As part of our people@wired occasional articles, WiRED International plans to spotlight our team of community health workers (CHWs) in Kenya. In the coming months, WiRED’s paraprofessional corps of expertly trained health workers will tell their stories about providing clinical services and teaching disease prevention to elevate the health of thousands of people each month. It is fitting that the first account features Lillian Dajoh, who manages WiRED’s CHW Training Program and who has been with the project from the beginning. Lillian has been a member of the WiRED family for over 20 years.
By Lillian Dajoh; Edited by Elizabeth Fine
My name is Lillian Dajoh, and I am the Coordinator of the WiRED Community Health Worker (CHW) Training Program in Kisumu, Kenya.
I have grown with WIRED from its inception in Kenya in 2003. We’ve gone from health information being accessed from CD-ROMs to the Internet. I remember WiRED’s pack ‘n’ go program where we would carry computers in big wooden boxes to schools and colleges just to make the information available to our target groups. The certificate program, which came a bit later, has been a great incentive to many people in the settlements, and the CHW program, the latest development in our community health efforts, is now the most valuable program in assisting people with training and clinical services.
Many thanks to Professor Gary Selnow and his team behind the good work of WiRED.
Twenty years ago I met Professor Selnow in Nairobi, Kenya, where we were trained as client support staff for the Community Health Information Centers program (CHIC). In that training, I came into contact with 25 other Kenyans from different cities throughout Kenya.
I am also the Project Officer of the HIV and AIDS project for the nonprofit KUAP-Pandipieri. I earned a diploma in community health and development and a higher diploma in project management. I have trained as a psychological counselor and a play therapist. I am a graduate of WiRED’s CHIC (Community Health Information Center) program with a platinum certificate. I participated in the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse and HIV&AIDS in Africa and the utilization of community-based outpatient addiction treatment programs in Kenya.
Along with Sister Bernadette Nealon I was presented with the Health Education Champion Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Community Health Education Program. This award recognizes our work among critically underserved populations in Kisumu.
I am now married and have two boys and one girl. WiRED has made me grow because I gained a lot of experience and a wealth of health information, and that makes me very confident. I am able to assist medical personnel because some of them do not update their knowledge after college. As a CHW, I am required to freshen my medical education through WiRED’s Continuing Medical Education Program.
WIRED has inspired my work to provide health training and assistance to the slums of Kisumu City. WiRED’s development of a World Health Organization-compliant curriculum to train CHWs has increased the skills of our team in community health work. We have graduated more than 27 CHWs and 21 are currently working and receiving stipends on a monthly basis. I have helped organize and implement our current health outreach programs and CHW program that have trained thousands of people through the facilities in Pandipieri. We also have facilities in Obunga and several other slums in Kisumu.
I have helped implement the WiRED CHW training program, to make it a success beyond my imagination. WIRED trained CHWs fill a critical role in the healthcare systems in Kenya and other low-resource countries. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CHWs have been in especially great demand. In Kisumu the CHWs have done a superb job in reaching out to the community members. I am proud to be leading our team here in Kisumu.
Over the years many lives have changed, and many participants have been employed as a result of the certificates they received from the WiRED CHIC program. I am a witness of success and the positive impact of WiRED activities in Kisumu.
The former client support staff (including Steve Wonder, Denis Onyango, Joseph Ochieng and others) have taken the training to become CHWs, so they continue with their good work in the community to save lives and increase health awareness.
In the past years we graduated more than 150 people with certificates for completing modules available at the CHICs. I have seen the remarkable outcomes and impacts as a result of WIRED programs. Combining the prospects of general education with access to health information around the world makes vital services more accessible and comprehensive. To this end, I am proud to have worked and to still be working with WIRED International and to currently serve as the Coordinator of the CHW program.
Community health begins with knowledge and knowledge is power.
Comment by Gary Selnow, Ph.D. WiRED Executive Director
I have known Lillian Dajoh since she was a teenager who attended our first workshop in Nairobi, some 20 years ago. At the time, we were setting up the Community Health Information Center (CHIC) project underwritten by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The aim of that program was to teach young Kenyans about HIV/AIDS prevention in two dozen centers we set up around the country.
That CHIC program, a remarkable success, served as the foundation for several follow-up community health education projects with which Lillian became involved. Now, she is the principal manager of WiRED’s flagship Community Health Worker (CHW) program in Kisumu. She has earned the trust of the people on the CHW team, as she manages their daily activities and ensures that each health worker stays current on the latest health issues through their participation in WiRED’s Continuing Medical Education Program.
Lillian has impressed me with her wisdom, skills and good nature. I greatly admire the respect she has earned among the CHWs and among people in the communities where they work. Lillian is one of the true heroes of WiRED’s efforts to provide clinical services and to elevate health awareness in underserved regions.
Lillian and her team help us demonstrate daily
that community health begins with knowledge.