveling. I’m excited to join the IHELP team!

 

Casee Yarborough

Hello! My name is Casee. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training and I currently work in injury prevention for airplane mechanics. I am excited to pass along my first aid and healthcare knowledge for the important work that IHELP is doing across the world. When I’m not working, I love being outside, especially if it’s sunny. I am from Fernandina Beach, Florida so I love anything to do with the water: surfing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. On a similar note, I also love to exercise. Some of my favorite ways to stay fit are through weightlifting, yoga, or a team sport, like basketball, soccer, or flag football.

 

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20232024BlogCommunity Health WorkersInternational HELP ProjectsOrganization UpdatesStoriesTestimoniesUganda

IHELP’s First Group of CHWs in Uganda

In October 2023 our team traveled to Uganda for the first time and trained 25 new Community Health Workers (CHWs). We partnered with Hope for Youth, a Ugandan NGO that aims to “improve the quality of life for the under-priviledged children and youth in their communities by empowering them through functional education skills and access to health services, while restoring the seed of Hope in them” (idealist.org).

To hear more specifics about the training, be sure to check out Ashley and Madeleine’s testimonies where they share more about their favorite parts of the training. But in this blog, we want to specifically highlight four testimonies and stories from our new CHWs!

 

Liz

“Am Liz from Uganda aged 32 years old with four children aged 12 yrs, 8 yrs, 4 yrs, and 1.5 yrs. Am so grateful for having sent to us this group of lovely, friendly and welcoming people to take us through this training, it was so interesting and full of knowledge for me to learn. I believe I have not remained the same, because now am able to help my family, neighbors and friends when it comes to the knowledge I have so far. Please don’t stop on us keeping inputting this knowledge to more and more people the reward is God’s. Thank you so much for everything you bought us to carry on our training well. May God rightly bless you. We love you and God bless and bless you all for having heart of remembering to give back to others.”

Liz’ YouTube Testimony

 

Yunus

“My name is Mwanje Yunus a student doing a certificate in pharmacy. I am so glad to be part of the training with Ashley and Madeleine because through their teaching I have learned basically how to present medical information to the village doctors. I have learned more on how to prevent and signs and symptoms of different diseases in the community and how to handle any first aid management I am so excited and would like you to involve with many more health training activities. I am so happy and thank you a lot.”

Yunus’ YouTube Testimony

 

James

“I would like to extend my appreciations to the organization for the great and wonderful training of the community health workers in Uganda especially at Hope for Youth – Uganda. It has been so interesting and educative session about health status. I believe our health in the community is going to improve a lot because we have gained a lot of prevention measures. Hope to see you again. Thank you so much for the trust help and saving the lives of the people in the community. May the good Lord continue blessing you.”

James’ YouTube Testimony

 

Jackline

“Hello! International HELP. I am so humbled for training you offered to us as the community health workers in Uganda especially at Hope for Youth. I professionally trained as a primary teacher but I am glad that I am a community health worker through you. I thank you for the support and donations you are doing to save people’s lives. My favorite topics during the training were vital signs, malaria, and healing with water. This will help me to save people in my community through training them on what they are supposed to do. May God greatly bless you guys and make ways for you. Great thanks to our trainers Maddy and Ashley for whatever they did to us.”

Jackline’s YouTube Testimony

 

While these are only 4 of the 25 different stories present throughout our Ugandan training, they do a wonderful job presenting the different perspectives we had present throughout the training. We are so grateful to have worked with such a passionate team of CHWs. We look forward to returning and providing additional trainings in the future! You can see more testimonies from our CHWs on International HELP’s YouTube

Thank you all for your love and support,

The International HELP Team

 

Madeleine Burkholder, MPH, CPH

  Program Coordinator

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20232024BlogCommunity Health WorkersCommunity Health Workers in ActionImpactInternational HELP ProjectsMake a DifferenceOrganization UpdatesRecapStoriesTestimoniesUpdatesZimbabwe

One Year Later: Zimbabwe Updates

One Year Later: Zimbabwe Updates

After a year, we officially returned to Zimbabwe! I am so excited to update you on our Community Health Workers (CHWs) and share my love for Gwanda with you all. If you have not already, be sure to read Fatou’s blog from last year’s trip to get a good background on our Zimbabwe projects. This year, Fatou was not able to join me. So, Ashley, our current Fellow, braved the 16-hour flights and traveled to Zimbabwe for the first time.

Health Worker Updates

The CHWs in Gwanda and Garanyemba have been some of the most active health workers I have personally worked with. The Gwanda group has met every month since December 2022 and hosted different community events where they’ve provided TB, HIV/AIDS, and high blood pressure screening and education sessions. The Garanyemba group is more rural and thus has a different set of barriers to meeting monthly. However, this group has still remained active in their community by acting as a referral system to their local clinic, providing first-aid to farmers with work injuries, and screening for high blood pressure. After many WhatsApp messages, pictures, and videos, I was ecstatic to return in person to hear their stories and continue cheering them on in their work!

