Bringing Community Health and Social Services Closer to the Community: Bridget's Story

Jul 09 2017

For twenty-three-year-old Community Engagement Facilitator, Bridget Namacha, her job is a realization of a personal journey which started when her closest Aunt nearly died due to an undiagnosed HIV infection in 2007.

“During that time, not much was known about HIV. My Aunt discovered very late what had been causing her recurrent illness. She would have died if she hadn’t eventually gotten tested for HIV and started her treatment.”

Her Aunt’s gift of life is a constant inspiration. Bridget has committed her time to bringing HIV testing services to her community and ensuring that those who test positive get on treatment immediately. Coincidentally, Bridget was hired by One Community - USAID’s flagship community based HIV prevention and impact mitigation project.

To strengthen her capacity, Bridget underwent trainings in comprehensive community health work focusing on how community health and social services can be delivered in the areas she works in. She was also trained on how she can provide HIV Testing Services and facilitate Village Savings and Loan (VSL) groups.

From the comprehensive community health work training, Bridget learned a lot about HIV. Some of the beliefs she previously held were clarified and she is now able to cascade the knowledge gained down to her community through her CRPs.

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“One of the common practices in our community is local circumcisions, I am now aware that this practice can foster the spread of HIV as sharp utensils are shared among clients.”

The HIV Testing Services training was also very near and dear to her. Because of this training, Bridget now offers testing services in communities surrounding Machinga District Hospital and is now able to ensure that every community member tested positive receives care and support immediately. This is very important to her because, according to her, she is able to make sure that no one suffers the way her Aunt did when testing services were not as accessible.

Bridget also looks at ways in which she can lessen the vulnerability of her clients. Equipped with knowledge through the Village Saving and Loan Training, she has helped to establish Village Saving Loan groups in her community and is currently helping 25 members achieve financial efficacy through wiser investments and savings.

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“The knowledge I have gained is immeasurable, even the Motorcycle Training I received was beyond my expectation. A woman riding a motorcycle is not very common in the district. Young girls stop to wave at me as I pass by and when I have time I stop to encourage them to work hard and strive to contribute to their community’s development. I tell them anything they aspire to become is possible.”

Bridget’s work week is a busy one. She starts this off by carefully planning and laying out her tasks for the week. She ensures that by the end of the week she has supervised all her CRPs and supported them however necessary. She conducts testing and counseling services, mentors her VSL groups and reports back to One Community through the program officers.

“My work week is always full but it is also fulling. In 5 years’ time, I would like to still be doing the same type of work. I hope by then I will have a degree and new knowledge on methods I could use to do my work at the best of my capabilities.”

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