Success with CHWs Asthma

Meet Melinda Banks

What drew you into the CHW profession?

I applied for the CHW position because I was looking to make a career change outside of the U.S. Postal Service. I had no idea what this position entailed. All I knew is that it was an outreach position and I enjoy helping people in need so I thought, why not give it a try. Now I realize the importance of being a CHW and how our help positively impacts individuals and our communities.

What’s your most memorable experience working as a CHW?

My most memorable experience working as a CHW was during my first week when I was shadowing my colleague on a follow up visit. The participant lived in a room big enough to fit her twin sized bed and a small dresser; all of her belongings were stacked to the ceiling. There were no chairs in her room so she handed us buckets and pillows to sit on. I learned that she was a victim of domestic violence; her husband kicked her out of the house. He was a business owner and he changed the ownership of his businesses over to his son’s name so that he wouldn’t have to pay her anything. She managed to find a place that rented rooms to undocumented people. She makes a living by making small flowers out of wires and helping the building owner with maintenance. She gets her groceries from the food pantry. Even through all of the hurt and pain that she went through she maintained a positive attitude and was excited for a new beginning. She was finally HAPPY! She also managed to bring her A1C to 6.5 from 14 at the start of the program.

What is the biggest challenge in your work and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge for me has been being able to “unload” all of the stories, hurt, and trauma of the participants. Through attending CHW monthly meetings, a colleague’s shoulder and ear, and my own spiritual grounding, I am able to unload their stories and not take them home with me. Of course we can never un-see and un-hear the many situations and struggles of the participants but knowing that CHWs are a positive force in their lives and are able to help them in some kind of way…well, there are just no words!

Republished with the permission of the Mount Sinai Health System.

Related to: CHW Profiles