Archive for the 'Health' Category

Measles Vaccinations at Mama Tumaini

A student from the Pepo La Tumaini Early Childhood Development school bravely refuses to cry while recieving a measles vaccination at the Mama Tumaini Clinic.

During September 19th-25th, the Mama Tumaini Health Clinic took part in a nation wide campaign to vaccinate children between the ages of 1 and 5 for measles. Mama Hope’s partner Wind of Hope in the Arid served the surrounding communities as well as several local Early Childhood Development and Primary schools.

By the end of the campaign, 485 children were vaccinated and 514 given vitamin A supplements. Administering the vaccinations were Naiomi Meme, Harriet Gatakaa and Wind of Hope Programme Nurse, Stella Okello.

We’re so proud that our clinic took part in this! Hope you enjoy the pics.

Nearly 150 children were vaccinated on September 23rd.

Children were lead by teachers from local primary schools. Others came on their mother's backs

Children under the age of 1 came for vitamin A suppliments to help with the development of their eyes

Late in the day anxious mother's began entering the clinic worried their children would miss the essential vaccinations. Order was eventually restored

Naiomi Meme (right) administers a Vitamin A supplement

That's it!

Portraits of the Drought: Mwambia

– Bryce

Photos and Video by myself and the Trainers of Trainers, my student group at Wind of Hope.


Isiolo, Kenya sits in the Kaisut desert in East Africa. The area as a whole is currently going through the worst drought in years. Water and food relief have become precious commodities and tribal conflict a regular fixture on the news. I’ve done my best to convey the following within this context.

Mwambia Kiunga, a spoon carver in Isiolo, Kenya.

Mwambia Kiunga, a spoon carver in Isiolo, Kenya.

Mwambia sits in the sun waiting. He shifts his toes in his sandals and wears a faded Muslim kufi on his head. A tired looking brown jacket covers his small frame while his kneecaps poke from behind his trousers.

He’ll tell you he’s 100 years old, but he was born in 1930. His home is a small wooden shack about 3 kilometers from where he’s currently sitting at in the Wind of Hope (WOH) community compound. He enjoys telling war stories and is originally from a good sized town about a 45 minute ride south, called Meru. It was a town of local shops and farmers which have recently given way the Kenyan equivalent of Walmart: Nakumatt.

Looking at him it’s a bit difficult to dispute his claim of 100. He already looked older than Africa when I first met him three years ago. Not much of a dent in his time frame, but his smile of recognition tells me it doesn’t matter. We’re here together again in Isiolo.

We shake hands, smile and try to work up a conversation through my broken Swahili. “Yes, I’ve returned. I’m happy to see you as well. It is very hot. You’ve walked all the way from your home today? How is your home? “ His smile is cheerful, but his eyes are a bit far and watery. Something’s on his mind.

Mwambia is a bit of an indicator here at WOH. When things are well, such as when the HBC (home based care for people living with HIV/AIDS) food distributions are arriving on time (or at all), he can be seen walking near town selling his hand carved wooden spoons. When times are bad, he’s usually sick and bed ridden. A year ago we had to break down his front door to save him from an accidental self-imprisonment. He hadn’t eaten in 3 days and was too weak to unlock his door for help. The amount of clothes he’s wearing makes me think of this; jackets upon jackets when the sun is blazing. His body can’t handle much.

It’s because he’s an indicator that his presence here today has attracted attention. Khadija, the Program Director, and a few others come and sit around us in a circle. He opens up immediately.

For the past week thieves have been coming into his home and stealing his food distributions.

“Everything,” he explains, “my food, my flashlight, my blankets. They’ve come and taken them all.” he pauses, shakes his head and narrows his eyes to the sun. “They are too strong. And they say they will come back. They say: We will come back again and again.”

He goes on for another ten minutes giving details that are not translated. Needless to say his audience is fuming. Angry words dart back and forth. “To where? …took it all? You haven’t eaten in five days? You know who they are? Your neighbor? We know that house. It’s not far at all.”
Before long the group splits. The two men, Nassir and Rojeb shake their heads and wander off in thought. Khadija storms off into the compound and back out again.

