Peter the Driver and Crew...
We hope this report finds all of you well.
CHAT was recently visited by an Australian gentleman named, Sam Day. Sam was not only a volunteer, but a prolific writer. His countless journal entries paint colorful images of life in the communities we serve and offer comments and observations from the perspective of a young man with a desire to learn about a culture unlike his own, and help, in whatever way possible. As this perspective may be similar to that of individuals, such as yourselves, who desire to both learn about and connect with other cultures, I thought to share with you a few of his entries. These entries will help bring to life an organization that you know only through these reports and our Global Giving project landing page. They pertain mainly to his observations of our Family Planning initiative. I imagine you will find them moving, at times hard to read, illustrative, sometimes amusing, and thoughtful.
14/02/13 - Thursday
I am picked up early in the morning from Shanni’s property after she too has also departed for the other version of the travelling clinic. Shanni began this organisation in its humble beginnings and still runs the show. She and others already present on site will travel with stock and equipment carried and transported by camels. These workers will walk with the camels to the designated sites. The method of my transport is not as ‘African’ as this romantic and adventurous notion. I am picked up in a yellow Land Rover 4wd that idles adequately and reassuringly. I meet Peter first, the driver for our entourage. I am told by Shanni, that he is a lovely man by nature and my initial meeting does not betray this suggestion. He is a Kenyan local and wears a yellow polo shirt tucked into green business trousers. Interesting attire but fashion is certainly not a priority to most people I meet. Peter is well acquainted with his own laughter. Secondly I meet Anne, another Kenyan local and she too is a lovely lady with exuberant enthusiasm for working alongside volunteers like myself and many more previously. I will come to realise later in the trip that Anne and Peter are two puzzle pieces in this unfinished jigsaw of a nation. The nursing skills Anne has are a product of the ever improving education system in Kenya and she is now applying them in the best way possible. She is contributing to the rural community of the country. Yet another tiny but vital stepping-stone for the much needed improvement of the country. I don’t mean to sound condescending or patronising when I say that, but coming from the comfort of a developed nation, I see the flaws this country has. Peter also plays a large part in bringing these services to the community. He drives and maintains the vehicle and is involved in the administration side of the clinic on site.
We drive for a couple of hours over rocky and hostile terrain that will become very familiar over the seven days. Peter seems to take us where there is no road, through farm paddocks and across arid plains. Peter and Anne teach me basic Kiswahili words as we travel. We close in on our targeted spot. We start to see ‘Manyatas’. These are huts that are constructed in the same fashion by most tribes by applying dry clay soil cladding to an aggregate system of sticks and branches that are held together by any means available. Peter sounds the vehicle horn repeatedly and in a purposefully intrusive manner. This is to alert the locals of their arrival. The mobile clinic fits in a condensed format in the rear fibreglass cab of the Land Rover and after parking under a shady tree, we begin to set this up. There are several tables and chairs that we erect and more importantly an abundance of medicines, drugs and other medicinal utensils that are kept in cardboard boxes and plywood shelves. We place these on the tables and play the waiting game. This is a game that I confidently say I have mastered by the end of the week. We are situated at Sukoroi station which is a few hours outside of Nanyuki. There is only one tribe that lives here. The Samburu people. Whilst driving through the village, A Samburu woman waves and calls out to us and Anne laughs, telling me that all Samburu women talk and communicate in one tone. We sit in the shade like idle cattle and the first patient arrives.
Regina Ayanae – Female. 32 yrs old.
Probably the largest aspect of the clinic is what the staff call, ‘Family Planning’. This is administering contraceptives and birth control so I guess the name is pretty appropriate. There is an ample supply of condoms, which are handed out for free to locals who wave our vehicle down occasionally. More so Anne will inject plastic tabs into women I fail to find out the name for. These are implanted into a woman’s upper arm and release a chemical ever slowly to prevent pregnancy. These implants are effective for three years or five years depending on the type. There is also a shot for three months. This is paramount in population control which I have a strong opinion is very necessary for particular families in Kenya who struggle to provide for their children. This will also benefit the country in the long run I think. General rule of thumb: It is harder for a government to provide amenities and services for the country when the population is larger. No brainer, right. Anne calls me in to the tent where she implants the birth control products. She introduces me to Regina who is receiving an implant. Anne shows me Regina’s arm. She bends it for me and tells me that when Regina was a young girl she broke the arm and it never got treated. Regina can use the arm in every normal way as it has healed since then obviously, but its appearance is awkward and twisted. It has not mended correctly in a plaster cast, as it should have been. Anne administers the local anesthetic first in the arm and I cringe as I see the needle lift up the thin veneer of skin. Regina watches un-phased. Next Anne inserts the larger hollow shaft for the insertion of the birth control product. This is even more unnerving to watch as the skin offers resistance. I leave. My last vision is of Regina’s face as she watches the large needle enter her arm. She is un-phased.
Rebeccas Meirani – Female. 25yrs old.
Rebecca has a swollen face and it looks sore and blemished. She walks with a limp. She has been beaten severely by her husband of 27 yrs of age. Rebecca has given birth to five children in her young age. I think to myself at this point of the mental, not to mention financial inadequacies that these parents have to support five children. The couple have no money and no food. This causes stress and friction between them. Rebecca has done some work for the neighbour and returns for payment but the neighbour has gone to the market and therefore is not present to provide Rebecca with payment. Rebecca has returned home with no money and the stress boils over into physical violence. The husband beats her. The family dynamic is one that is slightly less common now in Kenya thanks to the education provided by these clinics. This primitive yet cultural concept is that the husband believes the woman should bear many children and stay at home and care for them while he will find work if possible and drink and socialise with other men. Foresight is absent in this plan. The fact that Rebecca has been on birth control for three months is also in direct opposition to the husband’s beliefs. Since the fight, he has since left and there is no sign of him. Whilst Rebecca is at the clinic, the oldest child looks after the other four siblings. I make an educated guess of her age. Maybe no more seven years old.
Thus far not many men turn up for treatment at the clinic. It is primarily women and babies. No locals wear sunglasses at all and there are eye problems in the elderly due to sun damage. I see the eyes of the elderly and they are whitened and faded. Later in the trip, a young infant with sticky fingers from sweets, handles my sunglasses and renders them virtually useless as I can not see out of them. I pack them away in my bag. It is then that I notice how harsh the dust, sun and wind are on the eyes. I wish I could shout out to people how beneficial wearing sunglasses is but I contain my condescending and indulgent opinions. I miss my sunglasses.....
The Team at CHAT