Selemani's story

I work every day, for at least half of the day. Despite the long hours, being a community health worker means that I’m a volunteer. Some NGOs have given us a small stipend over the years but that never lasted long. People ask me why are I’m still doing this work now that it’s unpaid. They tell me I should be out there making money. But I’ve felt indebted to my community for a long time - I need to help them.

I used to work away from home in the mines - far from my family. When I came back to my village it had been devastated by a measles outbreak. People had died and many were ill for the rest of their lives. My family had all received good medical treatment and they all survived. I was so thankful. Since then I’ve understood the value of medical care and want to help others understand it too.
It’s been hard to keep motivated at times. I’ve been doing this since 1993 and seen some difficult things. Above all I’ve learned how important it is to ensure health education is well-coordinated. It’s all very well giving people information but if you don’t follow-up with them some take myths not truths forwards. There needs to be a way of ensuring the right information gets to everyone.
I also believe these projects will only succeed if they involve men. Previously there was a focus on women and child health and so organisations reached out to women only. Then women didn’t attend the services because their partners didn’t understand the importance of them. They were refusing to pay for transport and sometimes they would stop their wives from taking themselves or their babies to the clinic. Now that we are working with Amref Health Africa we reach out to men too and it’s working. They accompany their wives to the clinic, they tell them to get the antenatal screening and sometimes they even address their own health issues. They are getting themselves tested for HIV. I’m excited to see the progress now. I won’t stop doing this work.