global health, Uganda 2012

Field notes: no salary, just soap

GlobeMed and GWED-G trained 20 community health workers, who are out on the front lines as we speak!

Last Friday, we visited the group of 20 community health workers (GWED-G calls them VHTs or Village Health Teams) that GlobeMed funded. There were about 12 of them there, and many of them were HIV positive. They work for free.

Beatrice is the chairperson of the group. During our meeting with them, Franny (the GWED-G staff member in charge of GlobeMed projects & our BFF) began telling Beatrice’s story to all of us.  It was a beautiful example of the relationship between GWED-G staff members and the people involved in their programs.

To show how I experienced it at the time, I posted an excerpt from the notes I took during that conversation below.


Awer Village – meeting with VHTs in Health Center 2

  • GlobeMed funded the training and capacity building of 20 community health workers aka the Village Health Team (VHT)
  • provided them with 3 bicycles for 8 areas, still need more bicycles for transport

Beatrice: people use me as an example of someone who is living positive, when they see how close I’ve come to death

Franny (speaking to the group):

  • when people were still in the camps, they would go to her to cope, for support, to get advice how to keep living even though HIV positive
  • Beatrice told them to not hide and to be careful not to pass on the virus to others
  • Beatrice likes the job, wants to help even though she doesn’t make any money
  • In the beginning, she went to the health center on her own, took the initiative herself to help HIV positive people with testing, counseling, drug adherence, etc.
  • They saw her talking boldly
  • Beatrice was close to death because of AIDS, and I gave her the nutritional supplement that helped bring her back to life
  • Of the people that knew her at the time, for those that could see both the before and after – many of them died, so only a few left would be able to see her today – now see Beatrice as a miracle
  • I feel so happy working with Beatrice, because I feel I have helped. If she were not helped, she wouldn’t be here today. It’s because she first was helped.
  • These VHTs are on the front lines. If disease were to break out, they would be the first to die. You know, if you have doctors, they can spend time thinking about how to treat the situation. But for these health workers, there is no preliminary diagnoses, no waiting, no time. Nobody even cares about them.
  • They are so bold. So hard to go household to household vaccinating children, doing home visits…it is not easy.
  • They became their own agents of change. Beatrice just moved on her own. She felt the pain in herself and didn’t want any other person to suffer the same way.
  • Sometimes, she tells me that she’s not happy, but works every day to see faces of people she is helping

Me (writing to myself): Franny spewing passion and love. So much admiration, awe, appreciation. If I think of what it means to be a hero, I think of someone who does right for the world without asking for any recognition in return. I think of Beatrice.

Franny (translating one final comment): she is saying that they’re not even asking for a salary, but sometimes they could use soap to wash their clothes so that they can present themselves well in the field. You know, sometimes they come home so dirty.

Franny (whispers to me): sometimes I give them airtime for their phones, like 5000 shillings (~2 dollars).

– Livy


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