“Imagine,” she starts, “they steal from him! What does he have?”

My answer would be a few plastic water containers, a beat up wooden bed frame with a blanket, some rocks for cooking on, a pot and a photo of him with his son taken some 13 years back.

Khadija holds a hand to her chest as if quailing a fire, then goes on.

“They have even come in while he was having an asthma attack. What can you even do? Taking from an old man like that. They just come and take it from his hands. What can he do? And now that they know he gets food relief, how can we stop it?” She pauses and looks away from me, “But it is also because of starvation… This is a very bad signal. When people are like this, they can even start killing each other for food. You know not long ago a lady was killed for an avocado.”

Mwambia's home in the Bula Pesa neightborhood of Isiolo.

Mwambia's home in the Bula Pesa neightborhood of Isiolo.

Ten minutes go by and I’m sitting next to Mwambia again. He’s being put together a care package. Some rice, beans and spinach. To my left is Nyla, she seems overwhelmed by the situation isn’t saying much.

“It’s very bad. I’m sorry.” I say to Mwambia.

“It’s in God’s hands,” he responds.

Lunch is ready and my conscience is starting to nudge me because of it. We all get plates of warm corn boiled in salt and milk. Mwambia refuses his and pulls down his bottom lip to show teeth worn to the gums. We quickly get a few bananas and some porridge which lights him up.

The three of us sit for awhile eating. It’s a bit difficult. I feel like I should hide my shameful plateful, but I can’t exactly not eat. Beside me, Nyla is silently dropping tears into her plate.

Mwambia finishes the porridge and eats a single banana. He puts two more into a torn plastic bag, diligently wraps up the fruit and hides it away in the folds of his jacket.

“You don’t want more to eat?” I ask.

“I’m full. If I eat too much now…” he makes the universal sign for throwing up.

It’s not long before Khadija appears again. I’ve seen her this way before and I fear for whoever is in her way. She starts to gather a small posse; two men and two women.

The ambulence leaves the compound. (Photo by Mohamed Adan)

The ambulance leaves the compound. (Photo by Mohamed Adan)

“They come at night? We’ll be there at night. It has happened five times. It must stop,” she says to Mwambia. She fires up the ambulance and everyone piles in. “We know where they are. We’ll find them, throw them in the back and drag them to the police station.“

She sticks the engine in reverse and plows out.

______

5 hours later, later the vehicle pulls back into the compound. It’s missing most of the posse. Khadija climbs out looking like she’s carrying a fifty pound weight on her back. Nyla catches Khadija as she heads inside.

“Did you find the thieves?” she asks.

“Yes, we found them.” Khadija responds softly with a tone of dejection. She takes off her shoes and heads inside.

_____

Around 9pm we finally get the rest of the story. Khadija is sitting on her living room couch. The dim turquoise of the solar lights cast a tiring tone on her and small shadows creep out from corners reminding us that it’s night now and Mwambia has long gone home.

“Who are we?” she starts, “This afternoon, we had looked at Mwambia and imagined: I don’t want someone to do that to me when I’m old. So we got there ready for a fight with young strong men. Rogeb was angry. But when went in the home of the thieves what we found was a family of five. These children with swollen bellies and tiny legs. The mother’s breast was just skin with a baby on it. The man sitting by the door was so weak he couldn’t get up. He just looked at us and shouted, ‘Khadija! You’ve come! We stole the old man’s food. Have you brought us some more?”

She shifts uncomfortably in her seat and continues, “We were so ashamed. Rogeb said nothing. He walked in circles like he didn’t know us… he had no words. We asked them where the old man’s belongings were. They replied that they sold them for food.”

“We said, ‘where is the blanket?’”

“’We sold it,’ he said.

“I wish you knew how much for, Bryce. It was for 40 shillings.”

“That’s about 50 cents,” I say to Nyla, “Enough for about half a kilogram of rice or 6 bananas.”

