Training the Trainers: the Power of the Community Health Volunteers

Photograph of two women outside On August 29 to 30, KIWASH, together with Nyamira County Government, trained 60 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) on WASH and agri-nutrition practices. These volunteers play a critical front-line role in encouraging households and communities to adopt practices that improve their hygiene, health and nutrition.

Phyllis Angwenyi is one of those CHVs. She has been working in her community of Bogeka in Nyamira County nine months, talking with her neighbors about the importance of latrines and other hygienic practices. When she first started her work as a CHV, only 40 out of 98 households had latrines. Now, thanks to her efforts, the sub county public health department has verified her village as Open Defecation Free. Each home has a latrine and a handwashing station nearby with soap or an alternative cleansing agent, such as ash. 

 “I’m really touched by the change I am making in my village. Some people think that I am an employee of KIWASH because of the passion I have. Sometimes I hire other people to work at my farm so that I can spend more time regularly visiting homes to continue motivating them to practice positive behaviors such as hand washing at critical times,” says Phyllis.

At the August training, the CHVs learned the importance of latrines and how to construct them, the times that are most critical for washing hands, how to treat household water, and food safety practices. The training also included a demonstration on setting up a “tippy tap,” a simple handwashing station that does not require running water and can be constructed with everyday materials.

During the training, the group visited a demonstration farm set up in partnership between KIWASH and Mapema Starr, a group of women who engage in small savings to boost their economic status. There they learned various ways to establish and irrigate kitchen gardens, depending on the amount of land, water or fertile soil one has. Kitchen gardens are an important tool to ensure families are eating diverse and nutritious vegetables every day. Any extra produce is also an important source of income for the household.

KIWASH is using a cascading approach in training CHVs. We started with a group of 25 officers from the county agriculture and health departments. These 25 officers now train new CHVs and farmers at KIWASH demonstration farms across our nine focus counties.

These county staff and CHVs are an important link for communities to access essential health services and information at the community level. Phyllis Angwenyi is a testament to the power of CHV to affect change. Her community appreciates her work so much, they now refer to her as “teacher.” So far, 560 CHVs and county government staff have undergone the training and have reached nearly 21,000 households.

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