“Winning this award means a lot to me because I now see myself as the nurse of my community,” remarked Cyndi Mnisi as we caught up with her at the end of the Grow Great Champions (GGC) ceremony, where she was named Community Health Worker (CHW) of the year.

Mnisi had always dreamed of becoming a nurse but could not study towards this career upon finishing school. She however would not let this obstacle hold her back; she decided to become a Community Health Worker instead.

“I saw it [being a CHW] as a path to becoming a nurse. Sadly, I could not pass matric and further my studies. I have always wanted to be a nurse. I’m hoping one day this dream will come true.”

“I’m really happy because I’ve learned a lot, for example, the importance of pregnant women booking early at the clinic. This ensures that any illness they may have can be treated early and does not affect their children. They can also get screened for HIV and will know the importance of breastfeeding after giving birth.”

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Champion: Cyndi Mnisi with her 2019 GGC Community Health Worker of the Year award.

Mnisi was confident that she would continue to benefit and learn from the Grow Great Champion’s Programme, and expressed happiness at the knowledge she had so far attained.

“What I’d like to ask of Grow Great is that they help us learn more about deworming. So far, we know how to weigh children and measure their mid upper arm circumferences. I’ve learned a lot and know there’s still more to learn.”

The entire room erupted when it was announced at the awards ceremony that Mnisi and her team leader, Sibongile Novunga, would be heading to Cape Town to see in person the work of the Philani Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Trust and get training from
the programme as well.

She said that resilience and her eagerness to learn and educate others got her far in her
career and earned her respect where she lives.

“I was really excited about going to Cape Town. I wished I could have appeared on TV so that my former colleagues who have left GGC could see that perseverance goes a long way.”

“[Since becoming part of GGC] my community now respects me and sees the value of my work as a CHW because of all the information I now have regarding raising healthy children. It is fulfilling to see an improvement in a child’s health after referring them to the clinic. You feel proud watching them grow and doing well at school.

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“I also feel good when parents register their children’s births with Home Affairs and are able to collect grants for their children following the advice that I’ve given them. I always encourage mothers to breastfeed as well.”

It is not often that one hears of a community openly appreciating and acknowledging the important work of CHWs, but this is not the case where Mnisi lives. She and her colleagues have built close relationships with the people they take care of.

“We can already see changes in our community in terms of their overall health and wellbeing. I like that I can see children growing up as healthy as they should because of my work and that their mothers take comfort in the fact that their children are in safe hands.

“I must say that the hardest thing about our work is that sometimes there is only so much one can do. I regularly encounter mothers not wanting to breastfeed and that affects their children’s health and puts them at risk of being stunted. Despite this,
I always advise my colleagues not to ever give up because we help mothers and children in a big way.”

According to Mnisi, GGC has opened doors for her in ways that she could not have imagined.

“I had never come to Limpopo before the ceremony and on the same day I got told that I would be going to Cape Town, it was unbelievable! When we started, there were 20 of us
[CHWs]. Two passed on and several left the programme, but I told myself that I will persevere and that has paid off. I won an amount of money that I’d never even had in my life before for my hard work, and got to see Cape Town thanks to GGC.”

*This article is from the first issue of our 2020 edition of our On The Field CHW magazine.