I watch Khadija adjust her skirt again as she goes on. Her left middle finger can’t bend due to the ligaments being severed during an attempt on her life. She’d caught the machete blade in her hand. She doesn’t strike me as someone who is easily caught off guard.

She goes on, “The man said, ‘Why should we leave food when there is food there at the old man’s. I will steal as far as I can walk and that is as far as I can walk.’

“We didn’t know what to do, so we went to town to buy food and brought it back. I tell you, they were down on the ground eating. Rogeb had to shove food in the man’s mouth and help him because he was too weak to chew. And then, there were people coming to their gate saying, ‘let us eat with them!’ It was crazy.”

She paused for about a minute before going on.

Mwambia Kiunga recieving a Ramadan food distribution from Salim Yassen.  (Photo by Salat James Sunday)

Mwambia Kiunga recieving a Ramadan food distribution from Salim Yassen. (Photo by Salat James Sunday)

“Sometimes to the local people, they think our community project manages everything: AIDS, turmoil, food. It’s not so good. We cannot manage it all. How do you choose who gets food? I’ve seen a baby sucking a dead woman. How do you choose? …but at least it’s not as bad as 1984. God should not let us see that again. That wasn’t drought. That was death. People couldn’t even fight. They just sat and glared at each other. They boiled hides to eat. You could not find a rat anywhere.”

Without warning Khadija’s cell phone rings, erupting her ringtone into the room. It’s playing the Elton John song, Sacrifice.

It’s a human sign… when things go wrong… when the scent of her lin-

Khadija silences her phone and looks at her caller ID. It’s Esha, the woman managing the health clinic. She was also at the home today. Khadija discards the call.

“She’s been calling me all night,” she says, “asking me what to think. What to do with herself now that she’s home. She’s saying, ‘you’ve been here long. You know.’ But surely, who am I? Why do I know? I can’t tell anyone what to think. I just tell her, ‘You do something positive. You sit with your children and appreciate them. You create something. You make something good with what you have. What else can you do? I’m not God.”

______

Isiolo river some 30 kilometers from town.  Until recently, this area was the main water source for nearby villages and wildlife.

Isiolo riverbed some 30 kilometers from town. Until the current drought, this area was the main water source for nearby villages and wildlife.

Two weeks later, I’m in a cab with a driver named Abdi. He’s about my age and has family who were relocated from Somali refugee camps to England and the United States. He tells me about how he had lived in the UK for a year posing as his sister’s husband, but was found out and sent back. He’s now been in Isiolo for three months.

“London wasn’t so good. It’s was too cold. I’d find my death there,” he says.

We pull onto the main road. Bikes and hawkers pulling carts of water dart out of our way. Up the road a beaten up semi-truck pulls out of a gas station. Under its flapping brown tarp are a few hundred 50kg bags of soy and wheat powder. On each bag is the red and blue USAID food relief emblem. It reads: From the American People.

“Where are they going?” I ask.

“They are headed north to Wajir. Some 200 kilometers. It’s very far. The drought there is so bad,” Abdi responds.

He jerks the cab off the road to let 2 eight-wheeled military vehicles pass. Their engines seem to be the only real noise in town today. It’s hot and everyone is moving a bit slower than usual. Dust billows across vegetable stands and into the cars windows. Not a single bit of shade has been left unoccupied. The cab hops back on the road.

“It’s quiet here today,” I say watching a herd of goats pass by.

“Yes,” he says, “it’s very hot and the town is quiet. We’re all starving and no one wants to talk about it.”

____________
To read more of my stories from our projects, check out my personal blog at:
neitherherenorthere.org

A Clinic Evolving

-Nyla


Hello friends of Mama Hope,

I have arrived safely in Isiolo and feel like I have returned to my Kenyan home. We were welcomed with flowers, a song and a dance by the Wind of Hope orphans.

