This morning, we distributed the first batch of solar panels from G24 Innovations. I was also able to reconnect with CHWs I hadn’t seen in a while. Everyone was extremely happy – I’ll let the pictures tell the story.
Of course, Alex ran the session. The instructions were quick and easy, and everyone was rather celebratory:
To close the meeting, the CHWs sang a song for me that they had prepared – I’m not sure what the lyrics were, but “phones” and “messages” were included! Afterward, I traveled with Dickson Mtanga and Mary Kamakoko to their villages – it took a good two hours on a bicycle. We spent another 3 hours biking around and seeing patients, before I started back to the hospital. Dickson and Mary, using their new panels:
I’m very happy with how things have started off. Almost immediately upon arriving, I pitched the communications program at the hospital’s management meeting. Most of those in attendance I knew from my previous stay in Namitete, and they seem happy to have me back.
I’ve discovered that props are useful. So, I lugged my suitcase into the conference room, revealing about one-hundred cell phones. I also flopped around the ~100,000 units of communication credit I’d purchased at the airport. After a quick demonstration of FrontlineSMS, ideas started flowing – and not just in one direction. I’m finding that ideas developed in the US regarding the program’s potential usefulness (e.g. patient follow-up, TB and HIV drug adherence monitoring, fielding the community’s medical questions, etc.) are really resonating here.
After a bit of grudge work (putting in SIM cards, implanting the initial Celtel units, recording numbers, testing FrontlineSMS, etc.) we are ready to start the pilot.
I am calling the Chairs and Vice Chairs of both the Community AIDS Committees (CACs, “cacks”) and the Village AIDS Committees (VACs, “vacks”) for a meeting on Monday morning. It’s set for 8AM – I’m hoping they’ll trickle in by 10:00. This first ‘batch’ of CHWs will be the pilot within the pilot. After monitoring their activities for a week or so, we’ll look to expand to another group – as the Matron says, we’ll start with those who are “hardest working.”
I spent the day in Lilongwe, trying to find decent maps of the area the CHWs hail from and work in. First, I tried the District Health Office. No maps, but the doctor coordinating health information for Lilongwe was very interested in the communications initiative – specifically, the possibility of scaling up to cover the entire Lilongwe district. In an attempt to stay ambitious but grounded, I kindly left her my e-mail and other contact information.
Next, I headed to the Department of Surveys. Like the government hospitals, the state buildings are treacherous. Quite literally, I had to guess which alleyway to wander down – I was finally consoled by a piece of paper, duck-taped to a door, which read, “Digital Mapping.” I put in an order for TA Kalolo and TA Mavwere (don’t ask me what ‘TA’ means, because I have no idea), and was told to come back in a few hours. After a few bribes (‘fees’) and hitchhiking excursions, I had my maps (below).
I’ll leave you with an image of some of the goods. Before the week ends, I am creating some step-by-step instructions for operating the phones and FrontlineSMS, which Alex is going to translate into Chichewa tomorrow. I’ll probably fall asleep testing the hand-powered, wind-up chargers – the motor is strangely soothing.