“It’s a blessing to have someone trustworthy—a CHW—within reach. It eases our response to healthcare because sometimes we don’t get the same kind of care from health facilities,” explains Huda, 31, a mother of three.
Her CHW, Sarah Nakyambadde, is a calm but firm 52-year-old who has been serving her community for more than 13 years.
Even though Huda waited two agonizing days before seeking help for her youngest son Muhammed’s diarrhea, she was not chastised for the delay when she finally reached out to CHW Sarah. This was an opportunity to educate Huda about the importance of good hygiene and the causes of diarrhea. Families like Huda’s who live in Bwaise, a slum on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, are particularly susceptible to diarrheal disease because they live near a poorly managed drainage channel that has become a dumping ground.
“Sarah sacrifices her time to come to our homes and educate us about health and disease outbreaks like COVID. She cares for us and is not arrogant,” Huda adds.
When Living Goods started in Uganda in 2007 and opened a branch in Bwaise in 2009, Sarah was one of the first CHWs to be recruited and trained. “It was challenging in the beginning. We relied on paper tools a lot. We had to write notes during trainings but would sometimes forget the dosages for the different age groups and it was not easy to retrieve information from those papers,” she narrates. “All that changed when we started using the phones. We are always sure of the dosages we give to children, and even the communities we serve appreciate the standardization of care.”
We are trained well, encouraged to care for our patients, and we try to live by that. I’m a proud CHW because in my work, I have saved many children’s lives.
Besides community health work, Sarah is a businesswoman. She has a stationary shop and is also a tailor. People often find her at her shop to seek health services, some of which she does not offer. “I try my best to help whenever I can, but refer to health facilities those I can’t manage,” she explains. After dispensing diarrhea treatment for Muhammed, Sarah used the opportunity to check his immunization status and found that he had not been immunized, because the father does not trust vaccines. This was not the first time Sarah encountered such a case. Her strategy is always to share correct information until she wins over such parents.
“We are trained well, encouraged to care for our patients, and we try to live by that. I’m a proud CHW because in my work, I have saved many children’s lives,” Sarah says with contentment, adding: “I do this work because of the people. They need me. They are my neighbors, my friends. Besides, this work keeps me on my toes. And, at my age, that’s a good thing!”