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IPD Camp HIV/AIDS Seminar

Rose telling her storyThrough talking to a few people in my first few days in the camp, I became aware of the prevalence of HIV and AIDS within the small community. One of the health workers who is also an IDP from the camp through some basic survey work estimated the infection rate at as high as 42% among the camp adults, she also said there were several young girls who’d been raped during the violence who’d also been infected. Building upon my previous months experience working with the Tumaini HIV/AIDS Project in the Lenana slum area of Nairobi, and my beliefs that education is the key I decided to hold an HIV seminar in camp.

Me presenting, while being translated by Mr JohnWorking with Hope For Life, a local NGO I arranged to have testing conducted on the day, so after people had learned about the risks and treatment etc, they would be compelled to get tested, especially if it’s right there. When I was in Nairobi for the Eat So They Can video conference I met with the Tumaini group and discussed bringing one of them to the camp, to share their story during the seminar in camp. Rose the strongest speaker and Sophia the program leader were to come up early the morning of the event. I also brought the education materials, posters and handouts we’d created for the Tumaini seminar in Nairobi to use during the day.

Posters hanging on the fenceThe seminar, like other similar events was to be hosted under a large tree in a field nearby the camp. Mr John, the health committee chairman went around reminding people of the event, and slowly they began to wander over. I put up posters along a barbed wire fence near the tree. Hope for life sent out a testing professional who came from the Molo district hospital, which is the area many of the camps 4000+ residents were displaced from, his name was Joseph and he agreed to talk about the testing portion of the program before setting up to begin his work in the clinic. Once the Tumaini ladies had arrived from Nairobi, we began.

Leading by example, getting tested

The two different tests used on the dayMr John welcomed us and all those in the audience before we introduced ourselves and one of the women from the audience lead the group in a prayer. I then spoke to the ever expanding audience as John translated what I said. Speaking through a translator is a strange experience and takes some getting used to, I was constantly concerned about getting my message out, without it being too long for John to remember it all and convey the same message in Swahili for the audience. The group sat very divided, with women on my left and a slightly smaller group of men sitting on my right, gradually each side grew as more and more people came to listen.

Lining up to be testedI covered all the major topics we’d discussed in the previous seminar: HIV in Kenya, which talks a lot about the statistics, and about the stigma and some HIV Myths which are common here. What is HIV and How it Spreads, I discussed what HIV stands for, that it is the virus that causes AIDS and how it is and isn’t transmitted, and talking about the concurrency issue in Africa, where many people have more than one regular sexual partner, and how it greatly increases the rate of transmission. Testing and Treatment, explaining that testing is a simple, quick and free service in Kenya, and that you need to be bested every 3 months to constantly know your status, and what the treatment options are and how with ARVs provided free by the Kenyan government, many people live long and healthy lives. Then Prevention which is really the key, how condoms are the safest way to protest themselves and their partners and re-iterating the concurrency theme by showing a series of diagrams.

One of the mothers getting testedBefore inviting Rose, the star of the show to speak, Joseph spoke more about the testing and how it’s so important to know your status and make educated decisions about how to act. When Rose got up to speak she immediately stole the show, speaking in the native tongue, she was able to capture the attention of the group with ease, sharing her story. How seventeen years earlier, her and her husband found out they were both HIV positive, the husband killed himself shortly after, leaving Rose alone to raise the children. She lived for twelve years without any ARV treatment, now with the daily pills she is strong and healthy although without work and living in a slum, Rose’s own children are grown up but she looks after two little girls who were orphaned when their mother and father both diet of AIDS related illness two years ago. Now as part of the Tumaini group in Nairobi, she encourages others to get tested and know their status, welcoming them into the group if they need it. Although Rose spoke in Swahili and most of it I didn’t understand, judging from the way she engaged the audience and even invoked laughter, I’m sure they enjoyed the talk, and hope the message was heard.

