It’s 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I wake up to hear the call to prayer from the nearby mosque. Kenya is a country with predominant Christian population, so initially I was startled every time I heard the powerful, monotonous voices coming from the loudspeakers installed in the mosques, at all times – mornings, afternoons, evenings – and in different places in the city. But on this Saturday morning, in the darkness of the early hour, waking up alone in a hotel room in the countryside, far away from home – there is something calming in this sound, the town is waking up. I hear the constant flow of cars on the main road, horns beeping, matatus stopping and leaving. On the other side of my window, life is restaring; on the inside, I’m waking up to a slow weekend, which is in big contrast to the last few weeks in Nairobi.
Today I am in Bungoma, a small town in a densely populated county in West Kenya, close to the Uganda border. Been here for one week already, here I’ll be working as a communications specialist to improve the awareness of the various interventions Save the Children have, under the so-called Signature program (GSK being the main donor), aimed at reducing maternal and newborn death.
And it’s been a busy, very busy week for me, travelling across the county, visiting health facilities, attending meetings of community health volunteers, traditional birth attendants; talking to nurses and parents, who benefitted from the different interventions of this program (such as Kangaroo Mother Care). This is where all talks about the community-level work and the amazing behavioural change interventions Save the Children are doing, are becoming reality.
This little guy stopped crying when we showed him the camera and took a few selfies. A traditional birth attendant (TBA) tries to cheer him up, his mum and little baby sister attending a meeting at Bumula health facility, together with 25 TBAs to tell us their experiences on how parents and babies benefit from more deliveries happening in facilities as opposed to home deliveries. This is part of Save the Children’s behavior change intervention to change the role of TBAs to birth companions.
Experiencing this all takes me to a different world, and without overstating it, I feel privileged to become part of this work. So many experiences, and so many stories to tell, I need to give proper space to each one of them, in separate blogs, and there are 5 more months to go, for me to do that.
As I am making my coffee, I notice the sun is rising on the horizon and painting an artificial window on my wall. Back there, in my normal life, I would rarely notice this, but here, in Bungoma, in the small hotel room, I embrace the concept of silence, and of slow life. And I start to enjoy it.