Monday, December 26, 2011

Looking forward

The holiday season is a little different here. It has been 95 degrees all week, and Christmas was the hottest day so far! But we still enjoy holiday tunes, presents, and great food (we roasted a goat). And just like at home, the holidays are a great time to take a look at what we have done in the past year and what we hope to do in the future.

At Vutakaka, December always has a different feel – school closed on November 22nd and the clinic closed on December 16th so the staff can go home from Christmas (don’t worry, there is still care available in Takaungu over the holidays!)

That might sound relaxing, but we have to get ready for 2012! School opens on January 4th, so we have a lot of textbooks and school supplies to get delivered on time. A classroom is going up for our new Class 8, our first graduating class! We also have our plans in place to build 6 new toilets thanks to the Rotary Club of Darien – we should break ground on this right away in January!

Despite all the construction and supply purchasing, I have still had time to reflect on the great year we had in 2011. We had our first Class 7 students, which scored very well on their common exams. We are so excited for them to go onto Class 8, the last primary school class. Our teachers worked so hard this year, putting in a lot of extra tutoring time with kids that needed a little more time. The students got to do some great extra curriculars this year too: a big sports day was held at a local primary school, they went to Tsavo National Park on their field trip in February, and every Friday they played soccer with the local international school. It was another great year at school, and we look forward to having our full school (KG1 through Class 8) next year. We can’t wait to see how our students do on their Primary School exit exams at the end of next year! Our school farm is also up and running, thanks to a lot of support from American International Women’s Club of Genoa, the Rotary Club of Kilifi, and Emily Capello and the family of Carol Boland. It is so great to see the students and gardeners producing food for their lunches. It is definitely another step towards sustainability at Vutakaka.

The health department has had a busy year too! In June, we helped the government launch a 50 person volunteer Community Health team. The team collects data on every household in the villages and then tries to educate the families on better health practices. They can refer clients to the nurse, organize for emergency trips to the hospital, encourage HIV testing, and help pregnant women get proper pre- and post-natal care. In 2012, the focus areas for the health team will be pit latrine construction and malaria prevention. We are so excited about the CHW team and happy to be in partnership with the Ministry of Health!

We also looked at a new clinic this year, with the idea of opening new health services in the Mavueni area. This new clinic was built by a government program, but the Ministry of Health does not have the money to outfit it. The EAC would be able to finish it and hand it over to the government, who would then take up our staff and medicine costs. It also opens the possibility of a new Community Health team in that area, and the spread of our school health classes to more primary and secondary schools.

These transitions are the key to the EAC’s vision. We are working diligently to create a new kind of development – programming led by local needs, and built with local resources. In 2012, we look forward to reducing our programming expenses in health, and discussing strategies with the parents to find independent income for Vutakaka Junior School. Each year, we help more people with less money! So, thank you for being part of the EAC community – your help goes a long way towards sustainable change. Happy New Year from all the EAC staff in Kenya!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Exciting health updates at Vutakaka!

As we get ready for 2011 to come to a close, we are excited about a lot of things happening in our health department. Our health team runs a number of projects that help to improve the overall community health in the Takaungu area. Our health clinic has always been the base of our operations and sees about 400 people a month for general out-patient services. Out of this clinic, we run a Community Health Worker Unit in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, health education classes at 6 local schools and many community groups, and 3 HIV support groups. We believe strongly in this holistic approach to changing the health of the community and are so proud of our staff for working so hard to create change.

The first big news is that we are working on expanding our clinic services to the Mavueni area. Many of our clients come from this area, which is quite far from Takaungu, but still in the cachement area for the government’s Takaungu clinc. For many years the Ministry of Health has dreamed of opening a clinic in the Mavueni area to better serve this part of the sub-location. A building has been constructed by the Constituency Development Fund, but has not been completed due to a lack of funding. We hope to help to finish construction on the building, outfitting the building so it is ready for health services, and moving some of our staff over to Mavueni to drastically improve health in this area. The Ministry of Health can then take over the financial aspects of the clinic, and we will still be able to run health programs in this new area. We are so excited about this expansion, which will be low-cost, sustainable, and will help to better serve the population we work with. News of this project will be posted as it moves forward. Our nurse Valerian has been instrumental in organizing this expansion and we are happy to have him as we expand health coverage.