We were told that while the clinic has been under a construction it has served as so many things for the community. During the recent conflict it housed refugees who had lost their homes. During the rains it served as an orphanage for the children whose rooms flooded. While the elementary school was being renovated it served as a school. Until its official launch on August 12th, it is being used as a rehabilitation home for girls who have been sexually abused or have come off the street. The outside waiting area is being used as a preschool while the new school is being built.

Your donation to build the health clinic also helped build a school/sanctuary/orphanage/rehabilitation center providing a safe haven to hundreds even before it has opened to provide health care to thousands!

I’m so happy to see that the Mama Hope Clinic built to nurture the community is doing exactly that!

Thank you for your support. This all would not be possible with out Mama Hope’s incredible donors.


During the next two months we will be updating the blog with videos, pictures and stories of our time in Kenya.

With gratitude,

Nyla

DonateNow

Caregivers

Posted by Bryce

The rocks make the path look more like a riverbed than a road. The ambulance and its five passengers clunk along at 5 miles per hour. We occasionally smash our heads on the roof and windows. Seated in the front is Fatuma, a Home Based Care giver; next to her is Rupert, a volunteer from England here at Pepo La Tumaini Jangwani (Pepo) for the second time; in the back snuggled amongst our cargo are Peter and Raphael, two Orphans living at the Pepo Transitional Living Camp; and myself, just another volunteer today, but in my head a photojournalist without a camera!


The boys and I joke, as we clunk along to the directions from Fatuma. She is from the area we are headed. It is a small section of Isiolo town, where a number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS are interspersed throughout the community. Fatuma is one of 79 Home Based Care givers aiding Pepo to provide food and care to those incapable of helping themselves. In the month of September alone, the volunteer based organization was able to provide such care to 794 individuals. Today is just a fraction of that. It’s also an example of the context this care takes place in.

Already drawing a large crowd, we stop in front of a dilapidated wooden fence and exit the back of the vehicle. I hop out and the boys start to hand me the small bags of supplies we’ve prepared. Rice, wheat, flour, cooking oil, sugar and a few others are all tied neatly into clear plastic bags. There is no mistaking we’re delivering a fair amount of quality food. In the eyes of onlookers, it is food that’s going to someone who would or should have been died already. We’re getting as many glares as curious and excited glances.

This communal divide, acceptance of Pepo’s mission and anger over their use of resources has been with the organization from the beginning. Whether with angry religious groups in the past or local law enforcement in present. Not a week prior, a police officer was voicing this to Pepo’s Director, Khadija O. Rama in front of a 14 year old boy with Aids. “Why do you help them? They have Aids and deserve to be dead already,“ he criticized, speaking loudly enough for everyone around to hear.

Looking into the crowd now, I get the feeling that the same sentiment is running through some onlookers. Fatuma’s curt actions and lack of eye contact seem to confirm this. We carry the parcels of food to a wooden gate. Before we enter, a woman dressed in a torn black shirt approaches us and angrily asks, “Na meme?” Meaning, “and me?” Fatuma ignores her and I follow suit. Inside are two rectangular homes and lying between is a small shack. We’re greeted by a woman in her 20’s. She chats with Fatuma in kiswahili. Then, like the clumsy American I must look, I drop a bag from my tower of food. It explodes on the ground showering the dirt with dry beans. I give Fatuma a shameful look and let out, “ pole sana.” “Very sorry,” a phrase I’ve learned well. She gives me an indecipherable look and disappears into the shack. I sheepishly help the young lady blow the dirt off the beans and land then in another bag.

The inside of the shack is dark and cluttered. A bed lies on the side on which an elderly lady props herself. She’s thin, ill, and anywhere from 85 to 300 years old near as I can tell. We greet with a handshake and talk as Fatuma translates. She explains her name is Khadija as well and doesn’t know her age. She’s been in Isiolo for more than 40 years and calls it home. We’re not sure where she has come from. It’s a short conversation. Khadija takes a breath and gives us a tired smile. Fatuma gives me a glance and it’s time to go. We exchange goodbyes.

