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Broad or Deep

Mrs. Zita, a Village Health Worker, counting out ARVs for a 12-year old boy living with HIV. Photo: Simon Chambers

November 7, 2012

By Simon Chambers

One thing I’ve noticed on my trips to visit different PWRDF partners is how well the field workers are known and respected in the villages where they work.  My time here in Keiskamma Trust has been no exception.  Every time I’m out driving or walking with a Trust staff member, they are constantly being stopped to chat, or at least say hi, as people go by.

Part of this speaks to the community that has been built by the members of the staff.  Each time we’ve gathered towards the end of the day or in the evening, the children of various staff members have joined us, and they all clearly know each other’s children and love them.  But it also speaks to how well Keiskamma Trust has integrated itself into the community in Hamburg and in the other villages I’ve visited so far.

Two days ago I traveled with Mrs. Zita, a Village Health Worker, to the village of Makhahlana.  We went there to visit a 12 year old boy who had just been diagnosed as HIV+ and to make sure he was taking his ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs).

Mrs. Zita became a nurse in 1961, because nursing was one of the few jobs at that time she could do after she got married.  Her career has taken her to hospitals, into mental health, a seniors’ home, and community health work.  Her experience and wisdom are valued by her patients and her colleagues at the Trust.

As we drove out to Makhahlana, we talked about the number of villages, clinics, and hospitals in the area.  One thing she noted was that the Village Health Workers know far more about the health situation of the people (both the individuals and the communities) where they worked.  That is because their reach is much deeper into the communities.

A hospital has a broad reach- people travel from far around to go to the hospital.  But the doctors in a hospital don’t know the people because they stay in the hospital and wait for the people to come to them.

Village Health Workers, on the other hand, live with the people.  They interact with them on a daily basis.  They visit patients up to 8 times per month to monitor their condition, to counsel them, to refer them to a clinic or hospital if necessary.  Whenever they walk down the road, people start conversations with them.  If there’s an emergency, people know whose door to knock on.

It is that kind of deep relationship that I’ve seen between the Keiskamma Trust staff and the people of Hamburg, Makhahlana and Mgababa (the three villages I’ve visited so far).  And, I’ve got to say, I’m really proud to be a part of such work!

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