By: Liz Jarman, Living Goods Kenya Country Director
In July 2015, our first class of Living Goods Kenya Community Health Workers–known as community health volunteers (CHVs) in Kenya–graduated in Busia County, brimming with pride. If you could be a fly on the wall at a Living Goods graduation, you would see how inspiring and joyous these events are. CHVs are so excited to have been trained and given the tools to do their job. They are just raring to get to work! They proudly stand up in front of their families to receive their well-earned certificates and collect their equipment and uniform. Two years, and 18 graduations later, this still remains the same.
Today, we’ve grown to 1,000 CHVs across our eleven branches, reaching over half a million Kenyans with quality, personalized health care. As the Kenya Country Director at Living Goods, I’ve had the opportunity to experience this evolution first hand.
In Kenya, there are just two doctors for every 10,000 people. This means that families who need treatments for childhood diseases like malaria and diarrhea, pregnancy support, and nutrient-rich foods, often do not get it. As a result, less than 70 percent of births are attended by a skilled health worker, and every 1,000 children will die before their fifth birthday.
This is a reality that no family should have to face. Borrowing insights and learnings from our work in Uganda, we began working with government leaders in Kenya to help strengthen the country’s community health system. Over the past two years, more than 1,000 government CHVs have been integrated into the Living Goods system—ensuring that they are trained and supported, well-stocked, and compensated for their work.
Edward for example, who loves his work as a CHV so much that he decided to use his knowledge to train others. He applied and was accepted to our competitive branch training class—which will enable him to train and support other CHVs in the field.
Or Soloman, a CHV in our Thika Branch, who is natural born leader in his community. I shadowed Soloman through the same slum he has lived in for the past 30 years. We couldn’t walk for a more than a minute without someone coming up to say hello! One time, he rushed to the aid of a mother who said her newborn baby was very ill. It was 3 a.m. After determining the baby had an abnormally high temperature, he took the mother to the hospital in the middle of the night. The doctor said that the baby was admitted just in time—the baby could have easily died. I had the opportunity to meet this now cheery, healthy baby. It’s incredibly powerful to see how the quick actions of our CHVs can literally change a life.
And CHV Linda in Bunyala, who said that her family told her she would never be able to use a smart phone. “I have proved them wrong,” she said. “I am no longer analogue, I am now digital.” I was moved by the confidence she had developed through her immersive training on our SmartHealth mobile platform.
Living Goods clients with their happy and healthy newborn baby.
The most incredible thing about these stories is the fact that they happen every day. Every one of our 1,000 Living Goods CHVs are working toward a common goal: to bring better health to their communities.
Needless to say, we couldn’t have made it this far without the support of our government partners, funders like USAID's Development Innovation Ventures, and our dedicated and nimble staff who work tirelessly every day to help our CHVs do their job as well as they possibly can. I’m constantly in awe of our team’s openness to trying new things, making mistakes, learning fast, and pushing to do things even better. It’s exactly this innovative spirit that has helped get us to where we are today. And it’s also what will help push us forward to ensure that EVERY child has the chance to live a healthy life.