Maternal Health Certification

International HELP has spent the last couple of years expanding its training materials and capacities to provide the existing groups of Community Health Workers (CHWs) with advanced certifications. We have two active certifications (nutrition and maternal health) and are currently working on two more (WASH and first aid). 

The maternal health certification focuses on ways health workers can help pregnant mothers in their community have a healthy pregnancy. However, additional topics are also discussed, such as how to help during a labor emergency, postnatal and neonatal care, and common childhood illnesses. In the end, we certified 14 CHWs in Garanyemba and 11 CHWs in Gwanda in Advanced Maternal Health. 

My favorite aspect of this training was seeing our CHWs again! We pulled up to the church in Garanyemba on day one and our group leader, Godfrey, came running out of the church ready for a big hug. It brought me so much joy to be able to return to their rural community and show just how important they are to us. I also got to meet new members of our group (see the image above). Last year, our CHW Future was pregnant. Now, her child is a key member of our training team!

In Gwanda, each day was filled with a photo shoot to remember the time we were able to spend together. The weather was surprisingly very cold for a few days. So, unfortunately, Ashley and I are wearing the same sweatshirt and pants in every picture.

Growth in Confidence

Another aspect of this training that brought me a lot of joy was seeing the growth in confidence each of our Community Health Workers (CHWs) showed. During last year’s training, both groups participated and asked many questions. However, this year was a whole different level. The groups were better engaged with us as trainers and with each other. You could evidently see that their engagement with the community and working together as a team had improved their confidence in themselves. The training was such a joy as the CHWs asked so many questions and were so engaged. Many shared how they are now “famous” in their communities as everyone knows they can go seek out health advice from the CHWs. They wish to continue becoming even more sought after with their new maternal health knowledge.

Edu Foundation

Once again, our community partner, Edu Foundation, welcomed us into Gwanda with open arms and loving spirits. To say they welcomed us in as family would be an understatement. Ashley and I were blown away by the care and hospitality shown towards us. Each morning, we would wake up to our host, Sikho, knocking on our door to let us know our warm showers were ready. Every day, our trusted driver Vincent would taxi us to and from training. Vincent and Ma-Moyo would join us each day at training to help us, but also to learn about maternal health. After training, we would head back to their offices and arrive to Vincent’s daughters preparing our lunch. In the afternoon, our besties Jerry, Mayor, and Sengezo would entertain us with card games, walks around town, or introduce us to their friends. In the evening, the men would take turns cooking us dinner or we would go to Vincent’s house to help his wife and daughters prepare dinner. Each night would usually end with a heated game of cards!

We are so grateful to have such a wonderful family in Gwanda! Without Edu Foundation, the success of our CHW training would not have been possible. We look forward to visiting them again soon!

Madeleine & Jerry

Madeleine, Vincent, Sikho, and Ashley at the Garanyemba training

Free day swim with Jerry, Sikho, and Mayor

Cooking Lessons with Vincent’s Family

Photoshoot with Sengezo (@black_is_black_21) & our Edu Foundation Team

Nightly card tournaments with Sikho and Jerry

Mosi-Oa-Tunia

We ventured back to Mosi-Oa-Tunia (Victoria Falls), but this time we were able to bring the entire Edu Foundation team! It was so much fun for us to get to spend that time with them, learn more about their stories, and hear more about the work they are doing for Zimbabwe.

Sometimes I find it easy to doubt the work we do. Are the health workers actually using their knowledge? Is anything changing in the community? Yet, trips like this encourage me that we are doing good work! The health workers are using their knowledge and lives in the community are changing. We heard story after story of how different community members have been affected by the CHWs. I hope some of these short testimonies can encourage you all as well:

“The training that was so fascinating and an eye opener to all of us as a group and I believe it will help our community as everyone. We thank you very much for the materials, the time committed and your much love as an organisation for raising our Gwanda and Zimbabwe flag high in bringing the best out of us and making our community free from diseases and dangers that we will/ shall prevent from spreading and that is a big thank you.” – Alice

We want to thank you so much because of the trainings and materials that you are giving us and we are gaining a lot. Also we appreciate the knowledge that you are giving us. It helps a lot for our communities. Thank you so so much.” – Chipo

“I would like to thank International HELP for the education on pregnant women, pre and postnatal care because it was so educational, and will help my community a lot since there were a lot of deaths happening in my community both on moms and their babies…We appreciate the love, the care, and the education we are getting from IHELP as community workers. Thank you so much.” – Kimberley

I am so grateful for the wonderful support system International HELP has. Without you, none of these stories would be possible. I am honored that you trust us with your donations and continue to find ways to cheer us on. Thank you!

Madeleine Burkholder, MPH, CPH

  Program Coordinator