Now and then in the villages of Uranga or Boro, you might glimpse someone walking or cycling to a homestead in a green polo shirt with the word Nyamrerwa printed on the back – Community Health Worker, in the local mother tongue. The Nyamrerwas are trained and practiced in caring for people with HIV/AIDS. They themselves are HIV positive, which adds crucial understanding and experience to their role. These Nyamrerwas have the great responsibility of finding clients who have defaulted from their HIV treatment, and bringing them back step-by-step to the psychological and physical condition to resume that life-saving treatment.
It is challenging and exhausting, as clients are often gripped by stigma and fear, poverty, and a lack of support from their families, churches and communities. Clients cannot bear adhering to their treatment, yet they need it urgently. And so the Nyamrerwa’s work begins – it demands sensitivity, patience, strength and vision. The challenge of this work, ‘defaulter tracing’, is so great that most NGOs have left it in the ‘too hard basket’. Yet our project is making a palpable impact.
The things that motivate our health workers and keep them volunteering, year after year, are intangible and seemingly unique to our project. Is it the ongoing support they receive from management and from each other through group meetings and debriefings? Is it the praise and respect they earn from local Chiefs and other leaders? Or is it the simple desire to help others out of a position they were once in themselves?
During our recent trip to Kenya, we encouraged and thanked our Nyamrerwas for their vital work. And, through discussions, we came up with an extra way of supporting them – a semi-regular excursion away from their duties and all the associated stresses; a kind of retreat aimed at refreshing and re-building morale. We hope that this activity will further strengthen the individuals who form the backbone of our project into the future.