A Surplus of Community Health Workers In Congo

As we stepped into the classroom at a mission school in Bongonga, a neighborhood in Lumbumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, I was surprised at how many mostly young adults listened intently to the instructor. He explained how to speak to residents of the poor neighborhood about the use of bednets.

A list of points were written on a blackboard. He spoke each in a single sentence and asked a volunteer to repeat. Then he asked the entire group.

What struck me was that this has never happened before in this resource-deprived community. And I was taken aback by how many community health workers had volunteered for this duty. And those in the room aren’t the full complement. More than 150 have volunteered to take bednets into homes and teach how to use them. From none to a small complement in a matter of only a few months.

For the demonstration project only six workers were needed. It was unique—to have more volunteers than needed. However, after the celebration that would follow and the demonstration for dignitaries this small group will be taxed to deliver and train residents in the community to use the nets properly. They have their job cut out for them because nets have never been available to people here.

In fact, barely any services to sustain and enhance life are here. Not clean water. Not proper sanitation. Not paved streets. Not anything but rudimentary health services.

But perhaps these enthusiastic young people reveal at least the start of an essential asset that can provoke change. They are here, they are willing and they want to learn and act. This alone is worth celebrating.

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