I’ve reached the ½ way mark with my assignment! Even though I said before that the pace of life in Kenya is much slower than in the UK, time as really flown by….and the rainy season also started. Look how beautiful the clouds are in the picture!
The last month was not how I planned it to be, but I guess that was a learning on its own…be flexible and make the most of every situation. The Ogra office was also closed during the Kenya elections which gave us an opportunity to explore Uganda. It is another beautiful country, well worth visiting. Rich vegetation surrounds the mountains, with waterfalls and lakes weaving through the valleys. I also had the opportunity to visit the GSK office in Kampala. My visit with the country medical director was very insightful; I could not resist stepping into the GSK world for a bit.
After the elections, we came back to Kenya. Judith (a colleague at Ogra) and I have been conducting home visits with the community health workers (CHWs). The main purpose of these visits is to review the work that the CHW have done and identify areas where they need more support. We drive 1 – 2 hours to remote villages where we meet the CHWs. Then we start walking! A hat, water and Factor 30 sunblock is definitely required. Due to all the rain, it is becoming a bit more muddy.
People live in homesteads scattered all over the area. They are very social and keen to welcome visitors. Most people live in mud huts which are about 5 meters wide and divided into 2 rooms – one area for sleeping and the other for socialising. During these visits we assess the work that the CHWs have done, the frequency of their visits and how they could improve. It also gives me the opportunity to meet people living with HIV. After these visits we discuss the findings with the CHW and look for solutions if we’ve identified areas of improvement. I’ve met amazing people during these visits; some people have very hard lives and struggle just to get enough money together to buy the next meal. The CHWs are doing a great job to support and educate their communities. Secretly I feel very proud when I hear they have been teaching their clients things that I’ve taught them!
I’ve learned how important it is to spend time out in the community where you are trying to make a difference. No doubt, it requires more effort and it is more time consuming, but it is definitely worth it…and in my case I’ve been lucky to pick up a few new Swahili words!
Another project I am working on is “Operation Cow”. Ogra supports the Omen feeding centre in Ombeyi. It is about an hour’s drive from where we are in Kisumu. The feeding centre provides lunch to 75 children who are orphans or partially orphaned. Even though a few donors support the feeding centre, it is imperative for them to generate a sustainable income. Continuous funding is never guaranteed…and that is where the cows come in! With the help of Ogra, we’ve donated 2 dairy cows, due to produce over 20 litres of milk per day. The milk from one cow can be used in the feeding centre and the milk from the second cow will be sold to make enough money to buy food for the children. Not many people in this area are dairy farmers, so this will also be an opportunity to teach the community about diary farming. Above are some pictures of Rachel and Melony below (people sometimes struggle with my name, so mistakenly they called it Melony). Both cows are ‘in calf’ … for all the city slickers, that means we are expecting 2 new arrivals in the next few months! I’ll keep you posted.
Crossing the half way mark with my assignment, I am unbelievable grateful that I am here. I’ve learned a lot about Kenya and the ways of working for a charity. I’ve learned valuable lessons from the staff at Ogra, passionate health workers and people living HIV. I’ve also learned how important it is to be brave enough to embrace new opportunities, because it is only by doing so, that we grow and if we are lucky, make a difference in the world
3 months to go!