Who CHWs Are and Why They Bring So Much Value to Healthcare and the World
Last Thursday, May 28th, CHW Foua Choua Khang facilitated a session on the topic of policy work at the Alliance’s CHW Leadership Development Program. Foua is a CHW Program Director at Hmong American Partnership and a strong CHW leader.
Foua started with a moment of silence and reflection on the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. She then asked the multiracial, multiethnic group of 16 CHWs from across the state if anyone wanted to share feelings and thoughts related to the event.
Justice for George Floyd as well as the need to address racism and commitment to the diverse communities they serve were themes that threaded through the personal stories and heartfelt comments that followed.
One CHW shared that her child is good friends with one of the witnesses to the crime and this has consumed their life since the incident happened. So many emotions! CHWs discussed the need to prepare their children for how to act in situations they should not have to face; how it robs them of innocence.
Another CHW shared the perspective that the tragedy is widespread. She said, “None of those officers went to work that morning thinking they were going to kill someone. They all have families. They have kids that are looking at them wondering about this. They have parents they have to tell about this. It is not one family – it is five families who will be living with this. What they did is not right. They hurt their families and communities as well as Floyd, his family and community.”
The CHW participants thanked Foua for recognizing the elephant in the (Zoom) room, giving them space to talk about it and connect on an issue that impacts them and the communities they serve.
It was a demonstration of CHW character: compassion; a comprehensive view; amplifying voices directly connected to the community that serves as ground zero in this most recent tragedy.
The class moved on with an exercise in negotiation and policy. “The point is to win,” Foua emphasized as she gave instructions and the class broke up into small groups. When the CHW’s returned together to describe how they had “won” in their given scenario, it turned out that every group’s focus was on the common good. To each group, “winning” meant examining ways to help the most people without abandoning the rest. It became a shared mission, and everyone was considered valuable. They thought about future generations and the ways their hypothetical response would be impactful for years to come. They looked for ways everyone could win.
This is not because they are in a leadership class. This is because they are CHWs.
CHWs view the world through a lens of compassion, trust, community, ethics, and win-win solutions. They consider the here and now, and the generations of people who will come after us. This is what we mean when we speak of the “CHW Character.”
These are the leaders we need.