In heavily populated regions like Kibera, information tends to travel by word of mouth. When Shining Hope for Communities opened the Johanna Justin-Jinich Community Clinic, getting the word out about clinic services was one of the primary goals. One of the ways this is continuously being accomplished is through the Community Health Worker (CHW) program. Shining Hope launched this program last June by recruiting from the Kibera community. The applicants were extensively trained by Shining Hope and given exams to become fully-fledged CHWs.
The goal of the CHW program is to change behaviors and attitudes towards health and healthcare. This is done through door-to-door awareness, where each of the six CHWs has a set area in Gatwekera (the Kibera village in which Shining Hope is located) in which they register households and do follow-up visits. The registration allows the CHWs to get a sense of the needs of each household. For example, if a pregnant woman is in one of their target households, they will speak to her about the JJJ Clinic’s antenatal care program. They also find out the ages of the children living in each household to determine which immunizations are needed.
According to Maggie, the head of the CHWs, the biggest challenge has been gaining the trust of the Kibera community. Many people did not understand that the CHWs had been trained and were there to help them. She believes this challenge has mostly been overcome, thanks to the positive reputation the CHWs now have in the community, and people are focusing more on their health now than ever before. The number of people who are now visiting the clinic thanks to the CHWs has amazed Maggie. She knows that more mothers are visiting the clinic specifically because of the CHW program. Maggie says one of the biggest issues in Gatwekera that the CHW program has helped with is malnutrition. The clinic gives out fortified flour to malnourished children and, thanks to the CHWs, families have been participating in the program in record numbers.
Maggie hopes to see the CHW program continue to grow as the CHWs receive more training, especially around first aid. She wants the CHWs to be able to help sick individuals by dispensing health information and basic care when the clinic is closed. A big goal of Maggie’s is to foster partnerships between Shining Hope and other organizations with CHWs in Kibera. She believes it would be beneficial for everyone to share and develop the most effective means of reaching the community.
The CHW program is vital to Shining Hope’s goals because it functions as the link between the community and the clinic – and to the rest of Shining Hope’s services. Access to healthcare, and an understanding of its importance, will continue to increase for Kibera residents because of the tireless work of Shining Hope’s CHWs.