Early in the COVID-19 response, the Midlands Region recognized the need to get messaging out to sometimes hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations such as the elderly, Hispanic, migrant camps, homeless, African-American and Native American. In order to better serve this need, the first Community Health Workers (CHW) came on board in May.
A CHW is someone who has an intimate knowledge of the community and its people as well as a trusted member of that community.
“Not only do I engulf myself into my community, but I also can make a positive impact for people,” Layla Zarif said. “I love that my job lets me spend more time in a county that I am so in love with.”
That relationship allows the CHW to reach those who may not be reached in other ways and to become a liaison between these populations and community resources, including DHEC and other health agencies.
“I love being a CHW because I enjoy helping people, relationship building, community collaboration and helping to connect people with resources and access to care,” Hazel Lowman said.
While the CHW’s were hired for COVID response, they are quickly becoming an integral part of the outreach efforts in the Midlands.
They are promoting testing sites and sharing COVID-19 materials and information with businesses, organizations and individuals. They are also participating in community events and developing relationships at an individual level.
To better help them build the trust that is essential to their jobs, they also share other important information in addition to COVID. They have been involved with food box giveaways, promoting the Census, assisting with WIC and medical appointments and many others.
From their interactions, the region has learned of additional languages that materials should be translated into and how to integrate services into specific populations or neighborhoods, to name a few.
“I became a CHW when I saw that our communities, states, country and entire world was in desperate need of trustworthy education and guidance to take control of health advocacy in the midst of a pandemic,” Katherine Brown said. “Now I can see that even without a pandemic our communities need passionate CHWs who are here for the people to help guide individuals and families to a healthier life.”
Taylor Houser sees herself as part of a team addressing the needs of the communities that she serves.
“Being a Community Health Worker allows me to play my part in bettering the lives of those around me and better myself through continuous education and exposure to new ideas and information,” she said.
The CHW’s in the Midlands have become an important part of the Community Systems Team, collaborating with the core team and the outreach team on a seamless approach to this work. Each part of the team has its own role, but all work together toward an overall goal of reaching the greatest number of people.
CHW’s enter the field for many reasons, but the overarching quality is a strong desire to serve others.
“Simply put, there is more happiness in giving than in receiving and showing compassion to the least of these my brothers as a Good Samaritan provides riches that money cannot buy,” Bruce Wright said.