We recently implemented our first Advanced Training in Nutrition with a Community Health Worker (CHW) team in El Salvador. A primary part of the training was providing the CHWs with glucometers to aid in diabetes screening and diagnoses in their community. While much of our training focuses on preventing illness and disease, there is a great need to increase diagnostic capabilities in communities around the world.
Dr. Daniel Bausch is the Director of Emerging Threats and Global Health Security at FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics. In an article, written by Nurith Aizenman, Bausch explains that “Most of the people in the world who are sick or dying of something don’t actually know what they have…And it’s not only these – if you will – ‘exotic’ viruses like Ebola and Marburg and Lassa,” for which the diagnostic options are not particularly good.¹ “Most people don’t know if they have tuberculosis or diabetes or hypertension,” he says. “The diagnostic gap, especially at the primary health-care level in low income countries, is huge.
Our Advanced Nutrition Training was created to bridge this diagnostic gap. Bausch continues, “If you look at how many people who have diabetes, know that they have diabetes – it’s less than 50% in many low- and middle-income countries.” With such limited access to diagnostic measures, providing our CHWs with glucometerscan allow the communities of El Sunza and El Amate, El Salvador to have diabetes diagnostic abilities available directly to them. We are so excited to continue implementing our Advanced Nutrition Training in our other CHW groups in order to continue providing them with health knowledge and the ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat different diseases.
We went on this trip fully aware that we were leaving the comfort of our homes to live completely different lives for two weeks. Yet we arrived in Gwanda feeling overwhelmed and experiencing a bit of culture shock. They say change is never easy but our friends at Edu Foundation debunked that belief. They went above and beyond to make sure we felt as comfortable in Gwanda as we did in our own homes by making us a part of their everyday lives. We never felt alone, we were always prioritized. We shared spaces and stories and created bonds that will last a lifetime.
Connections in Times of Grief
Emely was the last to join the class on the first day of training. She was shy and quiet and sat in the very back of the room. Her voice was so soft we could barely hear her speak even if we were up close and personal. I wasn’t sure if she felt comfortable being in the space so I assumed Emely would drop from the program after the first day. But she attended every session and despite her being the quietest in the room, we tried our best to make sure she felt included. As sessions went on, Emely began to get more comfortable. She was smiling, mingling with other CHWs, and participating during class Q&As. At graduation, Emely opened up to me and Madeleine. We learned that her husband passed away just the week before the program started and she initially felt uncomfortable coming into sessions because she was visibly the eldest in the class. She was thankful that IHELP created a safe space for her to connect with others in times of grief while teaching her how to keep her community healthy. She shared her newfound excitement to be a part of a group of women who could not only improve the health of their community but also act as a support group for her.
Life as Locals
Salibonani! After spending time in Gwanda and getting acclimated, we were over being foreigners and were ready to live like locals! The process was a bit bumpy, but our Edu Foundation friends made it easy and enjoyable. They taught us a few phrases in Ndebele, one of the local languages, and introduced us to local foods. We absolutely fell in love.
Madeleine even learned to make Sadza, a dough-like side dish made from maize and served with most meals. We often went grocery shopping and ran errands around town with the crew. People around the town were aware of our visit and as Madeleine would say, “It’s like being a celebrity.” Our favorite part of the trip was our trip to Mosi-Oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls). The trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a great introduction to the realities of living in Zimbabwe. We had a personal driver (And friend!) take us to the falls and back from Bulawayo, but we opted to take public transportation from Bulawayo to Gwanda and it was the best decision ever! Not only did we learn more about local life, but we also formed tighter bonds with our Edu Foundation friends. They became family!
Smiles and Goodbyes
Nomusa was one of the most active CHWs in class. She was engaged throughout sessions and easily understood the material being presented. She would make jokes and smile often and made sure Madeleine and I felt comfortable and welcomed. During breaks, she would ask us about our lives, how we felt about Gwanda, offer life advice, and share about women empowerment, as an aunt or mother would. She told us about her family and introduced us to her only son. Having her around was always a breath of fresh air. Despite attending all of the sessions, Nomsa was not able to attend graduation because she was going through the process of purchasing land in Bulawayo. We wanted to make sure she became certified as a CHW because of her hard work and dedication during the program. Luckily, we were able to meet up with Nomusa the day before we left Zimbabwe. She took the exam, passed with one of the highest scores, and became certified! Nomusa was one of the last CHWs we saw on our trip, little did we know that would also be our final goodbye with her. Upon our return to the States, we learned that Nomusa passed away during a trip to Bulawayo. Thank you, Nomusa, for your warmth and pleasant memories. You’ll forever live in our hearts.
