“After losing five people due to COVID, I wanted to encourage others and be a change agent”. Chris “Champ” Napier recently obtained his Community Health Worker certificate. Champ currently works as a client advocate for the Mobile County defender’s office.
From the start of childhood, Champ was exposed to gun violence, witnessing the death of his father at only 4 years old. At the age of 18, Champ was sentenced to life following what he describes as a drug deal gone wrong.
Life in and after prison
Champ was transferred to six different facilities during his time in prison, witnessing the system firsthand. He states that prison was a culture shock, he noticed how easy it was to give up mentally and not only be in prison physically but also mentally. Champ never gave up, refusing to let prison kill his spirit. He focused his time on books, reading the works of Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, and George Jackson. He was able to express himself through writing, eventually leading to the publishing of his memoir, Poverty and Prison: Frustrations Of My Past.
Life after incarceration can be tough for many individuals post-incarceration due to the lack of resources and opportunities available. After 15 years, Champ was paroled and set free from prison at 33 years old. At age 44, Champ was pardoned, this was also when he voted for the first time. Champ notes that life and adjusting to what seemed like a new world was challenging, from learning new technology to searching for jobs.
Advocating within his community
In Mobile, Alabama- or what Champ describes as a place that is 421 years behind, the Black community has some distrust of the medical system- and for good reason. Champ notes the Tuskegee experiment, which only took place about 50 years ago a mere few hours from Mobile.
Champ lost a few loved ones to COVID-19. He wanted to encourage others in his community who may be resistant to vaccination, as well as provide resources to his community.
Defining what CHW means
Champ defines community health workers as people who are enlisted and engaged to help with health disparities. He recently obtained his CHW certificate and is excited to share information with the less fortunate. He also hopes to be a beacon of light, to show others that change is possible.