September 18th, 2010 by INMED
Posted in Uncategorized|
Did someone say September 18th?! Somehow the time has flown here in Kijabe and I will be departing Nairobi tomorrow night! I have almost been in Kenya for five weeks, which somehow blows my mind. The weeks have run or maybe sprinted would be a more adequate description. Yesterday I finished my last workday at the hospital and so I now just have the weekend to pack up, say goodbye, and revel in my final experiences of Kenya (chapati included).
This past week was a little different than the rest. I was still working with the AIDS Relief group, but a short term mission team from Ohio was in for the week, working closely with AIDS Relief, so they thought it would be great if I joined in. Part of the Ohio team put on a “pastors seminar” for the first part of the week. I joined in on some of this as it wasn’t based much in public health, but it served as a great networking opportunity, not to mention, support and encouragement for pastors around the area. These pastors are connected with the AIDS Relief Program as many host the support groups for our HIV clients in their churchs. So, community networking was key here.
Several of the days I was able to go out with the other half of the Ohio team to do home visits to HIV clients in the program. It was a good marriage of cultures as we went along with the Kenyan community nurses and community health facilitators who have ongoing relationships with the clients and the American team who was experiencing much of the poverty and desperate situations of Kenya for the first time. Also, it was a good marriage of care as the Kenyan workers conducted their normal follow-up visits that included assessing the client’s phyisical and psychosocial complaints and monitoring medication adherence, whereas the American team was ready to listen to and pray for needs and provide food and clothing, thus addressing spiritual and basic physical needs. For me, it hit the heartbreaking string a little more powerfully as we went to a new area (for me) where the poverty was obviously more ramant. The city, Maaimahiu, is located down the hill from Kijabe, right at the base of the Rift Valley. It was hot, dry, dusty…whereas the hills several thousand feet above them are green, fertile and thus able to generate income. Most of the clients we visited there were single women with several children and new babies. There is not much there to generate income, but it is located on the main highway that leads toward Uganda, and so many find money as sex workers. Not surprisingly many have found HIV as well.
Yesterday we went to do some visits in the IDP (internally displaced people) camps down in the valley – something I have been wanting to do since I arrived! Most of these people are Kikuyu who came from the Western province as a result of the post election violence in 2007. The first camp we stopped at was quite impressive and seemed to be doing well. One hundred forty five families and 876 individuals, all living in well-constructed mud houses with tin roofs and gardens growing everywhere, despite the dry land surrounding them. They still have great needs, but their resilience was astounding to me. The next camp over did not appear so settled as most families were still living in tarp tents supplied by UNHCR. Again, struggling to survive, but each person was so welcoming and joyful to see visitors. The community health worker who is in charge of these populations was more than impressive. A Kenyan, she loves to visit these people, is an advocate for their health, and is even working closely with families who have had their human rights violated and is connecting them with lawyers in Nairobi.
And so, have had a little bit of a laid back week, but I count the home visits and the ability to see the reality of life and the needs in these areas as a privilege. Not to mention, what may have been the highlight of my week: working in the hospital kitchen on Wednesday, something I have wanted to do since week one. There is something about defying expectations and working with people who others think are near the bottom of the food chain. Plus, my curiosity about food is just undeniable. Most of the day I traveled out to the wards to serve meals to the patients, which was just entertaining to many as they saw the “mzungu” in the kitchen apron. The kitchen staff adopted me as their own in that short time and somehow I am readily responding to my new African name. I was answering to “Wambui” the whole day (as one of the drivers for AIDS Relief had given me a Kikuyu name previously). At least if all else fails, at least I’ve provided some entertainment…