“I used to do health education for indigenous individuals there. I did eye care education, eyeglass fittings, things of that nature. We created space for indigenous folks to see,” says Andrea Krozter-Burton, Vice President of Training at Everyday Life Consulting and a Master CHW.
It was on her third visit to Vicente Guerrero that Krotzer-Burton assisted an older man who worked for local farmers. “His cataracts were so bad that he had had very poor vision for a very long time. When we were able to provide eye drops and put on a pair of glasses to help him see, the look on his face was so amazing.”
Krotzer-Burton smiles here. “I helped bring sight to him for the very first time in probably 15 years. I was helping him see the world and all of its colors and all of its beauty. It was amazing.”
Learning her role
Since these volunteer experiences in Vincente Guerrero, Krotzer-Burton has only continued and enhanced her servant’s work. She has worked in optometrist and ophthalmologist offices where she educated and provided resources to individuals suffering from eye conditions. She then became a family liaison for a rural school system. There, she connected families to vital resources to empower them, help them find hope, and build self-sufficiency.
But despite nearly three decades in community health work, Krotzer-Burton didn’t know that she was a CHW until meeting Shannon Lijewski. “I had never even heard of the term ‘CHW’ until I met Shannon through United Way. As we were having coffee and meeting, she asked, ‘How long have you been a CHW?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard that term, that’s not my job title.’”
Through her research and conversations with professionals in the field, Krotzer-Burton developed her own understanding of the CHW role. “A CHW is a compassionate individual with a very large heart, someone who has the power and confidence to encourage, embrace, and empower the community members and individuals they serve.” With this new understanding, Krotzer-Burton says, “I was shocked that I was a community health worker and hadn’t even known it.”
Becoming a CHW expert
After realizing that she was a CHW, Krotzer-Burton sought formal educational opportunities in the field. She was quickly chosen to become a CHW trainer based on her decades of experience and her passion for educating others. “I started kind of backward,” she says with a laugh. “I did train-the-trainer first and then became a certified CHW. But I had been a CHW for years before getting the certification.”
Since becoming a trainer and certified CHW, Krotzer-Burton has led Everyday Life Consulting’s CHW training for the past 5 years. She also facilitates Mental Health First Aid training and additional training courses. Students love Krotzer-Burton for her honesty, integrity, and relatability. And they especially enjoy how she adapts each class to make the content relatable and applicable to students’ lived and professional experiences.
“Anyone can be educated in a subject matter, but unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, you don’t have the ability to empathize with individuals going through it,” Krotzer-Burton explains. That’s why she makes an effort to provide as many hands-on activities as possible for her students. She works hard to learn about and understand each student so that she can make connections between their lived experiences and the content she’s teaching them. “When you can relate to individuals on that deeper, empathetic level, that’s when they see you for who you are as a real person.”
And to Krotzer-Burton, empathy is the most important aspect of successful CHWs. Empathy gives CHWs the ability to embrace, encourage, and empower others – just as Krotzer-Burton has done for 26 years.
“We aren’t here because of our status or education. We’re here because we’ve aligned ourselves with the community members and professionals to be the bridge. We give community members a voice and provide them with hope for a brighter future.”