We arrived in Embu quite late on Tuesday afternoon due to unforeseen circumstances, but none the less, alive and well and ready to visit St. John and the Grandmothers. We checked into the infamous Panesic Hotel (Donna McMillan’s FAVOURITE hotel in Kenya) in Embu and tried to mentally prepare ourselves for a busy day ahead on Wednesday.
Up and out and at St. John Ambulance by 9am on Wednesday morning. Nelson greeted us with his unending smile, gave us a brief rundown on all that has happened since our last visit in April of 2017 and then proceeded with goals and suggestions for 2018.
Our Kenyan Kids began our partnership with St. John Ambulance in 2005. They have come to count on our support and thank us for the positive impact we have had on their community over the years.
Nelson would like to implement a new program, called the PMTC program – the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission. Currently 75% of the population in Kenya is made up of those under the age of 35 due to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1970’s. Nelson and his team has worked diligently to ensure that all they come in contact with are educated on the HIV crisis, prevention methods, acceptance of one’s diagnosis and a way to not only deal with ones diagnosis and live, but to actually thrive. The PMTC program would focus on education, training mothers who are carrying children on the medications they need to take in order to not transmit the disease to their unborn child. He is asking all who are able to provide him with support to implement this program, do so as soon as possible. Currently, there are over two million people living in Kenya with HIV.
Nelson is currently working on a proposal which will outline not only his vision, but ways in which each of us can help. It is imperative we ensure that no child, from this day forward, is born, infected with HIV.
The centre itself is in need of equipment for training, such as a defibrillator, training materials, basic life support, new laptop, handbooks, AED trainer with pads, DVD training tapes, Infant , child and adult cpr manikins, an airway manikin, pocket masks, BVM, OPA’s / NPS’s – in different sizes, non-rebreather mask, face masks, nasal cannula, suction catheters, endotracheal tubes, LMA, a monitor capable defibrillator/ sync, pacing and electrodes.
We piled in the van and headed for market to pick up beans, grains and sorghum before making a quick stop at the local supermarket for bread and milk that we would deliver to each of the groups.
First up was Victory Kagamouri. There are 15 members in this group, which includes 5 children who are all actively taking selenium. At the time of our visit today, 8 members were present and those absent were away at school or at their regular clinics and unable to get away. We discussed not only how things have been over the past 8 months since our last visit, but also how we can help them to improve on their basic quality of life going forward.
At present time, they make knitted sweaters and ponchos as well as doily type sets that they sell at market. They had previously tried to make and sell soap but found that they were unable to acquire the ingredients required. They have been investigating the possibility of learning beadwork that they could also sell at market, but would require a trainer.
After great discussion we concluded that their top three needs would be:
1- School fees! There are at this time, 9 students who are in need of sponsorship to attend high school. Without this sponsorship, their education will be impossible. School fees can vary. Well wishes could donate 18,000kes – 25, 000kes (- $217 – $301 Canadian Dollars) to send one child to school for a year (or 40,000kes – $482 Canadian Dollars, if you chose to send them to a boarding school.
2- Their second most important need would be for goats. The goats could be purchased through a partnership with a veterinary office that would check the goats on a yearly basis to ensure their health. The goats themselves come at a cost of roughly $65 Canadian dollars, each. The veterinary program at a cost of 600kes/year ($7.23 Canadian a year) .Goats are easy for them to maintain, specifically because they ground feed.
3- The third item on their “wish list” was for a trainer, who would come in, and teach for a period of 6 days, how to successfully do a multitude of bead work. The cost of this trainer would be approximately 10,000kes ($120 Canadian dollars).
At this moment in time, Our Kenyan Kids unfortunately does not have the funds or personal donors, available to send these 9 children to school. The goats however, were a tad more manageable request. Though 15 are out of the question, we are pleased to report, that due to an anonymous donation just before we departed, we were able to arrange for 8 goats to be purchased. Perhaps not the amount requested, but certainly a grand start and one that we are hopeful, new donors will see and come forward to help as well.
