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Inspiring Community Health Volunteerism
December 10, 2014

Isaac Ampomah believes that everyone deserves good health. That’s why in 2002 the social entrepreneur and health educator founded the nonprofit Concern Health Education Project in the La Dade-Kotopon municipality of Accra, Ghana.

“I started Concern to ensure effective community participation in health care and to act as a mouthpiece for the vulnerable,” he said.

Four men showing tuberculosis poster to seated woman washing clothes in pan (Courtesy of Isaac Ampomah)
Concern Health Education volunteers teach Ghanaians how they can prevent the spread of tuberculosis. Photo Courtesy of Isaac Ampomah.

Ampomah, 36 years old and a YALI Network member, recruits and trains volunteers to deliver disease-prevention messages to people living in low-income, overcrowded neighborhoods. Homes in these areas frequently are poorly ventilated, posing a risk for the spread of tuberculosis (TB). Poor sanitation facilities and a lack of clean water around these homes contribute to the spread of other preventable diseases like cholera, malaria and hepatitis, Ampomah said.

So far, Ampomah has trained 120 volunteers to visit homes and talk to residents about the importance of hand-washing, good hygiene and proper food handling. They look for people who exhibit symptoms of TB and refer them to local health centers for free screenings and, if necessary, free treatment.

“Their counseling techniques go a long way to getting people to the centers,” Ampomah said.

Volunteers also visit TB patients to ensure they follow through on the long course of daily medications needed to cure TB. They protect patient privacy as they engage community members to reduce the stigma of TB. They encourage pregnant women and people in other vulnerable groups being treated for TB to get tested for HIV.

To reach as many people as possible, Concern also uses posters, television and radio to heighten public awareness about the disease and its transmission.

Concern’s efforts are supported by Ghana’s national TB control program, which distributes grants from the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and by business and individual donors, Ampomah said. He added that he even takes on added jobs to cover Concern’s operating costs. With more funding, the group could reach even more communities, he said.

Two teens standing and one sitting with an older man holding a leaflet (Courtesy of Isaac Ampomah)
Concern Health Education volunteers give a man TB and HIV leaflets and advise him to be tested. Photo Courtesy of Isaac Ampomah.

Ampomah recruits health-education volunteers from the communities he visits. “Volunteers are inspired to be involved in finding TB cases,” he said. “They can choose which projects they want to work on. They are young and old and represent different cultures. They have the passion to assist the community. They see their service as humanitarian.”

At the end of every project Concern recognizes each volunteer with a health education award.

Ampomah’s parents encouraged him to go to school and to help others. In addition to health and volunteer management, Ampomah has studied human rights, climate change and local government management, he said.

On YALI and Leadership

“I see YALI as a platform for sharing stories,” Ampomah said. “Through this medium, I am confident I will achieve my long-term goal of exchanging learning experiences with stakeholders and international volunteers.”

This Ghanaian native also advises YALI members to have confidence in pursuing their goals. “Do not underestimate your dreams. Put them on paper and develop them in the form of a vision. Then share that with other people who share your ideas and dreams,” Ampomah said.

Given his own experience in founding and leading the Concern Health Education Project, Ampomah suggests similar activities as a means toward personal growth for others. “My advice for other YALI Network members is to become a volunteer in your community and lead a social program. This can be with TB or Ebola prevention education. All youth leaders must show compassion for all persons affected by disease,” he said.