Back at the ambulance the crowd still lingers. The boys open the back and I climb in. Laughing, Peter says something in kiswahili while pointing outside. Raphael translates, “You want ride on the outside of the car? Hold on the back?” I give them a smirk and egg them on. “You want me to?” I get up and make to open the back door. In unison they jump up and shout in a half laugh, “No! No! Don’t!” They realize I’m joking as well and laugh. “Don’t do that!” Raphael tells me, “ You’ll get stoned!” I raise my eyebrow and they giggle. The vehicle jerks forward and clunks along. Raphael stares out his open window, then closes it tight.

We make several more stops, including one to an exuberant woman in a wheelchair living in a complex of about 40 Borana men seeming to be getting ready for mosque. Eventually we run out of food and return to the Pepo compound for more. A number of the transitional living children and home bases care givers are organizing and packing food in a concrete sitting area. They laugh hurriedly as O. Rama teases them with orders to hurry because people are hungry. It’s during this time that I realize the emotional contrasts. At any given location we can be a welcomed sight or a hated presence. One moment, I’m being told off by a girl of around 15: the next Nasir Mohammed, the program coordinator and Christopher, a Danish volunteer speed by. Their motorcycle chugging under the weight of its food parcels. They wave, then zip around a corner, which immediately erupts with a herd of panicked goats. Five minutes later, I’m meeting another grateful recipient. It’s all a bit of a blur.

But it’s easy to understand why a food distribution can cause such varied welcomes. In Isiolo those living below the poverty line vastly over shadow the 10 percent Aids prevalence rate. So deciding who receives aid is a complicated matter. Each individual receiving home based care must go through a rigorous application so someone else can decide whether Pepo is able to support them. Indeed, it’s not as if Pepo has this food regularly. This distribution only came when an organization operating under USAID, delivered the food supplies. Without meeting the informational requirements Pepo wouldn’t be able to help the individuals at all. So the question of who gets support is always so simple to ask, but difficult to answer. In a poverty stricken area like Isiolo, it’s hard to discern those with wealth and those who have only the will to obtain the resources to help. Of the 794 home based care recipients, this day’s shipment will reach less than 40 individuals. It’s a figure that is sometimes hard for the community to see. Pepo isn’t saving the day, it’s just helping to get through it.

Dealing with this situation is a regular routine. It is just more pronounced when Pepo has to make such a large appearance. But in the end, we exhaust the supplies without much incident. Our day now over, the ride slowly ends. Peter and Raphael stick their heads out the windows to shout and wave at some schoolmates passing the vehicle. I’m tired and wary of the fact that we have violated the Ambulance donor’s usage agreement. It is to be used to help children and the sick to the hospital, not help them in general. We stop in the middle of a deserted road and Fatuma hops out. We open the back door and hand her the last of the remaining bags. Wheat, flour, beans, rice, sugar, cooking oil, salt, and a small box of tea bags are her incentive for the past month of home based care work. “My home is near” she informs. She gives another indistinguishable look, then lets out a sly and knowing smile. I realize all my revelations today are just old news to her. Fatuma heads off and so do we.

Health Clinic Update

Posting by Nyla

Greetings from Kenya,

It is so amazing to be here and see the health clinic go up before my eyes. In a little less than a week the clinic is already halfway built. I’ve been told that by next Monday all the walls will be completely built.

The people are so involved that on the first day of construction people were seen taking goats and donkeys to the bank as collateral so they could get loans for materials while they waited for the donations to be wired from the USA. They told me that they want this lab to be built as soon as possible because they are so poorly treated for HIV related illnesses by the district hospital and sometimes this lack of care can be fatal. They really look forward to being cared for by a place that nurtures instead of stigmatizes them because of the virus.

