Capacity building is a concept that is thrown around with people who are working in development. It’s this phrase that is written, used as a catch-phrase, & discussed in meetings… but what does it look like? What does building- placing blocks, sweating, working hard- someone’s capacity actually look like? Can you touch it, see it, understand it?Through the generosity of our DFID grant, I have the pleasure of working with 12 Community Health Agents (CHA). These are some of the most fun people I see on a regular basis. They are spunky, gentle, and perseverant. This week, I have been sitting with each CHA, discussing what they enjoy about their job, and also where things are difficult. There are a few themes that I have heard from each one.
First, they love working in their own communities. While it does mean they are woken from sleep, disturbed while getting a shower, and pulled into homes while walking down the street, they love that the work they do directly benefits the people in their village, neighborhood, and even family. One CHA in particular said that a baby he visited after she was born recently began taking her first steps. He loves watching her grow! These communities embrace their CHAs and the CHAs love and care for their communities.
Second, this group of CHAs has become a family. Each CHA spoke so highly of the others. The respect and joy they find in their work is incredible. One of our CHAs recently had his mother pass away unexpectedly. He spoke proudly of how each CHA offered their help with his workload and came to her funeral. “We are together,” he told me simply.
Lastly, their training and work has created a stable foundation for their communities. Home visits, vaccination posts, and even Women’s Groups are equipping their communities to be healthier and more self sufficient. The work they do is affecting the old and young, male and female. “We are waiting to see what will be built on this foundation,” I am told, sitting under a mango tree, watching the people and motorcycles pass by.
Capacity building is a CHA walking down their street, using a megaphone to remind everyone to come to the nearby community building to get vaccinated. It is laughing with a Mom as they watch her little girl take her first steps. Capacity building is a steady salary, paying for your siblings to go to school, and opening your first bank account. It is recognizing signs of pre-eclampsia and taking a woman to the hospital in the pouring rain to deliver her baby. It is rising early, waking in the night, and working hard. Capacity building is laying a foundation.