The value of volunteers
Whilst carrying out our evaluation of the SAFE strategy to control trachoma in 8 countries, I have been struck by the contribution made by many volunteers. In addition to the impressive work carried out by the health teams, in some places we found community volunteers performing a valuable role. One example from Ethiopia springs to mind; despite slim resources and no promise of reward, a community health volunteer and member of a women’s association, having learnt about trachoma during a one day training, used her initiative and skills to play her part in controlling trachoma by making her own teaching aids to raise awareness about trachoma in schools and in her community. While there are obviously many matters for debate when we consider what should and should not be expected of volunteers in primary health care, we should not forget the energy which can be generated in projects which allow people to feel that they can make a difference to the health of their community.