“Would you be able to handle the job? Are you ready to take on my work?” Sharon, 30, still remembers vividly the time when her mother-in-law tasked her to continue her work as the Barangay Health Worker (BHW) of their small village.
In 2009, her mother-in-law, who was then the village health worker, introduced Sharon to her work and to the people she had been serving in Kanalawi II village, President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat, South of Philippines. Little by little, her mother-in law taught her roles and responsibilities of a village health worker, from helping fill out official forms to dealing with community members.
Sharon lives a simple life with her husband, Jory, and her two children in the rural village of Sitio Lagon. At home, she attends to her family’s needs while her husband is away in the farm. The couple’s meager income is barely enough to get the family by, but despite that, she still took time to help her mother-in-law perform her duties as village health worker.
After four years of volunteering, Sharon was officially appointed as one of the village health workers in the town’s rural health unit (RHU) in 2013. Since then, Sharon has continued her mother-in-law’s legacy of serving the people. Sharon is assigned in Sitio Lagon, a village with a total population less than 500. To reach mothers and newborns, there are times when Sharon had to endure crossing acres of rice paddies under the scorching sun to get from one house to the other.
“The most rewarding part of my work is the feeling of achievement knowing that I am able to do my job right. During my visits, I make sure that I get to meet those who need medical attention, especially pregnant women and newborns who need to be referred to the nearest rural health unit,” she said.
The Kanalawi II barangay health station (BHS), where Sharon works, is one of the many health centers under the President Quirino rural health unit which Save the Children has provided assistance to through its Helping Save Children’s Lives (HSCL) project. The project’s main goal is to reduce maternal and newborn mortality rate in the area by helping mothers and newborns gain access to basic health services.
Sharon, together with other village health workers in Kalanawi II, received various trainings under Save the Children. Sharon believes that Save the Children provided her and others the opportunity to learn new ways to assist pregnant women and newborns.
“I was trained by my mother-in-law for a long time but there are still a lot of new things I learned from Save the Children seminars that really helped me fulfill my duties. The training sessions have helped me become more confident dealing with the community members.” she explained.
For Sharon, newborn screening was the most important information provided by Save the Children. “If a child does not go through newborn screening, there is a risk that he or she might die. What is good about newborn screening is that we are able to detect any health issues as early as possible,” she shared.
Save the Children’s trainings for frontline health workers helped reduce cases of home births among pregnant women in the village, thereby reducing health risks for mothers and their babies. According Nora, a midwife at Barangay Kalanawi II, their records show that 100% of childbirths in the area are now done in a birthing home at the President Quirino rural health unit (RHU).
“In the past home delivery practices were still allowed, but now all the pregnant women in our barangay are constantly monitored by our BHWs and all of those who are to give birth are referred to the RHU. With the help of Save the Children, we aim to reduce health risks for the mother and newborns by ensuring they undergo pre-natal check-ups and they deliver their babies under the supervision of a trained health service provider,” Nora explained.
Save the Children also introduced a competency-based examination that aimed to certify the BHWs from the series of trainings provided to them by the organization. Save the Children worked with a partner institution, the Notre Dame Business Resource Center Foundation, Incorporated (NDBRCFI), for this.
“I am very proud to announce that all of the barangay health workers here at Kalanawi 2 passed the examination. We are among the few who had a 100% passing rate in the exams. The Certificate of Competency for the Capacity and Role Enhancement (CARE) training that they received validates what they had learned from Save the Children,” Nora added.
Meanwhile, Sharon is happy to continue providing service to her community. Asked for her advice to the pregnant women in her village, she says they should all continue to visit their midwife to get tetanus toxide and once they give birth, get their children to undergo newborn screening.
“I am happy with what I do, I do not plan to quit my job anytime soon. It’s difficult to go around the village especially under the scorching heat but we were provided with umbrellas anyway,” she said with a smile. “I hope that Save the Children will continue to help us, BHWs, and all the people in my barangay.”
Currently, Save the Children’s Helping Save Children’s Lives Project has trained over 800 community Health Volunteers, 143 health professionals, including 30 nurses and midwives from poor and isolated areas, 242 pregnant and lactating women and 66 fathers. We have also directly reached 30,857 children and 11,750 pregnant and lactating mothers.