The second great thing happening is that the Community Health Unit that we started in partnership with the Ministry of Health has registered itself as a Community-Based Organization, which means they can access loans and grants on their own. Each of the 50 health workers are assigned 20 households where they monitor and try to improve health practices. This is a committed group of volunteers, but because most of them live on very little income, they need a way to have an income as a group to support the volunteers in their day-to-day health activities. The CBO registration is an important step. Our staff and international volunteers will continue to help this group connect with funding and small business ideas so that they can promote health in Takaungu for years to come.

Lastly, our health education department is getting a big boost from intern Katie Porter, who is working to finalize curriculums so that we can further expand the health education program to other schools and other organizations. Through the help of 2 volunteers in another area we were able to expand our program last year to 2 new schools. The solidified curriculum is important if we hope to continue bringing this program to new schools, as it will help formalize our health education. We are also running a class for Class 5 girls, a secondary school class, and many community classes to local groups. As we move forward we will finalize these curriculums as well. Thanks to Katie, Mohamed, Joy, and Joyce for all their hard work on health education.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Drug Awareness Day

In partnership with Scope, Muslim Education and Welfare Association (MEWA) and the Red Cross of Kilifi, the EAC held a Drug Awareness Day in Takaungu town on March 4th, 2010, coinciding with the Muslim celebration of their prophet's birth, Maulidi. All the organizations worked with the organizers of the Maulidi celebration to ensure coordination of the events of the day.

Four councilors tested for HIV/AIDS throughout the day, and a team of local Red Cross volunteers used skits and speeches to educate the community on the dangers of drug abuse. The message of the day was simple and effective - drug abuse is a disease like any other sickness, and members of the community who has this disease should not be turned away, they should be helped.

The location chosen for the event was the very center of Takaungu town. This area is where the drug users typically hang out looking for money and upsetting the balance of the community. We hoped the event would turn this location into something positive, at least for the day.

The day started with music from Big Bounce, a local DJ from Takaungu. Mohamed Said, the EAC's health education leader, took to the mic to announce that anyone could be tested for HIV/AIDS in the tents set up by the organizers.

To further mobilize the community, volunteers dressed like old-fashioned Kenyan police and went through the town bringing groups of people to the event site. At the busiest point, the site was surrounded by more than 300 children and adults! By the end of the three hour event, 53 people were tested, including many who admitted to having used drugs through needle injections.

The EAC and their partners are proud to offer successful events such as this and will continue to develop strategies to educate, test, and treat members of the community.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

World AIDS Day and Takaungu AIDS Awareness Day

The East African Center’s Nurse, Community Health Workers, Health Education team, and teachers participated in two AIDS awareness days this week, in celebration of World AIDS Day this year.

On the 1st of December, the EAC participated in a district-wide World AIDS Day celebration in Chonyi, a very rural area in Kilifi District that does not have adequate healthcare coverage. The EAC partnered with the Ministry of Health, Red Cross, USAID, Scope, and many other local organizations to hold a celebration filled with speeches, music, dance, and drama at the District Officer’s compound in Chonyi village. The day began with a large procession filled with drums and signs, bringing many local residents to the site of the celebration. At the event, Vutakaka Junior School’s (VJS) students performed a play about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. There were testing stations set up to test for HIV/AIDS and speeches by people living with HIV/AIDS. Everyone in attendance agreed it was a wonderful, informative day!

On Friday the 4th of December, the EAC held our own AIDS awareness day to bring the information and testing specifically to Takaungu. The Vutakaka Community Center was filled with balloons and informative signs, and music was provided by a local DJ. The day included speeches, a drama by the VJS students, a dance by the adult education class, and a quiz with prizes at the end of the day.

Our Head Nurse, Valerian (far right), and his assistants tested 55 individuals throughout the day, and all in attendance received information about HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment. The day was an enormous success, and the EAC is extremely proud of the staff for working so hard to pull it off. Thanks to Krystle Dowling for a great job organizing the day!