Lived experiences of community empowerment programme workers participating in a community empowerment programme.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and governmental organizations are united in their goal to develop and implement community empowerment programmes (CEPs). The researcher explored the lived experiences of HIV/AIDS Community Empowerment Programme Workers (CEPWs) participating in two CEPs in Ladysmith, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, a lower socio-economic area. The researcher further explored recommendations for the development of CEPs based on the lived experience of CEPW’s. Methodologically, data was explored using a qualitative hermeneutic phenomenological approach as described by the phenomenologist Van Manen (1990). The researcher found that the CEPW participants “gave themselves” by responding to a need with passionate engagement. The successes of the CEP motivated CEPWs to remain involved and encouraged community members to approach the CEPWs for support and assistance. Community ownership of the CEP; seeing results; careful selection of the volunteers; monitoring and evaluation was viewed as factors contributing to the sustainability of a CEP. Particular emphasis was put on care in selection of volunteers, and there was a range of opinion on the preferred characteristics of a CEPW. Factors mentioned were humility, a caring, disposition, sensitivity and courteousness, commitment to their community, trustworthiness, ability to maintain confidentiality and respect for culture. The ability to read and write English was also seen as an advantage. Recommendation flowing from the research were that communities must be involved in all aspects of the CEP. Health professionals must respect the community, and their value systems. Upskilling and resource management were cited as important empowering factors. Participants felt that CEPs must reduce dependency yet still explore governmental and NGO support. Participants had divided views on the contractual engagement of CEPWs. The participants emphasized the importance of financial and resource-management reports and accountability of supervisors and CEP directors. Health professionals and CEPWs alike need to acknowledge and be prepared to defer to the first-hand knowledge and experience of the community members they serve.