There’s a famous phrase in Afghanistan that goes like this: “qatra qatra dario mesha,” which literally translates to “drop drop river becomes.” In other words, a river is made drop by drop. This is exactly how Community Development Education and Community Health Education works, one drop at a time.
Sozo International currently has eleven Community Health Workers (CHW’s) who come for weekly lessons at the basic health clinic out at Barek Aub. They are trained on various health topics ranging from pneumonia to family planning. After a lesson, they return to their neighborhoods and start going house by house teaching and informing their neighbors, sometimes visiting hundreds of homes in a week. Drop by drop, families are educated, homes are cleaned, children receive vaccinations, babies are born and the community becomes healthier.
In addition to teaching and traveling throughout their neighborhoods, CHW’s also run health posts, which are basically miniature clinics. People can come to the health posts to receive a check-up and get medicine from the CHW’s. They can also be referred to the clinic if it is a more severe case. CHW’s have even delivered babies in the middle of the night. They are the first responders of Barek-aub.
Not only do they see to their own community, Sozo’s CHW’s have recently been travelling over to adjacent IDP camps. IDP stand for “internally displaced peoples” – refugees that have been kicked out of Pakistan and sent back to Afghanistan to face a very bleak future. But now, CHW’s are assisting them with their health problems, teaching them about basic public health and offering encouragement. This is the goal of the Community Health model: a community grows and develops until it is sustainable enough to go beyond itself and help other communities. It creates a domino effect of Afghan-led change in these villages.
Why do these dedicated volunteers do what they do? Why do they show up every week, sometimes walking hours from their homes to the clinic? One couple (yes, there are female and male CHW’s) can only come once a month for a lesson because they live in Kharoti, which is half a day away. As Hanifa—who has been a CHW in Barek Aub for 7 years, and served as a CHW in Kabul and Iran for years before then—explains, “My work is my favorite. I enjoy talking about health with the people. I can bring them medicine, I tell them when things need to be warmer, when to open the windows, that they don’t need to be scared, when to get vaccines. Before, people didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know each other. But [the CHW program] has made a big difference!”
More than most people, the CHWs understand the importance of dedication and sustainability. Their consistency and love for their community is inspiring. They know that they are just drops when it comes to the changes that need to take place in Afghanistan, but they also know that together, and with time, we make a river.