By: CHW Central
CHW Central is thrilled to introduce our 2022/23 CHW Ambassadors! Ambassadors will share their perspectives on CHW Voices, a new section of the site that provides CHWs with a platform to share stories, opinions, and experiences through blogs, videos, and more. We hope this page will allow CHWs to shape their own futures and share what matters most to them. Now, without further ado, meet this year’s amazing ambassadors. We already love working with them and we know you’ll learn from and enjoy their contributions.
Introducing: Mark Mwenda, Kiambu County, Kenya
Mark Mwenda is a Community Health Volunteer based in Kiambu County, Kenya. Mark has Bachelor of Science degree in Community Development and Environment from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. As a young leader, Mark is passionate about protecting life and promoting health in his community, with the ambition contributing to the attainment of universal health coverage and realizing sustainable development. In addition to his work as a CHW, Mark is a youth volunteer and the Youth Secretary Elect (2022-2025) of the Kenya Red Cross Society, Kiambu Branch. Mark will serve as a CHW Central CHW Ambassador from September 2022 through August 2023.
Why did Mark want to be a CHW Ambassador? In his own words:
“Community Health Workers (CHWs) are an important asset that every community should have. However, their voices and roles in modern society have hardly been recognized. There is a need to amplify CHW voices and consider them as key stakeholders in the health sector. As a CHW Ambassador for CHW Central, I will use the opportunity to practice my advocacy skills to address the concerns of CHWs. I will work at length, contributing positively towards attainment of CHW Central’s purpose, values and strategic choices. As a young leader, I look forward to empowering and mentoring youth across the world to recognize the need to participate in activities that promote a sustainable future. The ambassador position offers me a platform as a role model to encourage youth to join the community health workforce, and to facilitate attainment of Sustainable Development Goal three: good health and wellbeing. In addition, I will promote community awareness and appreciation of the important role that community health workers play in navigating complex health systems. I also hope to enable CHW Central to establish itself as a pillar of community health globally, while also leading the Kenyan community, and developing countries at large, in adopting and recognizing the importance of investing in community health systems. I am certain that this opportunity will enable me to learn new skills and knowledge while also building my network.”
Introducing: Regan Kelso, California, USA
Regan Kelso is a clinic-based Community Health worker from Rialto, California, USA, living with her husband and three young adult children.
She received her CHW certification from San Manuel Gateway College Promotores Academy in 2018 while working for a private medical group serving the high needs of patients with chronic illnesses.
Now, Regan works at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital NICU, connecting with families through lived experiences of having premature babies diagnosed with chronic health conditions.
Regan loves the beach, concerts, ice cream, and mostly nature.
If you don’t see Regan in her community, she’s probably in Long Beach, her home away from home.
Why did Regan want to be a CHW Ambassador? In her own words:
“I was on a break, standing outside the doctor’s office where I worked when I saw a news reporter interviewing nurses at the hospital across the street. I so badly wished that the news reporter would see me, wearing a black pin button that read “Essential” in big white block letters, and walk over to ask me questions about the COVID-19 pandemic that had just started. I imagined the topics we would discuss: asthma, vaccines, and COVID testing. The reporter would ask what I did for a living. I’d give a brief elevator speech about my community health worker role.Then, share how the pandemic worsened my community’s housing, food, and healthcare access. I’d also nudge at the importance of interviewing community health workers to ask their perspectives about working on the frontlines of public health.
My phone’s alarm chimed, snatching me out of my daydream to signal that my fifteen-minute break was over. From that day on, I started journaling my experiences in the CHW workforce. So, when I saw an online posting from CHW Central seeking an ambassador to write blogs and opinion pieces, I applied immediately. CHW work is essential to the communities and healthcare systems we serve, and so are our voices.
Far too often, CHWs are not asked to engage in meaningful conversations about healthcare, the distribution of resources, and our field. When CHWs are invited to the table, our voices are overshadowed by the hierarchy of healthcare disciplines not doing community health work.
I am excited to share the title of CHW Central Ambassador with Mark Mwenda. We both look forward to sharing what CHW work looks like from our homes across the globe. In addition, we both look forward to sharing what makes us passionate about this work.
Over the next year, I’ll write all things CHW, from blogs on self-care and safety in the field to opinion pieces about CHW integration. Oh, and I have a lot to say about increasing our wages too. And, we can’t talk about our work without showing pictures of what we do.
I recognize that we CHWs are a collective, not a monolith. In this role, my main goal is to create a space for the collective to feel safe centering their stories. I hope that CHWs from all walks of life feel represented to share lived experiences on this platform. If you are a CHW and have a picture, podcast, or story to share, please contact me.
I am not a news reporter, but I do collect stories for a living. And I believe that “nothing about us (should be) without us.”
You have a voice here!
Mark Mwenda: email@example.com
Regan Kelso: firstname.lastname@example.org