CRHP’s Village Health Workers (VHWs) are the key change agent for CRHP’s comprehensive approach to health improvement. Selected by the communities themselves and trained by CRHP, VHWs not only act as health workers and midwives but they also mobilize their communities to achieve better sanitation, hygiene, family planning, and maternal and infant health. When a village agrees to work with CRHP, the whole village comes together to choose a woman to be trained as their VHW. VHWs initially receive extensive training on CRHP’s campus. Over half of the training time is dedicated to personal development in order to build self-esteem, confidence, and skills necessary for community organization and effective communication. The rest of the training is spent developing clinical knowledge and skills that equip the women to function as primary health care workers. The VHWs come together weekly for CRHP-based training to review skills, share stories, and update statistics.
Since becoming a VHW over 40 years ago, Yamunabai has had an enduring impact on her community. She has delivered over 800 babies, and has improved infant and maternal health dramatically. Using her CRHP training and determination to effect social change, she has helped her village overcome harmful traditional practices and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. “In my village, we had two truck drivers who got AIDS. I used this as a teaching tool and kept the wife and the children of those two men in my house. This proved that, even though the wife and children were positive, it didn’t spread.”
Yamunabai has seen her village transform over the years. “First, we broke down the caste system by encouraging people to share water sources and food. We tackled the village’s gambling and alcoholism problems by driving out local moonshiners. Families had more money for basic necessities, allowing them to focus on health education and improvements in the general quality of life.” Yamunabai’s years of dedication and hard work as a VHW, under the guidance and support of CRHP, has improved both health and economic outcomes for her village. The village has gone on to win a state award for breaking down caste barriers.