Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire
Dorcass is a community health volunteer. She has been working 8-10 hour days this week in Grand Bassam to distribute bed nets to hundreds and thousands of children.
But perhaps most importantly she is making sure that each and every family she hands a bed net to understands how and why to use it:
I watch Dorcass provide these and other important messages to mothers and fathers, one after another, as she tears open the bags containing each bed net (an effort to prevent the nets from being sold). “Tu comprends?” she asks, making sure that each person understands her fully. It is clear to me that Dorcass has a sense of pride and responsibility in the work that she is doing.
Dorcass is a trained nurse. She studied at Dabou Hospital in the late 1970s and currently is the nurse in a local elementary school in Grand Bassam. She learned about the integrated health campaign through her church, for the United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire has been a key partner in mobilizing volunteers and participation in this week’s campaign. Dorcass immediately volunteered to help and so she attended a training roughly two weeks ago to prepare for the campaign. She even got her daughter to volunteer, who was stationed at another distribution site in town.
Without Dorcass and the thousands of other community health workers and volunteers like her across Côte d’Ivoire, this week’s campaign could not have been a success. Dorcass plays a critical role, for it is she who helps ensure that the bed nets are removed from their packages, hung up, cared for properly, and used by the most vulnerable – children under the age of 5.
These messages will be reiterated to families across Côte d’Ivoire over the course of the next few weeks, as community health workers will be hitting the streets, going door to door to make sure that the bed nets are hung and children are sleeping under them.
The scale of this effort is incredible. The United Methodist Church mobilized nearly 1000 community health volunteers alone. But when you see the sense of responsibility of a volunteer like Dorcass, it’s easy to see how it is possible.