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The Man from Chaya – Elias Banda

By Eric Liswaniso, Program Manager, Malaria Partners Zambia

Community work is tough and requires a lot of sacrifices. To voluntarily serve members of your community day and night without pay is perhaps the highest form of sacrifice. But this is what community health workers have committed to do every day. Determined to eliminate the deadliest killer of infants and adults alike, our community-based volunteers are resolved and determined to play their part.

In all our years of service, perhaps no one personifies sacrifice like Elias Banda. We met Elias Banda on the 4th of June, 2022. He had just graduated from the Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) training program and fired up to take on the challenge of fighting malaria in his community Chaya, some 160 KMs from Mpika town. Chaya is in the middle of a large National Park and is barely accessible by road most times of the year. In fact, we learned that during the rainy season, the area gets cut off due to flooding. [We had had the privilege of driving to Chaya two days prior as part of our monitoring and technical support supervision activities.]

We then found out through the grapevine that it took Elias four days on foot to get to our ICCM training in Mpika. Four days through Zambia’s third-largest national park notorious for Elephants, Lions, Buffaloes and other wild animals. For four days he walked. Got to class. Sat in class without a fuss. Graduated. To Elias this was nothing noteworthy – he just wanted to learn how he could effectively serve his community as a healthcare volunteer. Perhaps it surprised him when we found out about his ordeal through his peers that we were fussing so much about it. Elias should be a Rotarian – because he epitomizes the true spirit of rotary in both his conduct and humble demeanor – service above self.

And so we had the honor of a sit down with this 24-year-old heroic father of two, awed by his dedication and commitment to the only community he’s known all his life. With a swollen leg and recovering from malaria contracted during his journey through the wilderness, this smiley man reminded us all why it is so important that villages like his are deployed with community health workers to respond to emergencies in the dead of night when people there are dead scared to venture out to the nearest clinic for medical care through a deadly park. Now with volunteers like Elias, the community at Chaya no longer has to worry about its family members dying of preventable ailments – Help is here.

Elias was born and raised in Chaya. He has always been the first to put his hand up whenever opportunities to serve his communities have arisen. Grateful for the opportunity to serve – Elias is game to take on malaria.

About the Authors

Eric Liswaniso – Programs Manager, Malaria Partners Zambia

Eric is a trained Information Scientist, Economist, and Business Development Specialist turned Public Health Specialist. He considers his work a calling and says he is most fortunate of all to be in a position where his work contributes to saving lives. After 10 years of dedicated service to his country in the public sector, Eric decided to follow his lifelong dream of doing humanitarian work and he has not looked back since. A Rotarian with dual membership with the Rotary Club of Ndola and the Rotaract Club of Lusaka, Eric is now leading the charge for greater involvement of Rotarians everywhere in the fight to eliminate malaria. Through volunteer engagement, Eric is inspiring Rotarians and Rotaractors across the country and beyond to think-malaria and his work is beginning to yield tangible results. Outside rotary, Eric and his wife, Tania are raising their two-year-old daughter Xaria. They are both public health enthusiasts.

Wongani Zulu – Malaria Surveillance Specialist, World Vision Zambia

Wongani Zulu is a hands-on ICT and data management professional with a wide skillset, strong work ethic, and a track record of being a high achiever. He is a problem-solver who enjoys tackling intellectually-challenging projects and has consistently offered scalable, innovative solutions in cross-cultural environments over the last 15 years. He currently works as Malaria Surveillance Specialist on the Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia project where he is building, enhancing and managing digital tools to make his colleagues’ work easier.

Nkhonde Phiri – President, Rotaract Club of Ndola Mukuba

Nkhonde “Banana” Phiri is a final year medical student at the Copperbelt University and the current president of the Rotaract Club of Ndola Mukuba. She has always felt serving was part of her script and is very passionate about health, education, and the environment. From time in remembrance, she has been enthusiastic and found pleasure in serving humanity. With this background of service, it is no surprise that she was Interact Club President before becoming Rotaract Club President for Ndola Mukuba and is the incoming District Country Coordinator for Zambia. Every other day, Nkhonde appreciates every opportunity to encounter different challenges and be involved within the community and aspires to be a good role model to her peers. After volunteering on the programs of scale malaria elimination project in Muchinga, Nkhonde is now inspiring others in her club to think malaria.

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