Posts Tagged ‘Dickson Mtanga’

Why I blog about (and work in) Africa


With this post, I am responding to kiwanja’s tag, and following in the footsteps of very impressive voices. Here are my $.02.

If someone asked me why I blog about Africa, I would give a straight response, “Because I work there.” A question might follow – “Well, why do you work there?” I think I can tackle that query with a quick story.

I was at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in the summer of 2007, volunteering with the mobile HIV testing unit, helping with immunizations, and counting pills in the pharmacy. When I wasn’t occupied, I spent time in the wards with my Mother, a physical therapist. It was my first time on the continent.

I was told that the hospital serves over 1/4 million people, spread 100 miles in every direction. There were two doctors on staff, assisted by a small group of clinical officers. The staff toldĀ  me they had recruited over 400 volunteers to act as community health workers (CHWs).

In four weeks at the hospital, I met only one CHW, who came in every week or so. I’d learn his name was Dickson Mtanga.

One day, Dickson was watching my Mother as she worked with a stroke patient, keeping track of the different exercises. As always, he carried a small notebook, wrapped in newspaper. I had seen him with the notebook, before. This time, curiosity got the best of me, and I asked him what was inside. He turned to me with a smile, scooted my way, and proudly opened the journal – revealing impeccable drug adherence charts for over 20 HIV-positive patients he was tracking. He’d walk 15 miles to check in with the patients, then another 25 miles to the hospital – just to have the ART clinician sign off on his volunteer work, and look over the statuses of his patients.

The thought that there were, potentially, 400+ ‘Dicksons’ within the hospital’s catchment area stunned me. The staff admitted that these CHWs were as disconnected from the hospital as the patients, and Mobiles in Malawi was born. I write about Africa and Malawi because I work there, and the people I work for are there.

Posted: February 10th, 2009
Categories: HIV/AIDS Care, Home-Based Care
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 7 Comments.