A community-based volunteer in Chongwe District learns how to use her camera

Masompenya: A project using the photo voice method

Featuring Chongwe District Community-Based Volunteers

This is part one of a two-part series highlighting the Masompenya initiative launched by the 2016–2017 Global Health Corps fellow cohort in Zambia. See here for part two.

People often say “a picture is worth a thousand words” to describe the way in which a photo can convey a complex idea or problem in a way that words simply fail to achieve. This concept is the premise behind the photo voice method, which uses photography to empower individuals and groups to bring new insights and perspectives to an issue affecting their community.

Global Health Corps (GHC) encourages fellows to share stories of their experiences working in health equity. In this spirit, the 2016–2017 class of GHC fellows in Zambia sought to empower an important cadre of healthcare providers to share their experiences through photography and storytelling. In a country with 0.16 physicians for every 1,000 people, community-based volunteers (CBVs) fill an important gap. Through their tireless work on the ground in urban and remote rural areas, CBVs have transformed access to healthcare in Zambia and are instrumental in lowering the burden of many diseases.

CBVs do this work on a voluntary basis. They are farmers and entrepreneurs who volunteer to help health organizations carry out their work. CBVs fill roles as diverse as HIV and malaria testers, motherhood mentors, and data collectors. Their knowledge and commitment to bettering their communities is invaluable, but they remain overworked and under-represented in today’s health landscape. At any given time, CBVs are learning health delivery skills, juggling data collection commitments, or traveling far from home — all as volunteers, which makes their success even more extraordinary.

Following the photo voice method, we hosted three workshops where fellows taught basic photography and storytelling techniques to 15 CBVs in Chongwe District, Central Province. Fellows provided each CBV with a disposable camera to capture moments in their everyday life that highlight an aspect of their challenging work. Then CBVs selected photos and wrote an accompanying story about their work to be showcased at an exhibition with a wider audience of stakeholders.

By empowering CBVs to share the stories of their work through photography, we hoped to shine a spotlight on the value of CBVs as the unsung heroes of public health in Zambia.

Workshop One

Workshop one presenters with the CBVs and their cameras

In workshop one, GHC fellows explained the principles of the photo voice method, then taught Chongwe District community-based volunteers basic photography techniques, principles of photo composition, and the importance of consent. Fellows distributed disposable cameras to participants and taught them how to use the cameras. Participants decided on a name for their project: Masompenya.

Ma·som·pen·ya \mah-some-pen-yeah\ adv 1. To focus 2. Eyes wide open
GHC fellows arrive at Chongwe District Hospital to meet the CBVs (Left to right: Mulenga Mukanu, Bevis Phiri, Aimee Edmondo, Madalitso Phiri, Z’Kera Sims)
GHC fellow Aimee Edmondo explains introductory principles of photography with CBVs
CBVs receive cameras
CBVs practice using their cameras

Workshop Two

Workshop two presenters with the CBVs after discussing photographic storytelling

After spending a week taking photos in their communities, community-based volunteers returned their cameras in the second workshop. Fellows focused on reviewing their experiences and imparting storytelling tools and techniques. Dr. Charles Msiska, Chongwe District Health Administrator, offered encouraging words for the community-based volunteers and reiterated their important role in healthcare provision.

Workshop two presenters (Left to right: Phillip Siwila, Chipasha Mwansa, Reuben Kaponde, Titilope Akinlose)
Chongwe District Health Administrator, Dr. Msiska, talks with the CBVs about the importance of their work
GHC fellow Reuben Kaponde leads CBVs in a discussion about storytelling though photography
CBVs participate in energizers during workshop two

Workshop Three

Workshop three presenters and CBVs

At the third workshop, participants received their photos and chose their favorite photos for display based on photo composition and the stories that could be elicited from them. GHC fellows helped participants to craft stories depicted in their photos.

GHC fellows with Mitolo Musumba, Public Health Officer at Chongwe District Hospital (Left to right: Tamara Mulenga, Alice Mapulanga, Mitolo Musumba, Annie Martin, Bevis Phiri)
GHC fellow Alice Mapulanga discusses crafting stories with the CBVs
CBVs review their photos for composition
CBVs begin writing their captions

Photo Exhibition

Earlier this year, GHC Zambia fellows held a photo exhibition in Lusaka for the community-based volunteers from Chongwe District to showcase their photos to a wider audience of stakeholders — including government, implementing partners and donors supporting community-based health efforts in Zambia.

Mr. Siamantanga, the National Coordinator for Community-Based Volunteers for the Ministry of Health, and Dr. Msiska, Chongwe District Health Administrator, provided remarks at the event and voiced their continued support for the efforts of these key volunteers and the stories they have to tell.

CBVs see their photos displayed for the first time
Guests from implementing partners, donors, and GHC placement organizations view CBV photos
Mr. Siamantanga, National Coordinator for Community-Based Volunteers at MOH, offers opening remarks to CBVs and guests at the photo exhibition
Additional CBV photography adorns trees at the venue
CBVs discuss their photos with guests at the exhibition
Alex explains his work as a CBV with a USAID representative
CBV Justin describes the health-related implications of poor water access in his community to guests at the photo exhibition
Dr. Misiska, Chongwe District Health Administrator, expresses his gratitude for the work of CBVs and the power of telling their stories through photos
CBV Dismas Mwale talks to the local media about the Masompenya project and his experience as a CBV
CBVs receive certificates for their participation in Masompenya from Ms. Musuma, Mr. Siamantanga, Dr. Msiska, and GHC fellow Stacey Naggiar
Chongwe District CBVs and the GHC Zambia Fellows of 2016–17

Follow-Up

GHC Zambia fellows met up with the Chongwe District CBVs two months after the photo exhibit to present them with a few tools to assist them in their provision of services to their communities, including day packs, rain boots, latex gloves, and stationery.

GHC fellows with Chongwe CBVs and their new backpacks

This is part one of a two-part series highlighting the Masompenya initiative launched by the 2016–2017 Global Health Corps fellow cohort in Zambia. See here for part two.

Acknowledgements: The 2016–2017 class of GHC fellows wish to express sincere gratitude to those who donated to this project (in particular, our friends, family members, and colleagues). Special thanks to Dr. Msiska, Dr. Simiantanga, and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Zambia for your partnership with GHC Zambia and your support for Masompenya. Mitolo, your help arranging this event and organizing the CBVs and EHTs was immeasurable, and we are immensely grateful. To the CBVs, for your hard work every day making sure the most vulnerable are seen with eyes wide open — zikomo, natotela, luitumezi, twalumba, thank you.