Today was a special day because it was the culmination of our volunteer community health workers’ training. We began our day by splitting into 2 groups and visiting patients in their homes. The volunteers were asked to apply the physical therapy skills they had learned this week in real-life situations as well as work together as a team to educate the patient and caregivers. It was extremely rewarding to witness how much knowledge the volunteers had retained and how they were able to build on the skills they had practiced in class.
Sarah and I traveled together with Alex, our fabulous Home Based Coordinator who coordinated the training with Dr. Nesbit, with half the class to a village that was about 20 minutes away by car (Dr. Nesbit and CJ visited another patient within walking distance with the rest of the class). Once in the village, we met up with a volunteer, Benison, who had attended the same training 2 years prior, and he introduced us to our patient who had recently suffered a stroke, along with other comorbidities. Our volunteers got to work helping their patient with range of motion, standing activities, and assisted ambulation outside of his home. We were also informed that a few days before, Benison had adapted this patient’s hut with an indoor latrine as well as steps to enter that were easier to navigate. The dedication that these volunteers have to their community is astounding. The skills that we teach them over a few days are just the beginning. There is a ripple effect that is immeasurable with tests and numbers. The volunteers go above and beyond in terms of how they apply their training in ways that we as outsiders could never have imagined on our own.
We returned to St. Gabriel’s triumphant. After a quick and well-deserved tea break consisting as always of warm soda and cookies, we listened to group members present on the observations they made, the skills they used, and what they learned during this experience. We celebrated the end of class with singing, poetry, and lots of laughing and clapping. Each volunteer received a signed certificate from Dr. Nesbit and Lameck, who is the national coordinator for the Palliative Care Association of Malawi, and then we all met outside for group photos. All in all, the training was a great success. ! (good job!)