|Wilson is conducting one of his training sessions with Grace during her 5th pregnancy.
At the age of 67, Wilson Masiga might consider slowing down and enjoying his seven children and forty grandchildren. Instead, Wilson still rides about 10km every day on a bicycle, traversing villages in Busia District, eastern Uganda, carrying the message of good health.
Wilson is one of the Community Health Workers (CHW) in this area. He has served in this role since 2011, after he and others were selected by the local leadership and community members. They were trained by the district health inspector, followed by additional training by World Vision in 2012. “We were trained in malaria control, nutrition and child protection, among others. World Vision has continued to give us refresher training along the way, reminding us that we are the first ‘health centers’ to help our communities,” says Wilson.
For Wilson, being identified and trained as a CHW was an opportunity for him to keep active and healthy. It was also a chance to partially live his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. After the training, World Vision provided the CHWs with bicycles to ease their transportation. They also received wheel barrows, spades, boots and other equipment to aid them in their health work while in the communities.
Wilson’s passion for community health work has grown over the years. He meets at least three people a day in the comfort of their homes. When we caught up with him, he had visited Grace Makoha, an expectant mother in Solo C village, Busia District. Grace, a mother of four, says Wilson has been visiting her since her third pregnancy. “He came to teach me about expectant mother nutrition. He teaches me about how to take care of my children and how to feed them nutritiously. His visits have enriched my knowledge about so many health issues. I feel so helped,” says Grace, with a smile.
Grace says her children are healthier now that she’s learned about proper nutrition from Wilson. Wilson also farms, combining his farming skills with his village health work. When he is not in his garden, he is in his community teaching people how to prevent malaria, maintain good hygiene and sanitation, follow good nutrition, among many other health related issues. “We visit our people to see what is going on,” Wilson says. “Whenever I am called upon, I want to be the first to get there because I love what I am doing,” he adds. This elderly man would not trade his community health work for anything.
“Being a health worker has earned me so much respect within the communities I serve. The small allowance given to me when we have activities keeps me going,” says Wilson. “When we started this work, a number of people in the communities didn’t have proper toilets but after our sensitization, the narrative has long changed because people have understood the importance of proper waste disposal,” he says. Wilson wants to be a community health worker until God calls him home.