Getting the blood for testingOnce the seminar was over, we headed over to the clinic where Joseph was waiting with the testing kits. I decided to practice what I preach and lead by example being the first to get tested. When I’d previously been tested throughout my adult life, it had always been done in a lab, as part of a series of other tests so I was interested to see how the instant testing worked. Joseph pricked the end of my finger with a clean disposable spike, similar to a blood sugar test he squeezed the deep red blood from the tip, wiping away to make sure it was clean, then sucked it into a small tube. He then placed drops of blood on each of the two tests he was using on the day, then adding drops of a special solution to activate the test. The tests would then produce a line in two sections, one to show that the test worked and one to show the result. The testing process including results took less than ten minutes. As I left the clinic, there was already a line of people waiting to know their status. At the end of the day 52 of the about 90 attendees was tested, only one of them was positive, and they already knew. It doesn’t really fit with the Kenyan estimated averages, or the suggestions I’d heard coming into the camp, but that’s 52 more people who know their status, and can make an educated decision about how they act.

November 15, 2009   Comments Off

Nursing Mothers Seminar

women gathered under the big treeThere is an alarming number of malnourished children in the camp, food security is a big problem Kenya wide, and along with the drought has been has been big news across the country. Food prices have soared across the country with live stock and crops dieing from the lack of rain. The issue in the camp has been ongoing, past volunteers have noticed it and made several efforts to provide food or food vouchers to the mothers of these children. This caused several issues because with food vouchers, the mothers would still just buy Ugali and Sukuma Wiki which doesn’t make a balanced diet, and sometimes you would be giving food to families which seemingly have plenty of food.

Linnet giving lessonsIt is my belief that through education Kenya will be able to work through many of it’s issues, and it struck me that maybe the mothers didn’t know what they should be feeding themselves while nursing or to their children. Much of the food in Kenya especially with high food prices comes down to more bang for your buck, or more accurately, maximum filling up for the shilling and foods like Ugali are cheap and fill you up but have limited nutritional value. So with the help of Linnet the camps resident health worker we decided to hold a seminar for the nursing mothers, to show them the sorts of foods they should be eating and donate some to get them started.

Explaining the benefits of spinachOne of the cute kids in the audience

The day before the seminar, I took the bumpy matatu ride into Nakuru town with fellow volunteer Aimee in search of the different food tems we needed based on a list we’d discussed with Linnet, it included green vegetables, serials, and other high protein foods. When we were in Nakuru, dark clouds rolled in bringing the daily onslaught of rain making it hard to move around sans-umbrella, so we headed to Gillanis an Indian run wholesale supermarket in the center of town. Aimee and I split the list and went on search of the different items, we were slowed down by the unfamiliar products and not knowing our way around but with the help of no less than half a dozen store clerks we finally sourced large quantities of, special high protein baby porridge, beans, ground nuts (peanuts) and mixed flour totally about 200KGs. We found a waiting Tuk Tuk outside the giant store and a series of Gillanis staff proceeded to wheel out trolleys laden with the dry goods, packing them tightly into the back of the 3 wheeled taxi. We still needed to find the all the fresh vegetables, a crucial part of the proposed diet.

Bags of beansOur next planned stop was the Nakuru open aired market, not the best place to be with torrents of water coming from the sky above. As our Tuk Tuk bumped and splashed through the wet Nakuru streets we came across a series of impromptu street vendors selling the exact vegetables we were looking for. The stalls consisted of large mats, spread out on the side of the road and the fresh farmed goods piled on top. After what I thought was some quick keen bargaining, I purchased pretty much all the contents from three sellers with many bundles of spinach, carrots and corn. An enterprising teenage boy then proceeded to charge us for the normally free plastic bags he’d handed us to fill with. I was a little put off by having to pay for the bags, but we definitely needed them, so I conceded and we loaded the bags fully of veggies into the tiny plastic covered cab and whizzed off into the rain towards the camp.

One of the mothers showing us her nutrition poster.The next task was to divide the food up into small bundles which could be distributed to the mothers after the seminar was over. Using a simple coffee mug as a measure, we scooped cups of the beans, nuts and flour into small clear plastic bags, then the vegetables into small bundles, it turned out we only had 48 bags of beans and 48 full bundles of the fresh goods, so it made sense for this to be our target number. Using a list of babies born in camp and luckily there are 48 children 8 months or younger. Although there are a tonne of kids in the camp, and it’s common in Africa to have many children, it surprised me that so many would be born in in the camp where food and health issues are so common, some of the young babies are the youngest of 7 or 8 kids.

