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Q+A: Mathews, Chabbs Cluster

MATHEWS MONDE is an award-winning health worker from Zambia. He's also the Mobiliser of Chabbs Cluster in the country's rural south. He's been telling us how the Cluster has shaped him.

Not long ago, you quit a comfortable job as a health worker in Zambia’s Ministry of Health. Why? Well I looked at the systems the government uses: some of them were good, but some of them were less good. Too much of it was about doing things to a community rather than with them, and so they failed. My motivation is community and wellness, and I felt I could have more impact on these things outside of the system rather than inside. Now I can challenge people’s ideas, introduce new ways of thinking, and focus on work that has more impact.

Was being in our network a factor in this decision? Yes, I think so. Arukah Network has widened my scope of thinking. As a public health professional, it’s shifted my perspective of community health so that I put participating before prescribing. That’s a huge change. It means that I can now use my scientific knowledge alongside local understanding, and increase my impact. In 2016 I won a government award for being my region’s “most innovative” health worker, and people would ask me “where do you get these ideas from?’ and I could say I got them from the Cluster and from SALT.

Tell us what you’re doing now, aside from your Cluster work. The government has a big plan to eliminate Malaria in Zambia. They’ve contracted me to train community health workers to help with this. I've been able to introduce things I've learnt from the Cluster into this, like the philosophy of SALT. How did you first hear about the Cluster idea? It was 2013. My friend Elvis – a member of Arukah Network – introduced the idea to me. The principles were so attractive – it’s what I had been looking for. And I thought it was the way to go. What’s your proudest Cluster achievement? It’s coming together as a community to share resources in the smallest and simplest of ways, and to understand our common desires and concerns. This is a bigger achievement than things like better sanitation – I see that as a sub-achievement. Understanding that local capacities can solve our challenges - this is the biggest thing. These are things people have not done before. What’s the biggest challenge in the Cluster? Mobilising resources that are beyond our Cluster, like facilities to build damns, drill bore holes or gain certain skills. In Zambia, it’s challenging to form partnerships with people beyond our community. We don’t struggle to work within our community, but we struggle to find in-country partners. What are your hopes for the future? Sustaining the gains we’ve already made, seeing more neighbourhoods in Gwembe District coming on board like in Chisekesi, and having more local leaders come on board with what we’re doing. There’s so much power in connectivity. The more connected we are the better. If the world begins to see that God created us as social beings, and that human endeavours often disconnect us, then we can achieve things like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is what the Cluster approach does.

Learn more about Chabbs Cluster in this video.


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