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Category — The Lead Up

Welcome to Lenana

Woman carrying baby in Lenana

After one day in the suburbs I moved out to Lenana where I will be staying with Martha and her family and working in the slum area with the HIV/AIDS program. It’s a small apartment building surrounded by the slum, a large gate and electric fence separate the two. The community seems very self sufficient, farm animals such as cows, goats, sheep and chickens wandering around producing eggs, milk and of course meat for the families of Lenana. The walk in from the main road passes by a little butchers hut with a animals strung from the rafters, customers choose which section they want and the butcher carves it up. There are little “stalls” setup on the side of the road, with people cooking and selling food, some of it looks simple like grilled corn, others crazy black sausage which is probably good, but looks scary. Other more established stores in little huts act as the bodegas or convenience stores of the slum. They sell anything from pre-paid topup cards, sodas (20KSH/$0.25 for a Coke), charcoal etc. There’s a small bar/shack where you can have a beer and watch the European soccer matches
The butcher of LenanaThere are dozens of the cutest little kids running around, rolling car tires, or pretend dogs they made out of wire. Some of the girls have afro braids with coloured beads, but they all say the same thing when they see me, a Mzungu they shout “How are you… How are you…” I don’t even think they know what it means, just that you say it when you see a white (non-African) person. They all seem very happy running around, I don’t think their parents told them not to stare, since that’s all they seem to do, but I don’t mind since I’m staring right back at them.

Lenana kids

More photos after the break.

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September 1, 2009   1 Comment

First Days in Kenya

P1000004Arriving to Nairobi from New York via London at night, there wasn’t too much of Kenya to see under the cover of darkness. I was greeted by a VICDA driver who took me to meet the host family where I would be staying. The house was in a gated apartment block secured with barbed wire fences and security guards, security is a major concern as the disparity between rich and poor is so great. I was staying with Pamela and her family, she has two bright boys 9 & 10 who were both very curious about absolutely everything. The younger one, wants to grow up and be a pilot. I also met another Aussie girl Katherine who was staying there, she’s will also be doing the HIV/AIDS program, so it was good to have someone to share stuff with. During the day. the boys’ cousin took us to the local shopping center where we checked out the movies, and had a coffee at the Nairobi Java House, which I was happy to discover make a great Latte. The shopping center was much like that of a suburban western city, supermarkets, cafes boutiques, banks etc. Walking around the neighborhood, there are little make shift cafe’s selling street food for lunch, cooked corn, grilled meats. I haven’t been game enough to try them yet. It’s clear that there are many poor people here, but it’s also good to see industrious people, working and creating businesses however small and basic, rather than just asking for handouts.

Over a dinner of beef stew, rice, cooked spinach and chapatti, Pamela’s husband Peter and I discussed how the global financial crisis has effected Africa, also how the public services such as electricity have not been able to cope with growth in the Kenyan economy. The people of Nairobi have experienced a doubling of power costs and electricity rationing, where power is cut during daylight hours every second day. The lack of rain has had a major effect on the countries hydro-electric dams which provide most of the power.

August 29, 2009   No Comments

T-Minus 15days

So the countdown begins, in a matter of days I’ll be boarding a plane to another world. Excitement and nerves are certainly starting to rise. I’m really excited about seeing new things and meeting new people and helping those suffering in Kenya. But I’m also nervous about the enormous shock to my system everything will be. I got my last round of shots last week, picked up my yellow vaccine card, apparently most people in the states have one, but this is the first I’d seen of it. This week I’ve been prepping, getting a little first aid kit together in case anything happens, grabbed some of the generic cold and flu stuff in case I catch something and picked up my daily Malaria pills which apparently give you crazy dreams.

My first month in Kenya I will be working with the HIV/AIDS program and I’ve been finding out more about what I’ll be doing from some of the previous volunteers. Most of the HIV/AIDS work is centered around the massive slums in Nairobi, it’s a city of over 3 million people, about half of them live in extreme poverty in slums like Kiberia, the largest of the slums where it’s estimated over 1 million people live. The slums consist mainly of one room huts made of sheet metal built on top of piles of garbage. Those living there are exposed to dire conditions, the lack of running water, or any sanitation means sewage flows down ditches in the streets making spread of disease and illness near impossible to stop.

The sort of work I will be doing based on previous volunteers experience is working with the local clinics and local volunteers who know the area and language helping them deliver food and medicine to those living with HIV. Checking up on their health etc, giving counseling and encouragement for people who need it and massaging or bathing those who are weak in their beds.

There will undoubtedly be some sad stories and I will see others suffering from a situation far beyond their control. I hope I can help them in some way, how this will effect me, and how these eyes see the world, only time will tell. But I go with an open mind and compassionate heart.

August 12, 2009   No Comments