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Category: Stories

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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

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2023BlogCommunity Health WorkersCompleted ProjectsEl SalvadorGraduate StudentsImpactInternational HELP ProjectsInternsStories

Testimony from El Salvador

When I got the call about the trip I was ecstatic, but when I got the news it would be about a month I was nervous. I have never been out of the country for so long nor did I process that I’d be traveling with a coworker I had never met. But I fully took the plunge and it was the best decision I’ve made. A few weeks later I was packed up and meeting Madeleine in the Houston airport to start our adventure. We started our training in Las Negritas, a small community about 20 minutes away from Texistepeque. The group was all so welcoming and it was sweet to see how close of a community they are. Their closeness and eagerness to learn made the training days so much fun and filled with many shared stories.

After Las Negritas we stopped by to check on a few of our previously trained groups in Chilcuyo and La Y Griega. There we got to check in on their progress in teaching their own new Community Health Workers. It was great to talk to the leaders about their challenges and how they overcame them as well as discuss new topics they want to learn more about. We also got invited to a tree planting and environmental health project put on with the EU in collaboration with a few of our own Community Health Workers. There we were invited to talk a bit about the work International HELP does and how our health workers keep advancing the health of their communities beyond our training. It was lots of fun getting to learn from experts in their fields and they even taught us how they make fertilizer specifically for vegetation in the area.

After our stops in the Texistepeque area, we headed to Metapán where we met Monterey and her family, including her kiddos! We had lots of fun hanging out and exploring before getting started on our Advanced Maternal Health training with the Metapán Red Cross. This group was so much fun as they shared many stories about countless emergencies and how they adapted to them. Day three of training was quite the story as the day of birthing teaching happened to be the day they got a call from a pregnant mother who needed help. Thankfully all was well with mom and baby, but hearing how they grabbed their training manual and tried to follow as best as they could was amazing. Their attention to detail and questions throughout the day was incredible to see. We also got to see the festival of Metapán that happened to start day two of training. So when not teaching we were soaking up all the food, culture, and parades the city had to offer.

After Metapán we headed to Antigua, Guatemala for a few days as we had downtime between training and meetings. There we made many connections with a few nurses, medical students, and organizations that we hope to partner with for future projects. After Antigua, we headed to San Salvador to work on training and meeting with partners. Our training at COFAVAD was great! They loved the training as we had extra special guests to help demonstrate childhood health concerns.

While in San Salvador we had a meeting with the Santa Ana Diputado about how he might be able to help us in our projects in El Salvador and how to expand our reach as well. While there, he also offered us a tour of the government building which was fun to learn more about their government processes and new reforms coming through the changes in government.

Monica Bates, IHELP Intern

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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