SItting on the friendship bench 

A community or lay health worker is a member of the community who has received some training to promote health or to carry out some health-care services, but is not a health-care professional.


Community or lay health worker programmes were promoted in many countries in the 1970s and 1980s, but many were abandoned as they failed to realise the potential demonstrated in several initiatives led by nongovernmental organisations and in national programmes such as China’s “barefoot doctors.” With recent evidence of their effectiveness, and in the context of the health workforce crisis, interest in lay health workers has increased and many countries are again investing in national programmes. READ MORE...


The Friendship Bench lay health workers deliver a talk therapy at primary care level to help people suffering from anxiety and depression, known locally as "kufungisisa" translated literally into "thinking too much".

Lay health workers are employed by the city health authorities Harare, Zimbabwe, and therefore represent a sustainable option to provide this task-shifting treatment approach.


The LHW have become known as community "Grandmothers," they are trained to listen to and support patients living with anxiety, depression and other common mental disorders.

Lay health workers were trained by Friendship Bench clinicians over a 3 week period. Training was done with a manual so information could be carried with them afterwards, it was written in English as well as Shona, there was a focus on being culturally relevant.

Training  consisted of a morning check in, and a song, role playing, chapter lessons from the manual, group conversations, questions and answers, written summary of the day, then once again the day was rounded up with a check in on feelings and a song.

 " I used to give advice to my clients, now I have learned to work with them through their problems which helps them much more. I can also use it for myself and my family." 


OPENING THE MIND  •  Kuvhura Pfungwa

This phrase refers to the therapeutic process by which, through asking questions, clients are encouraged to open their minds to identify their problems, choose one to work on, identify a feasible solution, and agree on an action plan guided by the lay health workers.  


CREDIT: Rainer Kwiotek

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4 Weale Road

Milton Park

Harare, Zimbabwe

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