Graduations were one of the best parts of the trip. Graduates were always filled with gratitude and excitement. They appreciated us coming all the way from America to work and bond with them. “That’s a very long journey,” was a phrase we heard often. Most of the people were shocked when we arrived because they had doubts about the program taking place. They couldn’t believe that there were people in America that were willing to come to Gwanda to ignite change and make their communities healthy. Not only were they thankful for the program but they appreciated our humility throughout the process. Many of the locals were sad to see us go and hoped that IHELP will come back for more training and opportunities.
“I, Anaberth Ncube from Garanyemba Gwanda, [am] so grateful and feel greatly honored by this workshop and all the supplies that we will use to help our community. It’s such a great privilege to have people who have people in the remote areas in their hearts. We are so thankful. May God continue to bless you abundantly. It was such a nice experience.”
The training in Garanyemba was a bit of a challenge due to language barriers. English is not the main language spoken in this rural area and many of the participants were not comfortable speaking it during the training. But with the help of our friends from Edu Foundation, IHELP was able to overcome this obstacle. Jerry, one of the staff members from Edu Foundation, was able to translate sessions in Ndebele and worked one-on-one with some members to help them better understand the material. The staff members even started participating in the training and assisted participants with topics such as using blood pressure cuffs and conducting CPR. Towards the end of the training, some CHWs were more confident in speaking English and even started asking us questions directly instead of having Jerry translate.
Gwanda is Young and Creative
Even though we did not see much of it until the very end of our trip, there’s so much talent in Gwanda! Before going to Zimbabwe, Edu Foundation invited us to the annual TESMA (The Eminent in Sports, Music, and Academic) Award Show, which would be held towards the end of our trip. They told us how big the event would be and how we’d get to see Gwanda celebrate and recognize its top scholars, athletes, and musicians. We were so excited and honored to be invited, that as a matter of fact, ‘Pack an outfit for TESMA awards’ was on our travel prep list.
We arrived in Gwanda towards the beginning of summer (In December, so cool!), so most of the youth were out of school and back home from college but only a few participated in the IHELP training. We would mainly see the younger crowd after training, towards the end of the day. We would see them hang around Chicken Inn, a local fast food restaurant, in their mining workwear after a long day of working at the mines, as local cab drivers, and as employees at local retail stores…. But it wasn’t until the TESMA award show that we saw them as talented and passionate artists! Gwanda is young, alive, and talented and the event showcased it perfectly. It was big! Everyone was dressed in their best outfits on the red carpet. Madeleine and I were severely underdressed despite our preparation, but that did not stop us from enjoying the show.
We got to see local musicians perform their best hits. We listened to poetry in Ndebele that strongly moved us even though we did not understand the words. We saw dancers move their bodies in ways you could never imagine. And the best part, we got to see Gwanda’s youth support and celebrate their most talented with thunder-like cheers and applauses. We were in awe. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Before coming back to the US, we showed our appreciation by purchasing art from a local artist (@zietheartist) and adding songs, heard at the TESMA awards, to our playlists as a way to support and always remember Gwanda’s youth and their talent. The song in our Zimbabwe Summary Video is also by a local artist, Zagoe Radge. Be sure to check out the video to see even more stories and pictures.
Bonding Through the Experience
Meeting Madeleine was one of the best parts of the trip. I finally got to meet IHELP’s very first fellow (a legend, if you ask me)! We’ve had several virtual meetings prior to the trip but meeting in person was like getting to know each other for the first time. I was a bit overwhelmed about going on a 2-week trip, to a different continent, with a complete stranger. But as soon as I met Madeleine at the Newark airport, all of my worries were out the window.
While we waited for our flight to South Africa, Madeleine shared advice and tips that made me feel less anxious about our trip. It was at this point that I realized I’m going on this journey with a friend, not a stranger.
Implementing the CHW program in a foreign country is not the easiest but we love what we do! And as passionate public health professionals, Madeleine and I bonded through the experience. Madeleine served as my mentor for the trip and she did a phenomenal job at teaching me how to run the trainings, overcome obstacles and navigate through culture shock. Throughout the trip, we shared our stories, learned about each other’s passions, and our shared love for cats! And most importantly, we created a safe space where we could be open and vulnerable with each other when things were a bit overwhelming. By the end of our trip, Madeleine and I became family (I mean, we did share a bed for two weeks, after all)
The end of our trip was bittersweet. I missed home but I also knew I would be saying goodbye to Madeleine. We spent our last days together flying back home and lounging around airports during long layovers and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I absolutely miss Madeleine but I know sooner than later we’ll be going on our next IHELP adventure! Thank you IHELP for recruiting such a passionate and amazing human being and thank you Madeleine for all that you do for the world and for being my friend. <3
This spring we have 5 incredible new interns joining our team. They will be helping us research for our upcoming projects in Guyana, El Salvador, and Honduras. Here is a list of what each intern will be focusing on this spring semester.