Aimee with two young twins born in campWe setup the seminar under a tree in a nearby paddock where camp meetings are often held, women gathered with their children in the shade of the large tree. When enough of the mothers had settled in Linnet began her nutrition lessons, it was all in Swahili so I only understood parts of it, but we’d already discussed the topics to be covered. She explained how using a variety of vegetables provides a balanced intake of vitamins and minerals for both mother and baby. The mother of four also explained how adding a small handful of nuts to the diet can greatly increase the amount of breast milk the nursing mothers make. The women listened intently, asked questions about various topics, complaining that they couldn’t afford to buy all these extra things, we answered explaining that it’s was about making choices and supplementing diets, and that eating a variety of foods was key to the health of their families. The seminar went for just under two hours including question time, and as we began to pack our things, several of the mothers continued questions and thanked us for sharing our time and knowledge.

Me with a newborn baby boy born the day after the seminar, they may name him Jeremy, gift from god.In the early evening when we knew that mothers would be home we began slow process of handing out the food bundles. Although we could have handed out the food at the seminar, because we only had enough food for babies of 8 months and below, we feared that the other mothers would cause a commotion, so we set out with a list of baby names, birth dates and tent numbers. The camp layout can be quite confusing, and despite numerous efforts to find or create a map, none have been successful. We went tent to tent with Mr John, the chairman of both the education and health committees in the makeshift community. John is a sweet man who is always enthusiastic to help with volunteer projects, partly because they fall into the areas of his committees but also because he has a caring kind heart. One by one we went from tent to tent, finding the babies of the right age, handing out the food to the mothers and reaffirming the messages Linnet had given during the seminar. Most of the time our donations were received with thanks and praise, but we also got a few blank stares and looks as if to ask ‘is that it?’. The process took a total of 6 hours across two evenings. By the end we were stumbling around in the dark, lighting the list and path with our mobile phones.

November 12, 2009   No Comments

Eat So They Can Event

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For the third year in a row, GVN has helped to coordinate a massive global dinner party called Eat So They Can. People from around the world host dinners to help raise awareness and funds tor starving children all over the world. This year I was living in Nakuru Kenya while volunteering in the pipeline IDP camp, so I wasn’t able to host or attend a dinner in person, but seeing as I was on the ground in one of the troubled areas I thought I could share my experiences and help the awareness part of the cause by speaking virtually to a party being hosted in Sydney Australia over Skype.

I made the trek from Nakuru to Nairobi for the event where I could be sure the internet would be fast enough to handle streaming video. I had my pockets picked and my spirits crushed a little on the journey, but tried to keep a positive outlook on the work being done here for the people I would speak to online the next day.

The scheduled time was late Saturday afternoon in Sydney, which due to the time difference meant very early Saturday morning in Nairobi. I met new people at the party and spoke about food security and the hungry children I’d met both in the slums of Lenana and the IDP camp. Explaining how they feed the children in schools as for some it’s the only meal they get all day, and it’s impossible to teach a starving child. It was a little awkward for me sitting in the middle of a modern Nairobi shopping mall, with well to do Kenyan’s doing their weekend shopping, while I spoke into my little laptop to people across the world. In the end the party raised almost $1000 for hungry children around the world. Those in Sydney were inspired to do more in the world and their communities to help those less fortunate.

November 12, 2009   No Comments

Weekly Updates for 2009-11-08

  • Just past a camp of Congolese refugees next to the Ugandan/DRC border it's hard not to think of the Child Soldiers forced to fight there. #
  • Driving across the great rift valley watching half a dozen tornedos sweep the dusty soil 100s of ft in the air. No houses to destroy here. #

November 8, 2009   No Comments

Weekly Updates for 2009-11-01

  • 2 days left in camp. Commissioned box 2 dispense female condoms, collected last batch of batteries, waiting for Tuk Tuk to take them to tip. #
  • Just experienced a 3rd world tip and the people and animals that live there. They mobbed our Tuk Tuk, was kinda crazy. #
  • RT @UNAIDS Nigeria launches postal service campaign for HIV awareness http://bit.ly/1xqvrk #
  • Just storm ripping through camp right now. Dozens of min dust tornados are causing havoc. #
  • Goodbye Nakuru, farewell Pipeline IDPs, you are good people, I hope you prosper in your new home. #

