A Day in the Life of a Community Volunteer in Malawi
Saidi Nakhumwa is 47 years old. He lives near Mulanje and serves as a volunteer at the Matipwiri Community Sputum Collection Point site where he carefully collects sputum samples from people who might have TB in surrounding villages and delivers the samples to a TB microscopy laboratory site for testing.
Without a car, or even a bike for transportation, it takes him all day to walk the samples to the nearest TB laboratory and return home. Rodrick Nalikungwi, Project HOPE 's TB Program Manager in Malawi asked Saidi to describe his work as a TB volunteer. Here are Saidi's words:
“I wake up at 5:00 a.m. when it’s my turn to man the Community Sputum Collection Point. It takes me 30 minutes to walk to the Collection Point so I leave home at 6:30 a.m. While at the Collection Point, I wait for other volunteers from 10 other villages to bring sputum samples. I record what I receive in the registers and label the samples. At 10:00 a.m. it is time to take the collected sputum bottles to Chonde Health Center. I walk with another community volunteer and we arrive there around 1:30 p.m.
I hand over all the sputum samples to the Health Surveillance Assistant microscopist at the health centre and sign for what I have given in. Then we start walking back home. Usually we buy sugar cane to suck as we walk back home.
I love serving the community but walking on an empty stomach especially during this lean period, makes me feel tired when I arrive home.”
Later, Rodrick said that Saidi borrowed a bicycle and tied his sputum sample transportation box to the bike. "This is what would help us very much," Saidi said, while doing a demonstration ride.
Volunteers like Saidi are the cornerstone of Project HOPE’s TB management and treatment programs in Malawi. In order to make collecting and delivering sputum samples easier Project HOPE has begun a new fundraising initiative to buy 60 bikes for TB program in Malawi. $168 will cover a bicycle, spare parts for one year, training in bicycle maintenance and repair and a box for test samples. With the bikes the community volunteers’ efforts to control TB in their communities will be made easier and less time consuming.