Well… I’ve come to the end of my first two weeks her in Kisumu, and what a 2 weeks it’s been. The onslaught to the senses in the first few days left me reeling, so many new sights, new colleagues/ people to meet, new ways of getting around, new customs, new food all meant I felt as though I had been hit by a steamroller by the first weekend!
I have just completed 2 weeks of orientation, made easier by a 1 week overlap with the outgoing volunteer, the lovely Melanie, who gave me so many hints and tips. Most days have been spent visiting OGRA supported medical facilities in this region – essential for me to fit the jigsaw together. This sounds very easy doesn’t it, but just getting to these places is a challenge in itself.
The roads….what roads?? ….. probably the biggest eye opener for me. Yes! I had been told and thought I had prepared myself but to be honest you have to experience them to believe it. We travel in 4×4’s with an OGRA driver; whoever needs to go to facilities en route pile in and off we go to experience the Kenyan version of a cross between a roller coaster and a vibrating belt!! There is just continual surprise by colleagues, that in the UK even the smallest roads have tarmac – I don’t feel I can complain about our potholes ever again!! Seriously, this really does highlight the challenges that face OGRA staff even accessing these clinics, some of which are many hours away.
My biggest personal challenge to date is the difference between “mzungu” (white person) time and East Africa time. The locals find it hugely funny that all mzungu’s are hipped on doing things on time. Those of you who know me will appreciate that I have to work hard not to let this frustrate me too much – I take a “verbal chill pill” with my daily malaria tablet to try and rectify this!
This week I also started to plan my project. I am going to be working on improving the sexual health service provision to adolescents in the OGRA supported clinics. Young people account for 63% of the population living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa – KIsumu is an area with well above average prevalence. Providing for adolescents to be consulted by trained, non judgemental clinicians who are confident in communicating with young people will encourage adolescents to attend facilities. Improvement in this area is a priority and is well supported by the government evident by the fact that Family Planning Services are one of the few aspects of health care that is free for patients. However supplies of contraception to dispensaries are sporadic and unreliable.
A walk in the park this is definitely not going to be – but would I have come here if that is what I wanted? – Certainly not.