Wilson is a community health worker in Malawi, Africa. He has been working, unpaid for the past 10 years. He is not a doctor, or a nurse, but has some health training from our local partner, Yoneco. Wilson is delivering health care to rural Malawians. He travels village to village screening for tuberculosis, monitoring residents with Malaria, advocating for healthy living, and caring for residents with HIV/AIDS.
Wilson's job requires him to travel great distances to connect communities to health care. Health centres are, on average, 15KM away and when you have to walk that distance can be the difference between life and death. Wilson used to walk, on average, 4 hours a day but with a bicycle he is able to reach more patients and put more time towards his family's small garden.
The day we met Wilson
"I knew the remote nature of the village from our drive in but I would not know the true impact that we had had until the village chief described the previous day to me. His uncle had fallen ill for the 2nd time that month and needed urgent help to treat a high-grade fever.
The closest hospital was 15KM away and the village residents had no access to alternative transportation. His family cut down two trees and built a makeshift stretcher so the uncle could rest. Four community health volunteers gathered around the uncle and carried him to the hospital by foot. The trip took 2 hours - the uncle was not to join us that day because his health had deteriorated.
I took a moment to rest in the shade when one of the community health volunteers approached me to say thank you. He needn't have said anything, because I could feel the gratitude in his wide grin.
Wilson was 46 years old, already having outlived the average life expectancy in Malawi. Wilson explained to me that helping his community fight HIV/AIDS was his number 1 priority. He had lost his family to AIDS years ago and here he was, standing in front of me smiling - I could still see the pain had never vanished.
I left that day infused with optimism and faith. I would leave that community and head back to town of the same road I had come in on - leaving 3 bicycles surged past us waving goodbye."
- Kristen Corbet - Malawi Program Director, 2008-2009