November 1, 2009   No Comments

Weekly Updates for 2009-10-25

  • Two seminars planned for this week. Breastfeeding mothers tomorrow HIV/AIDS on Thurs. Off to buy 200kg of food. #
  • Got an early start tomorrow, packing 200 killos of food into little bags to help the malnourished babies in camp, there are a lot. #
  • Nursing mothers seminar went well. Hopefully mums will heed the advice. 200kgs of food divided, if only I could print the list of kids. #
  • Just finished delivering food to about half the malnourished babies in camp. Took about 3hrs, needless to say. There are many. #
  • The condom has now caught up with the pill as women's preferred method of contraception, latest figures suggest. http://ping.fm/bhwpF #
  • HIV Seminar went well, about 90 people came, now they're lining up for testing. #
  • I just wrapped up this baby girls badly burnt hand, she was so brave. #
  • Today after the seminar I lead by example and know my status. When I left camp, 44 ppl had been tested so far. #
  • When I said she had a burnt hand, this is what I meant. http://twitpic.com/migvz #
  • Just held a 1day old baby boy born in camp yesterday, it was soo tiny, they may name him after me. #
  • New blog: IDP Projects up on HMHK http://bit.ly/3ScJUF #

October 25, 2009   No Comments

IPD Projects

Falling tent

After a day or so in camp, I was getting used to my surroundings, and everything became a little less overwhelming and I started to compile a list of ways I can help the camp or areas which I felt needed special attention, here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

HIV Seminar
One of the IDPs who volunteers in the clinic dispensing medicine estimated the rate of HIV amongst adults in the camp at over 40%, although noted that most people don’t know, or are not open about their status. So following on from my last placement, I’m planning on holding an HIV Seminar for the people of the camp, and hopefully arrange for testing on the day.

Children’s Playground
Camp life is hard on families in general, they don’t have much, and food and shelter are their main priorities, so sometimes I feel the kids get forgotten a little bit, even know their are so many of them. Babies are just left to the older kids, sometimes only a few years older for care. The only things the kids really have to play with are old tires and batteries in the mud. So I want to build a playground set as part of the in camp school, hoping to have a slide, swings and monkey bars.

Signs for Toilets and Watertanks
With people living in such close quarters in camp, families generally share one tent, and mothers sometimes have eight kids, so proper hygiene really important to ensure the health of the entire camp. For this reason I’m going to commission the camp sign painter to paint signs on the water tanks reminding people to boil the water before drinking, and on the toilet doors reminding them to wash their hands. Seems like the most basic of things coming from a western country, but from what I’ve noticed, and reports from people in the camp, these simple but important actions are often ignored. To make sure more people can understand the messages, they will be painted in both Swahili and English.

Camp Communication
A large population like the one in the camp, can often be hard to communicate community messages to, so I started looking at ways to help this. Pretty much every adult in Kenya has a mobile phone, so I thought about creating a text message register, so that short messages could be sent out to all the phones in camp.

Condom Distribution
The alarming number of babies which have been born in camp got me thinking…. With so many people in camp without jobs, perhaps people were making themselves “busy” in other ways. Camp conditions are hard on families, but the more mouths to feed the harder it is add in Kenya’s HIV statistics and it would just be better that people made sure they were safe when “busy”. Condoms are available free from the government, but we need to find a way to make them available in a discreet way in camp.

Emptying the Pit Toilets
There are just over 60 toilets in camp being shared by 4000+ people so they fill up pretty quickly and the smell is overwhelming, perhaps you get used to it, but I haven’t even been able to open the door to any of the ones in camp. One of the major concerns is if the el niño rains are as bad as expected, and the camp floods, the pit latrines may overflow spilling sewage everywhere and spreading diseases like cholera so getting the toilets emptied is pretty important.

Battery Return program
Around camp there are lots and lots of used batteries strewn everywhere, they are rusting and breaking open, spilling their toxic contents into the soil and the hands of the children who play with them. I’m going to work on a battery return program to try round up all the batteries and protect the health of the camp.

Tool Hire Program
Many of the men in camp are tradesmen of some kind, but to do their jobs they need to provide their own tools which they lost when they were forced to leave their homes. We can’t just give every man news tools, but perhaps there’s a way we can create a loan/hire system where tools can be used for specific jobs, but returned to the communal pool after the job is done.

