Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Safari Njema!

Written by Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

We started off our last week in Kiiura and at St. Teresa’s with our third and final presentation to hospital staff. This presentation included a summary of our internship where we shared our favorite moments and some of our learning experiences. We ended the presentation with recommendations for the hospital based on our work there as requested by the sisters. Our original presentation was on Monday morning, however we repeated it on Thursday afternoon so that all hospital staff were able to be present and anyone who wasn’t able to come Monday had the opportunity to hear what we had to share.

On Tuesday our original plan was to visit Ruju school to complete the last of our school presentations, however there is currently a teacher’s strike occurring in Kenya and school did not commence like it was supposed to. That left us with time to make some home visits to clients from the HIV support group mentioned in the last blog that were to receive a goat. We set out on a goat mission and were able to purchase and deliver 4 of the 6 goats to the clients’ homes. They were all very grateful and the home visits allowed us to met some of their family members who will also benefit from a goat.

Wednesday’s have been our favorite day throughout the summer because they are always a big surgery day when all the main surgeries for the week are taking place. Each Wednesday we have been assisting in the theater and have come to love working there. The theater is also where a lot of our learning took place over the summer because the doctors and nurses were great teachers. We were sad that Wednesday was our last day working there and thanked the staff by bringing some Canadian baking goods to show our appreciation.

We also made some other Canadian dishes that we shared with our friends, the sisters and hospital staff on Thursday after our presentation. We gathered in the guesthouse with our company to share one of our last evenings together and say our goodbyes. We can’t believe that 90 days has come and gone so fast and it is the time for our friends and colleagues to say ‘Safari njema’ (safe journey) and send us on our way. We are sad to say goodbye to our new friends, not knowing when we will see each other again, but we know that our work here is not finished and that their kindness will never be forgotten. One wise Daktari left us with these words:

“Go forth into the world in peace and of good courage
Strengthen the weak and faint-hearted
Render to no man evil for evil
and may the presence of god be with us
His power enables you peace with god assure today and always.”

We will miss you Kiirua!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

HIV Support Group

By Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

This month we had the opportunity to join in on a HIV support group meeting at the CCC clinic at St. Theresa’s hospital. The HIV support group was established in 2008 and has had up to 62 members but numbers have been dwindling over the past few years. The day we attended the meeting there were 30 clients that travelled from up to an hour away, however the month previous, there were only 18 members present. We did a presentation to the group about HIV transmission, prevention, and HIV in pregnancy. The clients had a lot of questions about their weight and how to know what is a healthy weight so we ran back to the guesthouse and brought back our scale, measuring tape and calculator. We took each client’s measurements and calculated their BMI and taught them what it meant. We also took the opportunity to record the results. There were 6 clients with BMI’s below 18.5 indicating underweight nutritional status.

The hospital receives fortified flour from USAID for client’s who are HIV positive with a BMI under 16, which indicates severe malnutrition. However, none of the clients at this time qualified for this supplementation, despite their poor nutritional status. Thanks to the support of the UPEI School of Nursing, each member at the meeting received a bag of maize flour and a bunch of fresh kale as well as lunch (ugali and gtheri) with tea. Two weeks later, some of the members who are struggling to have enough food received maize and beans. We also discovered that the money donated by UPEI school of Nursing helps pay for medication fees of clients who come in to the hospital with opportunistic infections as well as supply the HIV testing kits.

After several weeks of doing HIV outreach in 4 different communities, doing home visits, and spending time in St. Theresa’s Comprehensive Care Clinic (CCC) we feel that the HIV support group has the potential to grow and be a beneficial resource in the community. We have envisioned the group becoming like the Muchuii or Ruuju women's groups. We would love to see the group be more than just an educational and psychosocial support group, but also help in assisting with sustainable living needs. If the group could help provide client's with nutritional, transportation, and perhaps employment needs, then this might attract more members that otherwise wouldn't come because of stigma, while improving the health of the clients, therefore increase the lifespan of the HIV positive client. Just as the Muchuii group employs some of the women, members could run the support group.

To gather more information and ideas for strengthening the support group at St. Theresa’s we visited the CCC at Meru General hospital. There are 5 different support groups based out of the clinic that meet every month and provide for the members in different ways, depending on their need. The 5 support groups consist of two groups for HIV positive clients, one group for HIV positive youth, a group for caregivers of HIV positive family members and a support group for hospital staff.
We were very impressed that there is such an interest in the support group at Meru that there are two different groups for HIV positive clients and that support is offered to such a wide population. We hope that someday there will be such participation and interest in the group at St. Theresa’s.

For now we have decided that the best way we are able to help the support group and it’s members is to assist the client’s with low BMI’s and nutritional status. The 6 members with low BMI’s have a poor nutritional status, however are not in enough need according to the USAID guidelines to be supported and recognized to receive nutritional supplements such as fortified flour. With money that was kindly donated from Winsole United Church we have arranged to buy goats for 6 members in the group with BMI’s under 18.5. Our time in Kiiura is coming to an end and we are hoping to purchase the goats and bring to their homes by the end of the week. In the past, students have purchase goats for clients in need and we believe these 6 clients’ will benefit from a food source that can be sustained over a long period of time.

Our hope of transforming the support group into a group similar to the Muchuii or Ruuju women’s groups is something that we realize cannot happen over night. We have purchased bags made at Machaka Orphanage to bring home to Canada to sell in order to raise more money to support the group and we hope that with the help of UPEI and Farmer’s Helping Farmer’s we can continue to work towards establishing more resources for the support group at St. Theresa’s Hospital.