Nevin: Developing and finalizing our advanced certification in nutrition and first aid
Ayodele: Guyana and Curacao: Program planning for 2 new community projects.
Adriana: El Salvador: Program planning for new community project and translation.
Joyce: El Salvador: Program planning for advanced certification with current CHW’s in nutrition. Also, helping with translation and being the point of contact for a few of our current CHW groups
Erin: Honduras: Program planning for a new community project.
Nevin Varghese is a physician from Texas who enjoys patient care and teaching medicine. He considers himself an
educator and believes that the advancement of global health depends on education and research involving all levels of society. He is also completing Master of Public Health at Benedictine University, a strong interest he developed during the Covid pandemic. The MPH program focuses on health policy, epidemiology, social and behavioral aspects of health, medical ethics, public health education, health and environment, biostatistics, and research methods. He believes that this path will help in advancing global healthcare and eliminate health disparities. Nevin is currently doing an Internship/Practicum with International Help through which he aims to improve global health needs in Central America. Besides medicine, you would find him learning new languages and exploring new cultures. He enjoys watching international movies and documentaries and reading about the universe and space exploration.
Ayodele Tyndall is a Master of Public Health student with a concentration in Nutrition at Liberty University. She is passionate about community education and nutrition intervention. Her interests in disease prevention through good nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits. Her goal is to equip individuals in the community with the knowledge to choose and live healthily.
Adriana Araica was born in Managua, Nicaragua. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Health from George Mason University, with a concentration in Global Health. While completing her studies she worked at a small nonprofit dental organization, servicing the indigent population of Northern Virginia. As a Community Health worker for the Fairfax County Health Department, she aided clients to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, she works as a family assistance worker, providing resources to the residents of Fairfax County, as well as finalizing her MPH studies. During her free time, she enjoys reading, watching documentaries, and spending time with her chihuahua, family, and friends.
My name is Joyce Gonzalez. I am originally from New York and have a big family as one of 8 siblings. I am a Navy veteran with over 15 years of navy service. I married a fellow sailor, and we have two beautiful boys, Sebastian (4) and Gabriel (7). I work for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, issuing permits and clearances for wastewater collection systems. I am currently in the final year of my MPH at the University of Nevada Reno. I enjoy playing video games, reading, and spending quality time with my family in my spare time.
Erin Bates is a dentist in upstate New York with a background in private practice dentistry and an interest in global health. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri – Columbia, she attended the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Dentistry. Erin completed a General Practice Residency at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and then returned to her home state of Missouri to practice. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health through Liberty University with the aim of utilizing ongoing continuing education to augment her dental practice and enter the academic realm in the future. She is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and the American College of Dentists and enjoys having the opportunity to travel, spending time with her husband, and adventuring in the great outdoors with her dog.
Hello 2023! We are so grateful for all of our 2022 interns. We had total of nine new interns join the team, as well as a few that stayed with us from previous semesters. We wanted to give you the opportunity to learn more about the people who made this past year possible. With their help we were able to complete nine projects, training over 140 Community Health Workers in El Salvador, Syria, Honduras and Zimbabwe! Once again we want to say a big thank you and highlight our awesome interns
My name is Fatou, and I am an MPH student at the University of Miami. My experience consists of 10+ years of non-profit public health experience. My interests are in epidemiology and program development. I became interested in the field by observing inequities in underserved communities along with low levels of health literacy and its effects on the population’s disease conditions and overall health. I have been involved in founding and consulting a non-profit foundation, supporting community-based programs, and using research data to plan and execute community interventions in underserved populations.
My name is Ashley, and I am studying for my Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health at Saint Louis University. I am passionate about partnering with communities to improve health and well-being, from the people’s perspective. I am excited to join the International HELP team!
My name is Babongile Blisset Nkala. I am a Registered Nurse and Master of Science in Public Health degree (MPH) candidate. I have vast experience working in TB & HIV research projects in Eswatini andSierra Leone. I have worked within a variety of settings with diverse contexts thereby, providing me with valuable experiences. I am passionate about working closely with communities in countries with limited resources and various health system gaps to provide sustainable solutions.
