Sustainability is the holy grail

I’ve been delaying writing my last blog because I knew, once I’ve posted it, my assignment was completed. It is about 10 hours before I get on the plane to go back to London…reckon I can’t postpone it any longer…. (although I am secretly hoping the flight will be cancelled..)

It feels a bit unreal that it has come to an end!

I’ve trained 348 Community Health Workers and Peer Educators on the basics of HIV/AIDS. Even though some of the Health Workers had to walk for hours to get to the training session, it still amazes me how keen everyone was to increase their knowledge.  And let’s be honest, it can’t be easy to listen to me for hours with my mixed Afrikaans/English/Swahili accent!  Months after conducting the first training sessions, the Health Workers are still using their printed booklets and the Ogra foundation will continue to use the booklets when training new Health Workers. Over the period, I’ve sent over 4000 mobile/test messages to the Health Workers to reinforce the messages from the training. The approach was inexpensive and very efficient.  I will definitely miss the appreciative responses I received back from the Health Workers and the early morning phone calls!  The Ogra Programme Officer will continue to use the approach with the Health Workers and share the training programme with other Non-Governmental Organizations (Charities)

The cows and goats are doing really well. We are anxiously waiting for the calves to arrive, however the team at the Omen feeding centre are well trained and prepared for using and selling the milk. Currently the goat’s milk IMG-20130607-00482(1)are supplied to HIV positive pregnant woman with weak immune systems.  At this stage, 2 of the 4 goats are producing milk. The other 2 goats are in kid and the male goat is being used to “upgrade” the other goats in the community – basically that means cross-breeding with the local goats (dairy goats produce more milk than local goats).

I’ve learned the importance of sustainability when setting up projects, but also how challenging it can be for development work to have a lasting effect.  I’ve learned that if you want to make a difference , it is important to work with local people to make this difference.  Because the change will affect them directly, they will work inspiring hard to set the project up and also to make it last once you’ve left.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to assist a woman’s group in Ombeyi (about an hour from Kisumu) to set up their own business.  Many of the families in this community live in poverty and have no fixed income. The business is their idea and they are fully running it, it is called Tasty Chips.  After months of looking for a chips fryer that works with wood, as there is no electricity in the community, we found one in Nairobi. It arrived on the Wednesday before I left and by the Friday the business was up and running.  On the first day the group made their first profit of 800 KES! I am so proud of them! On average, they have been making 700 KES profit per day.  Three of the five women in the group did not have any income before, now they are meeting their own needs. This business will lay the foundation for their independence and development.

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I had an unforgettable time in Kenya. I’ve enjoyed using the knowledge and skills that I have to help other people, but also to try and explore new things. As frustrating as it was in the beginning, I am actually glad I had to adapt to the slower pace of life. It gave me time to carefully plan my projects, learn about Kenya and working for a NGO. Most importantly it gave me time to really get to know people. I am proud of what I’ve achieved and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.  It was everything I hoped for …and more!

4 comments

  1. Melanie,
    As I sit eating my lunch in Durham NC at my PULSE assignment I’m truly inspired by your story. Thank you for sharing!
    Randee

  2. Congratulations Melanie-on all of the good work you did, all that you accomplished and the many lives you bettered. Wishing you well on your re-entry. I’m certain that you have some wonderful stories to bring back to your colleagues as well as provocative questions on how they can work better.
    All the best,
    Cliff

  3. Awesome job Melanie (and Tom 🙂 )
    I sure hope to visit Ombeyi again one day and purchase some wood fired chips.

  4. Great going Melanie.. I have also written a blog about sustainable change 🙂 I agree with you on sustainability and making a difference

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