Health Center update for Lanet Umoja

S5003412Mercy and her son Samuel

DSC01462Ruth shares a laugh with Mercy

putting baby on backMercy and her friend demonstrate how to carry a child Kenyan style

These photos are from a trip I took to Kenya in 2009 when EC conducted our first set of medical clinics.  The young mother is Mercy.  She was from Kampi Ya Moto, a very dry area where we built The Lord Ranjuera Primary School – our third primary school in 2003.  This school has the highest percentage of orphans and is also the place where the first orphan feeding program was established.  Mercy came and sat with me one afternoon on the school porch while the clinics were wrapping up in side the school.  She was curious about the differences between life in Kenya and life in America, especially when it came to child rearing practices.  She wound up giving me a gift that I still treasure – a small hollowed out gourd used for carrying milk and making yogurt.  Every time I look at it I am reminded of Mercy and her son Samuel and the conversation we shared that day.

That year I had the privilege of bringing several doctors and medical professionals with me to conduct the first set of medical clinics in three different locations.  Our team collaborated with the Kenya Ministry of Health to bring health care to over 1,000 individuals that week.   The following year I brought a second group of medical professionals from the USA to conduct another medical clinic – again in three different locations.  They were able, once again, to see and treat over 1,000 individuals who otherwise would not have had access to medical care.  An AIDS clinic was included in these clinics, allowing men, women and children to be tested for the disease that has taken Africa by storm in the past three decades.   Dr. Carol Vassar, an internist who traveled with us both years called these trips “reconnaissance missions” as they gave us an idea of the level of need in the areas where our medical clinics were held.  As a result, last year Everyone’s Child and the Waterbury Vermont Rotary Club raised close to $10,000.00 to initiate the building of a full-scale Health Center that will serve 28,000 residents of Lanet Umoja.  The clinic will be built next to the preschool and across from the primary and secondary schools that  we built in 1999 and 2010 consecutively.  Construction has begun, but only haltingly as they are only able to build when funds are available.  The initial phase required the building of a latrine that will serve the preschool, a trench (footing), and a fence to protect the children who are frequently on the playground next to the clinic.

Everyone’s Child is dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned and impoverished children around the world.  Our mission reaches out to children everywhere: to educate where there are no schools, to connect where there is isolation, and to care where there is great need.  Our main focus is education, we believe strongly that an educated child has a better chance at making positive changes in our world than one who is left with no education.   We are no longer actively fundraising for the health clinic, but we still believe strongly in the need for a clinic in this area.  The nearest hospital is 15 miles away, which is not much by American standards, but in Kenya this usually means a trip by matatu (bus) or on foot over very bumpy and often impassable roads.  Chief Francis Kariuki (Chief of Police in Lanet Umoja) owns a car that often doubles as a hearse.  Pregnant women are carried by wheelbarrow to the matatu stage (station), and in many cases people who make it to the hospital spend the entire day in the waiting room before being seen by a health care professional.

We are very much looking forward to the day when the people of Lanet Umoja can walk a short distance from their homes to receive medical assistance.  Our hope that the success will lead to a clinic being built in Kampi Ya Moto as well.

IMG_20151027_112321Building materials for Lanet Umoja Health Center

Ten Thousand Villages Holiday Shopping Benefit for Everyone’s Child!

 

Ten Thousand Villages info for website

Hey Vermonters!   Ten Thousand Villages at 87 Church Street in Burlington is donating 15% of the proceeds of their sales from 3 – 7 PM on Thursday, December 10th to Everyone’s Child!  This is a great way for you to do some gift shopping AND support what we do.  We’ll have a raffle with great prizes 🙂  I hope to see you there!

Ten Thousand Villages mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)

preschoolers on the slide at Lanet Umoja boy with a tire

When I first came to Kenya in 1997, the preschool (behind the kids pictured above) was the only building on this plot of land in Lanet Umoja.   The same building is still being used as a preschool today.  75 children ages 3 – 5 are enrolled here.  Just across the road is Lanet Umoja Primary School.  It was built in 1998 and started with 75 students in 1999.  Enrollment has now reached 1040 students in grades 1 – 8.  Bishop Edward Donovan Secondary School, built in 2010, is also across the road, home to 250 students in grades 9 – 12.  The achievements at these schools have been many, from National awards for academic performance to government funding for new classrooms and lab equipment.  But my focus for this blog is on the preschool.

When I first visited Kenya in 1997 there was no slide on this preschool playground. In fact, there were no playground toys at all. There was a swingset, but the swings had been removed because the teachers were afraid that the children would get hurt if they used them.  The children often used the chains to swing from, which to me seemed far more dangerous than sitting on a seat to swing.  Children played with inner tubes or old tires during recess – rolling these with a stick and pretending that this was their vehicle. They also played running games like tag or “football” (soccer) using several plastic shopping bags tied together with string. Necessity has always been the mother of invention, no matter the age or place.

Last year (2014) I noticed that the swings were up, and this past May the swings and slides were in full use during preschool. The teachers still put the swings away on weekends and during vacations, but these preschoolers now have much more access to age appropriate toys than their older siblings ever had.

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) in rural Kenya is looked at more as using common sense than following a specific  protocol. (If you research DAP Kenya online the top hit is “Drivers of Accountability Programme”). I still believe that a combination of teacher training and access to equipment accounts for this change, both of which requires funding and understanding from the government about the importance of implementing developmentally appropriate equipment and teaching techniques.

The preschool building here also needs some serious attention.  Preschools in Kenya are not funded by the government, so parents are expected to pay tuition, which in turn pays the teachers and occasionally allows for limited supplies for the classrooms.  Unless there is outside funding preschools often lack appropriate materials and more importantly, less than adequate space for the children and teachers.  Floors, windows, walls, all the things we take for granted are severely compromised here.  Teachers have told me stories of children napping on the dirt floors and having to be woken up and moved because rain was coming in through the wooden slats in the wall and soaking the floor.  Although we think of Kenya as a warm climate, the temperatures in May, June and July can be chilly enough to warrant warm coats and hats throughout most of the day.   Children wear their coats and hats throughout the school day because the wind comes through the slats as well.  Bottom line, this preschool building is in dire need of replacement.  When we think about the environment where our children are being educated today, even the most run down building is 100% more appropriate for children than this preschool.

Everyone’s Child is committed to improving the conditions for children in impoverished situations.  The preschool children attending Lanet Umoja Preschool fit into this category, so our plan is to begin raising funds for a new preschool building in the coming year.  If this catches your attention and you would like to join us in this effort to make a difference for small children in Kenya, please shoot me an email at everyoneschildren@gmail.com.  I welcome your help!

Faith on a swing
Faith on the “swingset” in Lanet