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Category: Empower

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2023BlogCommunity Health WorkersEmpowerImpactInternational HELP ProjectsStoriesTestimoniesZimbabwe

Zimbabwe Stories and Testimonies

Family of Strangers

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.

 

Gratitude

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.”

 

Navigating Barriers

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 

 

-Fatou Cisse, IHELP Intern

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2022BlogCommunity Health WorkersCompleted ProjectsEl SalvadorEmpowerImpactInternational HELP ProjectsMake a DifferenceOrganization UpdatesRecapUpdatesZimbabwe

An Impactful Year – 2022

This year, we have been able to provide three training sessions for Community Health Workers (CHWs) and we have two more on the schedule before 2022 is over! Here is a brief rundown of what we’ve accomplished this year and what’s still to come:

January – Guarnecia and Chilcuyo, El Salvador: Trained 27 CHWs

March – Syria: Trained 10 CHWs virtually

June – Bendicion de Dios and La Y Griega, El Salvador: Trained 23 CHWs

November – Gracias a Dios & El Zamarano, Honduras: Trained 55 CHWs

December – Urban & Rural Gwanda, Zimbabwe: Training an estimated 40 CHWs 

 

If all goes as planned, at the end of 2022 we will have trained in four countries and have roughly 155 new CHW’s. We couldn’t have done it without you. You helped educate, empower and equip. 

 

Thank you for supporting International Help and making 2022 such an impactful year! 

Health Worker Trainings Change Individuals & Communities

All of our Community Health Workers have extremely grateful hearts and we want to share their appreciation with you! At IHELP we believe in transparency and we want you to be able to see how your donations have impacted the lives of others. See Gustavo’s incredible testimony below. 

“First I would like to thank God for allowing me to be part of this Community Health Worker team. On these days, Saturday and Sunday, we have had the opportunity to learn and further our understanding of maternal health. A huge thank you to the people who made this type of event possible because we know you contributed financially and supported this excellent [IHELP] team. This is beneficial to each of us as CHWs as we want to provide help to those who need it most, and in this case, that would be pregnant women from their first month [of pregnancy] until after their baby is born. For us to be able to receive this knowledge is very important because we are willing to help, and why not take advantage of and give thanks to God for this opportunity? Thank you to the people who are able to contribute financially and support this excellent team of Monterey, her husband, and Amber. We are very thankful for receiving so much information that we have here [in our minds]. We had so much fun. This is not the first time we are part of this project and we hope in the future there are even better opportunities and we can continue filling [our minds] with more knowledge to be able to continue helping those who need it the most. Thank you so much and many blessings!”

Help is Needed

Giving Tuesday is a movement that encourages people to unleash generosity. It was created to show people that you do not need to be a millionaire to have an impact. Whatever you are willing to offer will be received by grateful hands and used to change lives. Every year Giving Tuesday is held the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. So as you reflect on all that you are grateful for, think of how grateful you could make someone else. Without your support our trainings would not be possible. 

By joining the other 35 million Giving Tuesday donors you will be giving the real gift that keeps on giving. Not only will you be joining a powerful movement, you will help us reach our 2022 fundraising goals that make Community Health Worker training projects possible! 

This November and December we are traveling to Honduras, Zimbabwe, and are finalizing plans for 2023. We need your help! Our goal this Giving Tuesday is to raise $25,000 to fund our 2023 projects in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guyana. And to help us reach that goal, we had a generous donor offer a $5,000 match! Remember that you can contribute any way you feel fitting. Whether that’s money donations, volunteering, medical or office supplies, airline miles, or simply shopping on Amazon Smile. So please join us for GT 2022 and unleash generosity! 

Unleash your generosity today and click here to see multiple ways you can give a monetary donation https://linktr.ee/ihelpdonate

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2020BlogCommunity Health WorkersEmpowerGraduate StudentsInternational HELP ProjectsInterns

Making a Difference, One Project at a Time

Diana M., RN, and MPH Intern shares her experience developing public health projects for International HELP.

Having had the experience of being part of International HELP has been encouraging and eye-opening at the same time.  Over the past few months, I have been involved in creating health education materials for community care needs.  These materials will be utilized to train Community Health Workers (CHWs) who will in turn enable communities to better care for themselves.  I have had the opportunity to add to the teaching material that is already in place to train CHWs.  Some of the projects I have had the privilege of working on include creating a Spanish health questionnaire survey for Montgomery County, MD, and teaching material to add to the training material including first aid basics, Zika virus, cold/flu, and smoking cessation.

The teaching material will provide knowledge, increase confidence in what to do in case of an emergency, delay the worsening of a condition, ability to save lives, and increase awareness of preventive health.
The Hands and Feet of Communities

CHWs live in the community in which they serve, frontline public health workers, they have the ability to help reduce health disparities by providing training to the local people on how to manage their own health.  CHWs share language, ethnicity, and are aware of the culture they serve.  CHWs are able to provide health training and promote wellness in their community, provide assistance in accessing medical services, translate, interpret, mentor, provide social support, and can act as a liaisons between health services and the community to improve their quality of living. 

By increasing health knowledge, it empowers one to become more aware of their health and ways to improve quality of life.

Although my role in the whole of this tremendous endeavor is small in comparison, I know that the portion I have accomplished will be able to transform individuals to better care for themselves on a daily basis, one project at a time.  This endeavor, once implemented, can transform the need for crisis care in communities to a community that cares to prevent crisis.

– Diana M., RN, MPH Intern

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2020BlogCommunity Health WorkersCommunity Health Workers in ActionEmpowerImpact

The Importance of Empowerment

Audia F., International HELP MPH Intern, shares her perspective on how International HELP 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 are 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 on 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 valuable assets 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.

– Audia F., MPH Intern