The Role of Community Health Workers

Happy Holidays from the Staff and Board of Directors of Health Builders! In celebration of the season, we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the many amazing Community Health Workers, trained and mentored by Health Builders, doing vital work in rural Rwanda. We hope you enjoy getting to know Chantal as much as we have!

Chantal never expected to become a Community Health Worker, but because she was trusted by the people in her rural village, she started serving in the role in 2008, learning as she went. Community Health Workers are volunteers, elected by their community to be trained in preventative and basic medical care. Quickly gaining knowledge and experience, Chantal learned about the different types of medicine in the health center’s pharmacy and how they were properly administered. She began to treat young children suffering from pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition, common and potentially deadly infections that are also easily treatable when patients have access to appropriate care.

Having had her own serious complications during pregnancy, Chantal is especially passionate about assisting mothers, often making personal visits to offer not only medical advice but encouraging words. The impact of her unexpected career is apparent when, out and about in the village, she sees those moms and kids, healthy and well. Word has gotten around, and families specifically seek to meet with Chantal. Chantal’s pride in her role as a Community Health Worker is evident, as is her appreciation for the commitment the Rwandan government has made to ensuring basic healthcare services are accessible to even the remotest communities in rural Rwanda.

Because of the collaboration between the Ministry of Health, Health Builders, and other organizations Chantal has the continuous mentoring and training needed to do her job well, not only helping expand her skills, but also allowing her to improve her own life, and the lives of her family and community.

Chantal works with the Kintobo Health Center - built by Health Builders in conjunction with community members atop a grassy hillside with a 360-degree view - in the Nyabihu district along the western border of Rwanda. The investment and resources to build the Center were long overdue, finally giving people access to healthcare without having to walk many hours on narrow, rough footpaths. With the support of Health Builders, the Center was built in 2017 and began serving almost 17,000 people from the area. Special attention was given to the maternity ward, purposefully designed to allow for the most beautiful view over the valley, offering inspiration and a calming atmosphere during the birthing process. Large open windows are positioned to capture the fresh breeze constantly blowing across the hilltop.

With over 1,300 patients seen each month, the Kintobo Health Center and its 28 staff members are quite busy. This does not prevent them, though, from welcoming additional training and support from Health Builders. They realize that having the information and resources needed to provide appropriate care will decrease many of the diseases that increase morbidity rates in Nyabihu, such as respiratory disease, intestinal parasites, and skin diseases. Motivated and qualified staff allows the Center to be more than just four walls of infrastructure. The Kintobo Health Center is an integral part of the community where patients can access resources, gain information, and be appropriately treated for a variety of illnesses.

But most importantly, community members interact with people like Chantal, who not only shares her new-found knowledge, but her own personal experiences, positive energy, and compassion for her neighbors.