Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
08.30 2018

Learning to Talk to Young People

DREAMS Innovation Challenge | Success Story

Funding from the DREAMS Innovation Challenge supports the expansion of Malawi’s mobile health hotline Chipatala cha pa Foni (CCPF), or Health Center by Phone. Implemented by VillageReach and its partners, CCPF for Adolescents builds on the existing toll-free hotline to improve access to youth-friendly sexual reproductive health (SRH) information and referral services. CCPF for Adolescents operates in two DREAMS project districts that have high rates of unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections/HIV among adolescents.

SRH services for young people must be supportive, client-centered, judgment-free, affordable and accessible. In June 2017, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI), a leader in the delivery of youth-friendly SRH care, provided training to VillageReach hotline workers. VillageReach staff developed an understanding of how to support the needs of their young clients, while PPGNHI staff heard about the life-saving work that CCPF does in communities across Malawi.

VillageReach staff at the CCPF hotline worker training

PPGNHI also conducted a training of trainers (TOT) for 27 people from CCPF’s leadership and the VillageReach team to ensure sustained capacity to uphold youth-friendly services. One of the staff who participated in this training was Patience Tchongwe, CCPF’s hotline supervisor. When it was Patience’s turn to facilitate TOT, she told the PPGNHI trainers she was nervous because she wanted her words to be “right.” Her words were more than “right,” they were powerful and focused.

Patience was very thoughtful in the way she presented information in training. She listened more than she talked, giving participants room to learn and discuss on their own. Her ability to present clear information assured her staff in meeting CCPF’s high standards of service. Patience also highlighted challenges to delivering youth-friendly services, including community perceptions about “appropriate” behavior for adolescents and how that can influence provider biases, and ultimately the quality of care provided. Her collaborative approach created a space for on-going professional development and collective learning that will promote hotline workers’ ability to have conversations that serve youth in a way that best meets their needs.

“The training taught me the importance of being non-judgmental when giving adolescents information to help them make informed decisions,” says Patience.

Participant evaluations showed that hotline workers gained a greater understanding of the need to provide youth-friendly SRH services. Additionally, participants demonstrated increased knowledge about contraception, STIs—including HIV—and prevention. They also expressed a strong desire to continue to build their skills.

VillageReach staff in team-building exercises at the CCPF hotline worker training

In September and October 2017, Patience and her fellow TOT participants put their newly acquired skills to work, leading training sessions for a group of new hotline workers. The additional staff will support CCPF’s national expansion to all 28 districts in 2018—a joint effort of Malawi’s Ministry of Health, mobile carrier Airtel, VillageReach, and other partners.

PPGNHI and VillageReach will continue to work together to support future iterations of the training, ensuring that new hotline workers receive the same high-quality training as the colleagues they join, and providing refresher courses for staff to practice youth-friendly service provision and increase their knowledge about young people’s health.

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Malawi healthcare worker