The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love...Kenya

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Projects and More

Wow, what an incredibly busy month it has. I know I should have updated a while ago, but I have been so wrapped up in work, I really haven't had the time.   Also, getting Internet access has been particularly difficult.  Usually I go to the post office and use the Internet there, but the government hasn't paid its Internet bill so they owe like a billion shillings and no one knows when service will be restored.   Karibu Kenya!


So, a friend asked me the other day while we were on the phone, what the hell am I exactly doing here.   I guess I talk about my projects in such bits and pieces it can be hard to tell (well, sometimes it's hard for even me to tell and I'm living this life).  So, I thought I would do a brief overview of my three main and current projects.   There are other things I do skirting around these things, but these are what I would characterize as my main focus these days.


Post Rape Care:  I've talked about this one a lot.   Currently I am working to "mobilize" (fancy development term really meaning publicize whatever one is working on) community awareness of the program and also create a dialogue about rape in the first place.   This really means I am sitting with mamas groups and talking about sex and rape.  I am also working with the district hospital on creating "capacity" (another stupid development term meaning make sure they are actually doing this job of providing Post Rape Care like they are meant to be) by doing further trainings with the nursing and trauma counseling staffs.   This will be an on-going project with no real conclusion, but I guess that can be said about most any of these projects.


Holistic AIDS/HIV Treatment:  Eeegads, where to even begin with this?   Well, needless to say, most have heard that meds are "available" for people living with AIDS, and I won't even go into why that word is in quotes, just trust me that it is a loose term.   The problem is that there is no whole-life approach to treating these patients.  It isn't really the health systems fault; they were completely over-whelmed and under-resourced before you factor in an epidemic like AIDS.   So, I am copying an idea form another departed PCV's site and trying to offer comprehensive treatment at my organizations clinic.  To do that I am working with the CDC (yes, that CDC, your tax dollars hard at work) in developing an experimental approach.   One of the CHWs (Community Health Worker) I work with is currently in VCT Training (Voluntary Counseling and Testing…learning to give HIV tests and do counseling).   She will return to start giving these tests from our clinic.  Once that is underway, the nurse from my clinic will go to the CDC's staging training where she will learn the procedure in assigning a stage to those who test positive.   If you are in a certain stage you are eligible for ARV's (anti-retro virals).  If the patient is eligible then they go to the district hospital to get stabilized on the meds and treat any immediate illnesses.   Once they are stabilized they would then come to the clinic once a month to get their meds from us.  Now, the benefit of that is they will be seeing one caregiver every month, someone who can monitor their condition more closely than the staff at the district hospital.   Also, by having a population of patients who are suffering the same disease we can provide extensive support in many areas and not just health.  The staff at my organization can do group therapy sessions, nutrition classes, managing side afftects seminars and generally create a caring community to enhance the patients WHOLE life.  Now, this is in the beginning (as my CHW is still in training) and the CDC wants me to keep the lid on it for awhile from my co-volunteers so that we can see how it goes, but if successful it will hopefully be a new approach in managing AIDS patients.


Imani Design Project:  I don't know how best to explain this.   I have a great friend at site; she is one of the most amazing women I have ever met!  She has started a women's group and she is constantly on the lookout for projects that will help its members generate income.   So, there is a project that another volunteer started probably 10 years ago over on coast.  It is a vocational training program that produces these cool bags we all love.   Peace Corps Volunteers buy these things in bulk (don't worry, you'll see them soon enough, I have bought many to give out a gifts).  While I was at their workshop last month I got to thinking about how great the product is, how unique it really is and why aren't more people doing it.   Then I though, why aren't the women I work with doing it?  The coast project has some problems, mainly dealing with availability.   They aren't great at marketing themselves.  Well, I know NOTHING about crafts in general and sewing specifically.  So, when I was sitting with Sophie after my return I asked her how hard it would be to make a few of the examples I was showing here.   I then explained the setup and we brainstormed out the idea and she got really excited.  Now, I made it a rule early on to never be the bearer of money, but this project seemed like too much potential success not to go find the funds to do it.   So, hopefully in a few weeks I'll hear if the grant I wrote will come through.  Assuming it does, we will begin to create this structured business (I will be doing extensive business training classes for the women).   I am alerting you now that I will be selling these bags like Jerry Peace sells his hot sauce (blatant Nashville Production reference!).  I will be helping Sophie and the Imani Rural Women's Action Group (Imani means faith in Kiswahili) put their product (once up to quality control and production quotas) into boutiques in Kenya.   We hope to try and find an exporter (you know, one of those folks to place things into Ten Thousand Villages stores), but that is further down the road, probably after I have already returned to Kenya.   This women's group is really great and it would nice to know that Sophie can help them learn a skill, make a marketable product and allow them to care for the orphans and infected community members from a self-reliant place.


So, that is what my days have been focused on lately.  Of course I have been listening obsessively to the radio, when I am not reading that is.   It is amazing to me that most days I don't miss TV so much.  When something isn't apart of your everyday life you tend to forget how integral you once thought it was.   I feel this way about electricity and running water.  Even though when I stay in a hotel I have that wonderful shower and a place to plug in my beloved curling iron, once I am 10 minutes back at site I forget that it was even there.   But, once you are around it again, you slip back into old patters.  For instance, a few weeks ago me and like six friends were spending the night at another volunteer's house that has electricity and a TV.   At one moment I noticed that we were crowded around a 13 inch TV with bad sound enraptured in an 8-year-old episode of Dharma and Greg.  Now, when in America would that EVER happen?   When I remarked on it we all laughed for a moment and then returned our stony gaze back to the TV.  Ahhh, Peace Corps moments!   What makes me bring this up is that NPR has been recently talking about the upcoming fall TV season.  I don't really think about TV at home, but when NPR talks about the new shows I swear I go into the DT's!   The worst of it is that Aaron Sorkin has a new show this season (creator of the West Wing and that amazing but short lived Sports Night).  How can I NOT be there to see a new Aaron Sorkin show?   Some days it is enough to make me cry!  Please don't let it be canceled before I get home, it has Bradley Whitford and Mathew Perry for crying out loud...Eddie (you know who you are) please promise me you are taping this show!


So, in a few weeks I am headed up to Egypt for a little R&R.  We will be there for the end of Ramadan festival and that should be really exciting.   But, sadly enough, the thing we have talked about most in planning this trip is the fact that McDonald's will be across the street from our hotel in Cairo and that there is a Pizza Hut that overlooks the pyramids.   Now, this is sad, but you start to miss the crap your culture produces after awhile.  I hope also do some great shopping and get some cool pictures (especially from that Pizza Hut window overlooking the pyramids).   Hope everyone is well and WILL BE WRITING TO ME SOON (no small hint!)!!


  • At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is Eddie (I know who I am) and the DVD's will be waiting for you when you get back.

    Eddie :)


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