I am an MPH Candidate at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GWU. I am also working part-time as a Public Health & Community Development Consultant in Maputo, Mozambique where I currently live.
Currently, I am a graduate student at Arcadia University in Philadelphia completing a dual MPH and MMS degree. I graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2020 with an undergraduate degree in Health Science. Personally, I enjoy the beach, listening to podcasts, and writing in my planner. Throughout my time in Orlando, I worked and volunteered for various organizations and health care clinics. I found my passion for public health through these experiences as I recognized just how important it is to not only treat diseases acutely but also take an upstream approach to understand the root of the problems people are experiencing. During the first few semesters of my MPH degree, my favorite classes were program planning and communications and through these classes, I’ve gained the knowledge and skills to create communication materials and programs that promote positive health behavior changes. I am very excited to put my new skills to work this spring and to learn even more from my new internship with International HELP.
My name is Djenabou Diallo, an MPH in Epidemiology student at the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston at the San Antonio Regional Campus. I am originally from Guinea but moved to the United States in 2009. The health and science field has always been an interest of mine from a young age. I was fortunate to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) for my undergraduate studies and earned my Bachelor of Science in Biology there. My undergraduate studies helped me hone in on microbiology and infectious diseases as my fields of interest. After a semester at UTSA graduate program in Microbiology and Immunology, I decided to pursue my master’s in public health. I hope to find my professional fulfilment in the public health field as an infectious disease epidemiologist that intersects research knowledge and advancement with everyday health measures and practice for the betterment of people’s health; be it locally or globally. My hobbies include cooking, visiting parks and museums, sleeping, and volunteering. As a practicum intern with an organization like International HELP who seeks to educate, empower, and equip future health leaders to serve their communities; I wish to take my first steps in public health practice learning as much as I can with a powerful mission and vison centered around sustainability and the communities I serve.
Hi! My name is Riley, and I am a sophomore at Saint Louis University studying Public Health, International Studies, and Spanish. I hope to pursue an MPH in the future with concentrations in Global Health and Biosecurity/Disaster Preparedness. I am passionate about disease prevention, and I am so excited to work with this incredible organization to do just that! In my free time, I enjoy exploring coffee shops, taking outdoor walks, and reading.
My name is Joanna Herrera, new intern for International Help. I have been a Registered Nurse for over 18 years and work in Los Angeles. I grew up in the Northern Virginia area. This is my last year in my Masters in Public Health degree in American Public University System. I love art, traveling, barre, nature walks, and writing.
Hi! My name is Alicia Etwaru and I am an MPH intern at International HELP. I studied Health Sciences on a pre-med track during undergrad where I was exposed to the field of public health. I am currently completing my 2nd year of the MPH program with a concentration in Urban Health at Northeastern University. I am passionate about community and global health with hopes to improve the health status of underserved communities. I look forward to working with International HELP as we learn from various cultures while educating and empowering individuals to take charge of their health.
Audia F., International H.E.L.P. MPH Intern, shares her perspective on how International H.E.L.P. fosters an environment of empowerment and individual growth. There is always more to what meets the eye in each community and not every challenge is the same.
Community Health Workers Provide Extra Hands in Areas with Few Resources
Many times, health systems fail due to lack of access to care, lack of resources, and lack of knowledge of health professionals. In my 18+ years of working in the healthcare industry, I have found there are great benefits in obtaining increased knowledge and having a few more extra hands that are willing to help as opposed to working short staffed. It increases your performance level which enables you to provide good quality care which in turn, leads to a more healthy population. Community health workers have been found to be the key members of the health team by assisting in all of these areas of concern.
The beauty of it all is the return investment in having a community that is empowered to get healthy and to stay healthy
Community health workers are typically found working in underprivileged areas where there is a lack of resources; far away health facilities, lack access to quality healthcare, and have cultural or religious beliefs that may hinder the type of services that can be received. You also have to keep in mind that these workers merely volunteer their services and do not receive monetary compensation. I find this to be the most admirable thing one can do, having the desire to help without looking for something in return. The beauty of it all is the return investment in having a community that is empowered to get healthy and stay healthy.
Empowering Locals for Health Improvement
International Help’s mission is to educate and empower local people to develop their own communities for health improvement. Through this initiative, community health workers are given the knowledge and the confidence they need to be a valuable asset in their communities. Working with International Help has been a great experience. It is so fulfilling to be associated with an organization that aims to be a part of lifelong change.