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.
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
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