Into the Bush!
Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
23Trip End Jul 23, 2010
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Where I stayed
Guest House at Kibwezi and Health Clinic, Kasasule
We were joined on the van ride down to Kasasule and Kibwezi by Job as our host and guide, and David Ndumo, new treasurer of the partnership, Peter Mruttu, the new secretary/clerk to the board, and a member of the HelpAge staff, Everlyne Situma, whose assignment is actually Regional Emergency Coordinator, but HelpAge sent her to represent the organization and get a first look at the Kasasule Clinic. Plans are underway to have the assistance of HelpAge in needs assessment of the area served by the Clinic, especially as related to the Elderly, and we hope, eventually help make the clinic a model for all of Kenya, perhaps even funded by the Kenyan Ministry of Health.
The ride from Nairobi took a detour, a long swing through Machakas, picking up Peter Mruttu, the new partnership clerk. But the ride also gave me a great opportunity to talk with David Ndumo, the new partnership treasurer about the prospects for a project connected with Mathare North congregation for Nairobi North Presbytery, which at present has no project with support from the Newton Presbytery
Climate Change has brought new areas of the country into the Malaria and cholera camp, says Everlyne. Her work involves lots of interviews, field visits, development of community efforts, testing for Malaria and AIDS, and counseling, follow-up to assure compliance, nutrition packs, various programs depending on the T-Cell levels, with those testing higher T-Cell levels also getting assistance with employment, development of small business programs so that they can sustain themselves. Everlyne comes up from working as a community organizer at the village level, walking and riding her bicycle, through regional to national positions, before moving to the HelpAge program, so she brings get compassion for the grass-roots work! Her assignment, going with us, was to survey the situation and take a report back to others in her organization.
David talked about possible work at Mathare North, possibly building additional classrooms and once again taking up the project of providing a children's educational center, adding a Saturday feeding program in conjunction with Compassion, International. He is moving the congregation toward the modern age, with the purchase of an LCD projector, screen, etc., so that the congregation may in the future (not long!) enjoy power-point presentations of the sermon, songs, scripture and other materials in the sanctuary
So we started out by going directly to Kasasule, meeting with Ann and the staff, seeing what is going on there and where some additional resources might be plugged in. We delivered one of our two best laptops, and will find out in the next month or so whether it is adequate to the task of taking on the required government forms and templates for reports, records, etc. If not, we may need to bring a desktop at the next opportunity.
Among the items where we probably need a "new look" and some additional funds: an upgrade on the old ambulance to a four-wheel drive vehicle; empowering of the technical and mechanical people to oversee maintenance of the vehicles; possible completion of the partially built brick structure originally begun as a chapel and use as a combined residence facility and kitchen, for staff, visitors or relatives of patients brought to the hospital
After dinner we were joined by Kibwezi pastor, Patrick Mureithi (whose wife we had met on Sunday at Hezekiah’s Milimani Church in Nairobi West, and where I purchased a few Bibles from the Kenya Bible Society); and Sam Mote, both of them involved with the Kibwezi Church and Center. There was a great conversation with Patrick, who has launched a movement called the Blessed Peace Fellowship Initiative, an inter-faith and inter-tribal group which seeks to plant a peace initiative in every district of Kenya prior to the 2010 election!
On Tuesday, we visited three secondary schools, the boy’s school which ranks as the number one high school in the district, the Kalulini Boys’ High School; two girls’ high schools, St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s. The boys were much more at ease and articulate than the girls, who were shy and uniformly quiet. We talked about some of the challenges and problems which the students faced: lack of funds to be able to take part in school outings, field trips or extra activities; for the girls, the need for sanitary supplies and other girls personal needs; apparently for most, additional uniforms as the children grew and changed sizes (surprise!) and for those in Forms 3 and 4 (11th and 12th grade) supplemental texts and materials which are also not covered by the fees – reading material for literature, other extra materials
So we will be proposing, together with our friends on the Partnership Board, the creation of a “contingency fund,” to allow purchase of items or payment of fees for the outings and extra functions, without having to go through the tedious and time-consuming request/consideration/funding transfer process we usually use!
Peter and David will also be creating a proposal for the Board to create a new structure, bringing elements of the school sponsorship process and the work of the clinic under the same roof, perhaps creating an administrative center at Kasasule. We also will probably be proposing the expansion of our boundaries for the school sponsorships, currently the Thange District exclusively, so that at least the areas served by the clinic, and more if the service of the clinic is expanded, will be able to nominate students for inclusion in the program, also with creation of an application process which will involve members of the Partnership Board, looking at candidate’s qualifications and needs, family circumstance, etc. David and Peter asked the students about their class ranking, and stressed that our sponsorship implies a concern for quality performance and a solid work ethic, as well as a sense of “giving back” to the community, and a faith commitment as well – that the sponsorship is not simply a gift with no strings attached, but an investment in the future of the community and the country
On the way back to our Guest House in Kibwezi we stopped to pay a “courtesy visit” to the D.O. the District Officer, the administrative officer (executive branch!) responsible for projects, programs and order in the district. As the rest of us, the D.O. was fairly new to the position, just four years in the service, but a very pleasant and welcoming young man!
We spent a part of the evening before our farewell dinner (Peter and David both have to return to work tomorrow and have other church duties, both are financial officers in their presbyteries, and will not be with us for the Friday closing farewell and goodbye gathering) talking with the woman who runs the sponsorship program, Catherine Kioko, about some of the proposed new structures of administration and responsibility which will likely be forthcoming.
We will be looking for a brand new system, with a great deal more “transparency and accountability.” Fortunately David is both an accountant/CPA and is currently in school working on a program in Human Resources Management, which we think will come in especially handy for creating some forms and procedures for the work. We sensed more than a little reluctance on the part of social worker Catherine Kioko, who has been running the sponsorship program almost as her personal fiefdom, deciding (on no apparent objective basis!) who’s in and who’s out. She will be asked to report to a supervisor to be located at Kasasule and applications for the sponsorship program will be considered at the Partnership Board level rather than the decision being hers. The new joining of the programs will allow for more outreach on the part of the clinic and the use of students from the program as volunteers, aides and assistants at the clinic during their school breaks.