Sunday, May 16, 2010

Well it’s been another busy couple of weeks with the addition of two new staff members and planning for a series of entrepreneurial trainings for groups to be funded by the VHI micro-finance program. I’m also getting ready to go for a Safari with my parents who arrive in Kenya on May 24!! I am looking forward to some time off and will hopefully be positing some interesting animal pictures the next time I write here!! J

So the past week took us to visit a number of people who are members of HIV groups. These are difficult people to visit for many reasons but logistically they generally live quite far apart from each other and they always seem to be in the upper reaches of the mountain just before the forest. I think I have mentioned before that HIV still holds a very bad stigma, in fact I have found that several members of these HIV groups will claim they have not be tested or they are negative. I find this curious as I am told the members often meet each other when they go to the clinic for their ARVs (Anti-RetroViral drugs) and start their groups that way rather than teaming up with neighbors. I imagine many of these folks are afraid of what I may think and are perhaps fearful of their status getting out to their relatives and neighbors. On the other hand there are many who say they are “positive living positively!”

So on a more observational note I wanted to write about how I really dislike the schooling system here in Kenya. As you know my apartment is about 15 feet away from an all girls’ primary boarding school. I am generally an early riser at about 6am and find the lights to the school already on and the girls saying their lessons, singing or cleaning their classrooms, often awaken me. They are up by 4 every morning and work until 9pm every night! I’m not sure how much free time they get and they are in classes both Saturday and Sunday. The academic year is divided up into trimesters January 1 to March 30, May 1 to July 31; September 1 to November 30 with breaks in April, August and December. These month-long ‘breaks’ often include a period of 2 weeks called “Tuition” where the kids are basically ‘studying’ rather than having time off. I am not sure the percentage but I think more than half of the Kenyan youth in school are attending a boarding school. These schools are often far away from home where their mother tongue is not spoken. I’m not saying boarding school is bad, it just seems the value of family is overshadowed by it.

Living so close to a school has certainly increased my awareness of how strict it is and how much time the children spend there. I must say that during the month of April I was actually able to meet school aged children while doing home health visits. It was lovely! I realized how much I missed kids. I’m not talking about a classroom of children staring at me and saying hello with an annoying nasal intonation, but kids at home with their parents or out exploring with their friends and doing things kids do! I remember the time I spent in Senegal was enhanced by the presence of children. They have a lot more patience than adults and when they are left to be kids, they have a lot more time too.

Recently I’ve been talking with some of my Kenyan friends about Meru culture and how it seems to be dying out. When the only singing you hear is old English hymns and dancing is pretty much non-existent and the schools in town are looming and closed off and exclusive its no wonder the culture is dying. It seems that globalization and access to images of foreign things that represent success and gratification add to the problem. This is not to say that globalization is all bad. Without it I would not be here now distributing mosquito nets in an attempt to lessen the occurrences of malaria and malaria related deaths. But as I do this work and reflect on my few experiences living outside the US, I am constantly brought back to the question of, how people survived and evolved for thousands of years without any of the conveniences of modernity when we cannot seem to now?

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It’s May 2 and I have less than 3 months left!

The past couple of weeks have been busy orienting a new Community Health Nurse and getting ready for two new Group Coordinators to start tomorrow! Somehow I got the task of developing the orientations. I guess it has a lot to do with knowing what I missed when I started and wanting to make the transition easier for everyone else. I just hope I’m up to the task…

So unfortunately I never relocated my camera. L But at least VHI has been kind enough to let me use the office camera and I’ve included some pictures here.

As you can see (and imagine) support for Obama is strong here. I even found this small restaurant aka hotel far off the beaten path. I wonder how many Americans know Obama is their 44th President? Impressive… Also the baby I’m holding was named Michelle by her big brother in honor of our 1st Lady. J

All this support for Americans aside I have to say I am not so happy about what some American politicians are doing here in Kenya today. Currently Kenyans are registering to vote on a new draft of their Constitution. As always in politics there are people who are against change and with so many controversial aspects, people begin to nit-pick rather than look at the document as a whole. What gets me is when certain groups use their influence to sway the populace when their role should be anything but political. All in all I don’t have the right to judge as I am not a Kenyan and morally I should not try to influence anyone by giving my opinion. However, it would appear that some political groups from the US are pouring money into the debate and meddling in affairs where they have no business. Perhaps I am na├»ve and I know this is how politics have been done for time in memoriam. Nevertheless, it still grates my nerves.

So on a lighter note…

For the Community Health Nurse’s first week we did our Home Health Visits in pretty mountainous terrain. It was lovely as you can see from my pictures. I also fell in love. His name is Lenny Muchui! He’s an 8-year-old orphan whose grandmother was our guide for the day. Muchui accompanied his grandmother and sat in the front seat of the Land Rover next to me. Needless to say he got lots of sweets that day from yours truly.J Muchui sang his ABCs and was engaged with us all day when most other 8 year olds would have been bored out of their minds. He also provided an excellent segue for our nurse and what her role with our organization will be. Apparently Muchui has some hearing problems. Fortunately it is caused by impacted earwax and can be relieved by a very simple and inexpensive procedure. However, if Muchui doesn’t have this taken care of soon, he could sustain permanent damage.

Like so many hospitals and doctor’s offices, the hospital here in Chogoria deals with a lot of patients and has a few doctors and nurses to deal with their needs. This causes for problems like Muchui’s impacted earwax to go untreated. Fortunately Muchui has a scheduled visit coming up and our nurse will connect with he and his grandmother to advocate and guide them to get the treatment he needs. I hope to see him again soon too!