The second group of grandmothers we visited today are known as the Rwika Group. This group consists of 13 members – 12 women and 1 man. Their passion is astonishing. When we arrived, only one member was absent, and this was due to a serious illness. Not long into our visit, low and behold, she arrived, under the care of her daughter, straight from hospital. She was weak and obviously in pain, but refused to stay away, without making an appearance at the meeting. Her thin and frail frame, unsteady and feeble did not deter from her determination which was unimaginable.
We are ecstatic to announce that there are no HIV positive children in this group. Nelson was thrilled!! Each of the grandmothers actively takes their medication and takes great care to ensure that the children do not become infected.
To help sustain them, they do beadwork that they sell at market and they make soap and detergent that they sell to their neighbours. Their biggest challenges are food shortages and absolutely no water! Perhaps you should read that sentence to yourselves again. They have food shortages and absolutely no water! Twenty-five hundred liter water tanks would cost approximately $332 Canadian dollars each. That figure includes the materials needed for set up and fills. The need is of course, not for just one, but for EACH of them to have their own water supply. It is unfathomable for me to be able to sleep at night, knowing that for such a reasonable amount of money, I (or anyone else in my circle) could prevent at least one of these individuals from continuing to live with such hardship. That said, those who know me, know there are many who could afford to fulfill this need for more than one.
It is not an option to run to the corner store to purchase – even if they had the funds…. There is NO corner store. Wells are far and few between. Water is a basic human need. Can you imagine, living without it? Or walking 15 – 20km to purchase it? And even then, in such minimal amounts? This was a heart-wrenching need and we felt compelled to find a way to fix this dilemma. By the end of our visit, we had decided that we would find a way, over the next 3 years, to ensure that each of these individuals WILL have a water tank. We are confident that new and existing donors will come forward. Having said that, and after a brief bit of brain storming in the van on our way to visit the third group, we decided to pool together the donations of three other anonymous donors and voila, our first water tank is ready to purchase.
This group was also in need of goats and chickens, but we felt the water tanks were the most important of items and a great place to start.
Our third and final visit of the day was to a group known as Itabua. This group consists of one man and thirteen women for a total of 14. However, if you include those who are considered “inactive” their total would be 21. The difference being that not all those with HIV will attend the regular weekly meetings due to the stigma attached to the disease. The shy away from help due to denial to an extent and require psycho-social managing. This group is headed up by Mother Margaret. Margaret was the first to receive selenium from Our Kenyan Kids many years ago and will attest to the spectacular changes in her health since that first dose.
They have seen great changes in the past 8 months. When we visited in April they were starving and this year they have a good harvest of maze, fruit and beans. Not to take away from their needs, which are many, but they are extremely happy and thankful for all that they have this year. Though they do have a well, it produces very little and is not dependable. The well requires great strength, and the one man in the group, experiences great chest pain when he tries to retrieve the water. A new hand pump would most certainly alleviate some of this grief.
They are in need of a poultry shelter and would like 40 chickens. Other livestock they could benefit from would of course be goats. Goats are easy to keep and the few local goats that they currently have are poor milk producers.
During our visit, we discussed other needs that the group has. They requested sponsorship for three of their children so that they could receive education. One child would require fees for high school ($241 Canadian dollars for one year), another for college (3 years, for a total of $1205 Canadian dollars) and a third seeking a University education at roughly $500 Canadian dollars per year.
The needs at this group were many and all beyond our control. Perhaps you, or a group of friends might be able to join together to jointly help them achieve one or more of the needs that they currently have.
The difficulty in tonight’s blog being that we saw so many needs, so much poverty, and yet each group would gladly give us, or anyone else, the shirts right of their backs. Giving back, helping one another, supporting one another, today, tomorrow and always is the only thing that matters in life to them. None consider themselves poor, but yet feel that although they have needs, God will provide.
Each group presented us with gifts of fruit, bagfuls of fruit, to say thank you to us, for visiting, for listening and for promising to do what we could, no matter how much or how little that was.
Our visit brings them hope – new hope, that tomorrow will be a better day.