October 25, 2009   No Comments

Weekly Updates for 2009-10-18

  • Getting up and out from under the Malaria cloud, clear windy day. Heading to camp to build some stuff. Fresh donations to take a long way!! #
  • Pretty productive day on & off camp today. Met with shop owners about battery return program, met with carpenter and researched playgrounds. #
  • Watching the local DC deliver news about resettling the camp. Things are up in the air again. #
  • Playground plans are pretty much over since the camp will be families from the camp will be given new land to farm. #
  • Playground plans are pretty much over since the families from the camp will be given new land to farm. #
  • Bought a bucket load of drugs and other medicines to re-stock the camp clinic today. Much better bang for your buck than in the US. #
  • Arranging #HIV Seminar for #IPD camp next week, partnering with Hope For Life who will conduct testing on the day. May lead by example. #

October 18, 2009   No Comments

First days at Pipeline

Sunset over the camp

When choosing my volunteer programs before coming to Kenya, I chose IPD because I wanted to do something helpful, but also because I thought it would be a break from the depressing side of the HIV/AIDS program, upon arriving in Kenya, all I heard was the opposite, that IDP is the hardest program, because the people have nothing and you have nothing to work with. The IDPs in Kenya were forced from their homes during the post election violence in 2007/2008, many have suffered the loss of loved ones, and most lost everything bar the clothes on their backs.

Some of the kids we met first day

We arrived in Pipeline IDP camp near Nakuru on a Saturday, and as it was weekend, there wasn’t as much going on, we got a tour of the camp and met some of the key people from camp, as it turns out, while the people from the camp have very little, they do have lots of people, and those people have formed a series of committees which help oversee the running of the camp and create some form of order. I was impressed to see that thre is a structured leadership in the camp, it has also been very helpful to know these people to help get things done.

Mothers gather for food distribution

The enormity of a camp with 4000+ people living in tents was intimidating at first, I was thinking to myself, how can I really help these people. So after meeting with the other volunteers and some of the committee folk, I set about writing a list of projects, or areas which needed attention. Here’s some of what I came up with. HIV Seminar, Children’s Playground, Signs for Water Tanks and Toilets, Camp Communication, Condom Distribution, Emptying the pit toilets, Battery Return program, Tool Hire Program. It’s a lot to work on, but I’m here for a month.

Little boy I met on my way to camp first day, riding this bike through the frame.

I’m staying in a cute little brick house about a 15 minute walk from the camp, so not very convenient if you forget something, which I do, or if I want to use the bathroom since even know it’s a pit toilet at the house, the smell wafting from the ones in camp is so off putting, I dare not open the door. The house has no running water but I’m happy I have power. There are two cute kids here called Ian and Rayel (Rachel), they are happy and make me smile.

WELCOME TO DELIVERANCE: The church near my house, no walls or roof but very loud speakers.

October 18, 2009   No Comments

Weekly Updates for 2009-10-11

  • Just cut my arm open on a rusty nail. Pretty happy I got that Tetanus shot before I left. And special thanks 2 whoever invented steri-strips #
  • Met with head of the #HIV commity in #IDP camp. Estimated 42% of adults are positive. Planning seminar on prevention, testing & treatment. #
  • Good 1st day @ #IDP. Made a big list of ways to help. If I do half, I'll have achieved alot. Meeting w' engineer re monsoon drainage at 8am. #
  • Walking into #IPD camp to meet w' engineer to help with camp drainage ahead of expected #elnino rains. #
  • Getting projects underway. Signwriter is painting "Boil before use" on water tanks. Sourced materials 4 comm notice board. #
  • Walking home from camp today, I bumped into these two very cute kids, singing Marley's Buffalo Soldier. Made my day. http://bit.ly/2L8410 #
  • Crazy pre storm wind kicking up dust in the Rift Valley, the rains they are a coming. Wonder how this Tuk Tuk handles in the wet. #
  • After rescuing a crying baby from a muddy trench, i'm now covered in the stuff. Wish Pizza Hut did hot showers. #
  • Productive day, sign painter started on hand washing signs 4 toilets & got bits to build comm notice board. But monsoon rains = standstill. #
  • RT @UNAIDS: 300 000 babies are born with #HIV every year on the #African continent http://bit.ly/hAcGl (Prevention is the key!!) #
  • Unfortuntately this sick man is not that much help to Kenya today. Let's see what the doc's got to say. #
  • Found out I have #Malaria it kills almost 1 million ppl a yr. I got meds, millions can't. Help prevent it. http://www.nothingbutnets.net #

October 11, 2009   No Comments