After spending close to three hours on a bumpy, wet road, we finally arrived at our destination. It was a rural village with a cluster of 1-room structures made of mud and wood with thatched roofs. The village is in World Vision’s Nkeyema Area Program in west Zambia. Soon after getting out of the muddy 4-wheel van, we were greeted by a spirited young woman named Mary Mulimbika. She passionately shook our hands and welcomed us with a beaming smile.
Mary is a 21-year-old enthusiast who lives with her parents and five siblings. She has lived in her village her entire life. Mary loves caring for people, especially the sick. She has always wanted to become a nurse. During school holidays, Mary volunteered at a local clinic in her village. Because she could read and write, Mary worked in the registry, helping weigh babies and care for expectant mothers. With her experience, her voluntary work at the clinic has led her to becoming a full-time community health worker.
“I enjoy working at our clinic because I am able to do what I love the most - caring for people, especially babies,” she says smiling. Last year, Mary was selected by the district medical team to become a member of a Safe Motherhood Action Group (SMAG). She received training in Timely Targeted Counselling (TTC) facilitated by World Vision. “I was scared when I first went for the TTC training. I thought the lessons would be tough,” says Mary. This didn’t deter her.
|Mary, a young SMAG in Zambia, with a client’s baby.
Today, Mary is one of the youngest SMAGs trained in TTC in Zambia. She conducts household visits and provides TTC to expectant and lactating mothers in her community. “As a SMAG, I teach pregnant women everything they need to know to go through a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby,” Mary says.
“I have handbooks and lessons that I use to teach my clients when I visit them. I teach them these lessons together with their husbands or families…to encourage male and family involvement,” she explains.
Mary currently has 14 clients, two of whom are 16 years old. During each visit, she counsels her clients on many issues. These include the importance of antenatal visits and delivering at a health facility, danger signs, nutrition and preparing for the baby. She uses word pictures and book-lets to help her clients understand each step along the way.
Mary loves and cherishes what she does, even when her work comes with challenges. “I have to walk long distances to get to my clients,” she says. Mary does not waver in her work as a SMAG and remains committed. “I am grateful to World Vision for training me in TTC. With my knowledge, I am able to help expectant mothers and save lives,” Mary says. “I will not stop supporting my community,” she adds.