Most times, people do not understand what it means to be a change agent in the community. Some think that change agents are just mobilizers who walk around in the community to address a few things. Others even confuse them with preachers who go for the door-to-door escapades evangelizing the gospel. But, worry no more, as I make it more apparent to you who a change agent is and their impact on our communities.
Joshua Nyolo works for LVCT Health’s Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS Free Mentored Safe (DREAMS) program. He says a change agent is an individual whose sole purpose is to reach out to the community to address sensitive issues affecting the people and influencing them to live better lives. The agents comprise Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who are under the Start Awareness Support Action (SASA) intervention.
Michael Kariri is a CHW in Kiandutu slums and has been helping his community turn away from violent behaviours for the past 12 years. Michael works with other community volunteers and healthcare workers to end gender-based violence and other ill vices within the slums.
Like any other slum, Kiandutu faces poor sanitation, poverty, poor infrastructure, crime, drug abuse, and early teenage pregnancies. As a CHW, one of the critical roles mandated by the agents is to work closely with local authorities like the police to fight certain vices and hold the perpetrators of violence accountable.
Michael explains how the community has drastically accepted their influence and has joined hands towards ending violence amongst the youths and families. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced an increase in domestic violence against children and spouses that were caused by various economic frustrations since a majority of the community members lost their jobs. However, I have seen a great impact of SASA intervention in my life and the community. As a result, we are now recording lower levels of crime and violence in the households as compared to the previous times,” explained Michael.
Michael works with other SASA agents as they walk from one community to another, addressing issues like drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, gender-based violence, and violence against children.
“I am grateful that LVCT Health change agents rescued me from committing suicide and fighting with my wife. My life has taken a new leaf, and I have now reduced my alcohol consumption,” says Francis Onchiri, a beneficiary from the change agents’ efforts to address GBV and alcoholism in Gachororo village.
LVCT Health continues to empower the SASA agents through training and capacity building, to handle complex cases as they partner with the community and the local authorities towards ending violence within Kiandutu slums. There are a total of 74 change agents in the 7 DREAMS sites in Kiambu county.
LVCT Health supports the CHV’s and CHW’s by training and equipping them with the necessary skills to address emerging issues in the community. The impact of the training has transformed the lives of once affected families. Community vice rates have also reduced thanks to change agents continued awareness.
Together with other change agents, Michael has positively influenced their community, hence raising a violence-free generation, thanks to LVCT Health support.
Story by Rebecca Musanga
Photos by Rebecca Musanga and Joshua Nyolo