Another reason why the health clinic has been able to be built so quickly is because everyone in the community is involved; from young children to elderly women. We came to the site one day and saw that children were carrying rocks that they collected for the foundation and bringing them to the construction site. While everyone was working it started pouring. At the same time as the rain, a truck full of construction materials showed up. Immediately all the men went to seek shelter but the women and children got in the trucks and started to toss out the rocks, laughing, singing and getting completely drenched by the downpour! We stood awestruck by the power of these two very different generations working together. We learned later that these generations are the backbone of the Pepo La Tumaini community because the continuing devastation of AIDS and tribal clashes has taken the lives of the parent generation and now the majority of the community are children and the elderly.

I wish that my words could do justice to this meaningful experience. Instead I think I’ll let the pictures tell the story of the health clinic coming to fruition.

Love from Kenya,
Nyla

Little by Little


Posting by Nyla

Hello Friends of Mama Hope,

Last year I was brought to Pepo La Tumaini through a Safari center called Wilderness Trails who brings their guests here to understand the struggles and triumphs of the local people as part of their “Wilderness” program. Since it is tourist season many groups of tourists in safari vehicles have come here. They all come here fresh off the game trails in their shorts and big hats, cameras around their necks. They walk through here as if on a museum tour looking at the people as if they are in displays marked,“Orphans”, “AIDS Patients”, and “Malnourished Man”. I understand and sympathize with these feelings because I was once on this tour myself and its hard not to see things this way if you are just passing through. We get so desensitized by images of the devastation happening in Africa that even when it is in our faces we still tend to numb ourselves to it.

When I saw a safari vehicle roll up for the third time I asked if I could go around with the tourists and show them the health clinic being built and show them what is possible when you let an experience change you. I tried to stress to them that these people are simply in this type of poverty because they do not have access to the resources that we do. The best way to do our part to help people in need is to directly support their community based efforts by working in partnership with them to meet their goals on their terms.

As they were leaving one of the men told me that his daughter had come up to him after seeing the future health clinic and said “Dad, she really does not have anything to gain from building this clinic she is simply helping because she can!” I’m glad that they left with the feeling of what is possible when you do what you can. Doing what you can is such a simple concept that some times we forget when we focus on all that we can’t do. Hopefully she will go back to her home and do what she can!

I know that obviously we can’t solve all the world’s problems but if we all did what we could, we’d be a lot closer.

Until next time,

Nyla

Breaking Ground on Health Clinic


Posting by Nyla

Dear friends of Mama Hope,

I’m so happy to report that I’ve finally made it to Isiolo, Kenya and we have started construction on the The Stephanie Moore Health Clinic..
Things have been a whirlwind since we got here. Pretty much as soon as we arrived, we immediately attended a Health Clinic Commitee Meeting to discuss, budget, time frame, and design of the health clinic. The community was so excited and they wanted to start construction immediately so that the Health Clinic could be finished by the time I leave.
The next day was spent going to the different villages and inviting the people to a community meeting to discuss the community’s expectations for the health clinic. This was to ensure that the community would embrace and make this project their own. We were
surprised to learn that the communities are so dedicated to the building of the clinic that they walked from as far as 30 miles through the desert to attend the meeting.
The next morning the community meeting started normally enough until the women from the different villages started a marking ceremony. The ceremony consisted of them singing a song questioning each other where
the building should be and dancing over the area. In the beginning all
the different tribes were separated. As they made a decision they came
together as one whole group circling the area where the clinic should
be. It was incredible because the women’s ceremony came up with the
same area for the building as the land surveyor. Fortunately Bryce,
our film maker, got the whole thing on tape and we will put it in the
documentary.

This morning I woke up to the sounds of commotion and came outside to
see women and trucks bringing in materials to start construction on
the clinic. By the time I made it to the site the people had already
dug out trenches of the outline of the clinic. Tomorrow we will
begin erecting the walls.
Thanks to Mama Hope donors, the people of Isiolo are going to have a
clinic that provides loving care to the community. If the community
keeps up the same kind of pace as they did today, the clinic will be
built in just a couple weeks and will be ready to serve patients. You
should be happy to know that your donations are improving the lives of
a whole community of deserving people in Kenya!
All the best from Kenya,
Nyla


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