Connie Malebane knows that sputum tests are crucial to stopping tuberculosis in her community in South Africa. The test requires that one coughs deeply and spits out any materials that come from the lungs so medical professionals can evaluate the sample. Connie, 22, encourages community members to get screened for TB with this simple procedure, but some in the local villages are unwillling to because of their belief in witchcraft. Despite the cultural barriers, she is determined to educate the population, especially the youth, about how they can control this disease.

Connie is a passionate, the term used for volunteers in the Total Control of the Epidemic, or TCE, program. Since joining in June 2013, she has worked alongside 15 other passionates in the various villages of Nong, Dipere, Rapadi, Monare, Vianeen, Senita, Nkilikitlana and Sterkwater. The results have had a transformative effect on the community.

"Unlike before, people are now going to the clinic for sputum tests," she says. "In the past, they were unaware of the danger of not getting treatment for TB. Now they understand that TB is curable and that treatment at the clinic is free for the community."

TCE uses a community-based approach to disease prevention. The model is built on the understanding that it is only the people themselves who can liberate themselves from epidemics like Tuberculosis and HIV/ADS. The program focuses on mobilizing communities toward behavior change that reduces stigma, strengthens prevention, and sustains treatment. Since it's launch in South Africa in 2002, TCE has reached 4 million people and recruited 200,000 passionates.

"I have seen the impact the program has had in these communities," Connie says. "They are now informed about how to prevent the disease, as well as what symptoms to look out for."

She plans on continuing to volunteer, even after the program ends.

TCE is funded in part by clothing donations received from yellow Planet Aid bins all over the country. Click here to learn more about Planet Aid-funded TCE in South Africa and India, and visit the TCE website for even more information about its programs all over the globe.