African Projects – Day 7

November 29, 2008

by Megan Yarberry

Nairobi, Kenya (11/26-11/27) – We arrived in Nairobi early in the am – unfortunately, our bags did not. One of the bags has 18,000+ needles, and the other had all of Judah’s painstakingly collected donations of toys, clothes, and school supplies for school children here. I’d been told in Munich that, despite our 9 hour layover in Atlanta, Delta hadn’t managed to get our bags on our flight, so we already had a file # running. After many phone calls and extra trips to the airport, Judah’s bag did arrive, but I’m still working with KLM and Kenya Airways to locate and deliver the other to Kampala, Uganda where we can pick it up en route to Kiryadongo settlement camp.

It is wonderful to be back in Africa surrounded by magic that lives here – as we drove out of the airport, there were giraffes grazing in the distance, and huge marabou birds squabbling and soaring over the city.

In Nairobi we stayed with Didi Ananda Ruchira of the Abha Light Foundation. As usual, she was up to her ears in classes, ideas, projects, and visitors. There was a doctor there who had just spent 2 weeks in the bush with the Masai delivering homeopathic medicines. She told a funny story about some young warriors who were game for learning a bit of writing from her (being illiterate). When she asked them if there were any pens around, they had some hooked to their belts, next to their swords, begging the question . . . which is mightier?

Didi gave me the 2000 anti-malaria dosages to deliver to Kiryadongo, and a quick primer in how the dosing is to be done. Mama Kevina school in Tororo has already received their medicines, but haven’t yet initiated the program, which will happen when the children return to school in January (school has already ended here for the term). The protocol at the school includes neem tincture and 2 different homeopathic medicines delivered according to a schedule, and there are enough medicines for the 220 students and 20 staff for 6 months. The hope is that this will further reduce malaria at the school.

At Kiryadongo, the refugee settlement camp, the protocol has been simplified because the # of people is so much greater (2000 vs 240), and the population is dispersed over such a wide area, making tracking & delivery much more challenging.

While in Nairobi I was able to talk with some folks that had received acupuncture training last year. Rachel reported that one of her patients brought in her daughter who had been having convulsions every 5-10 minutes for some time. Rachel gave her the acupuncture epilepsy protocol, and they monitored the girl for an hour – and no more convulsions! The mother reported later that the girl went a full week with no convulsions, and has since had about 1 seizure per day. I suggested that Rachel offer further treatments ( the girl has only received one treatment), to optimize the results. My own clinical experience and what I’ve seen here in Africa indicates that acupuncture can be really useful for preventing or minimizing seizures.

I also met with some officials from NACADA – the Kenyan government anti-drug commission. Their National Coordinator has expressed interest in the NADA protocol for addiction, which is what we’ve provided to The Omari Project in coastal Kenya for their heroin addicted clientele. We’ll see what comes out of that; my sense is that the senior bureaucrats have a lot of meetings, reports, etc. keeping them busy, and I’m not sure how much time & energy they’ll have to integrate a new tool into what they currently provide, no matter how cost-effective and result-producing it may be.

We left Nairobi Thursday night by Akamba bus. There were already huge sacks of coal loaded in all the undercarriage storage areas – the bags were so large that the doors to the storage compartments weren’t able to close, so the loaders were kicking and levering the bags in when I arrived at the bus station – so all the passengers had to load their bags in the passenger seating area. A reason to be thankful – I wasn’t having to manage that 2nd huge bag on top of the many bags we were already working with. The bus ride was, thankfully, unremarkable – no zebras lost their lives to our transportation needs.

Tororo, Uganda (11/28-today, 11/29, & probably staying until Monday, Dec. 1). We crossed the border around 5:30 am yesterday, and drove into Uganda with a beautiful orange sunrise spreading across the sky.

Yesterday afternoon Judah and I walked over to Charles’ place (Charles Naku, RMF’s Uganda coordinator) – it was great seeing him and catching up on all the news, talking a bit of philosophy and politics, and the blessings and curses of computers. We’ll be meeting again tonight more officially to talk through our plans to meet up with the rest of the team in Kampala on Tuesday, and the trip north for the training and other plans and projects.

After a warm soda we walked over to Mama Kevina. The high school girls met us with singing, drumming, and huge smiles. They were chanting a lot about yoga (the rest was in Adole, I think, the local language), which Beth had introduced to them when we were here in May. After greeting much of the staff and the sisters, I was able to catch up with Sister Clare, who also gave me a tour of the campus. The school now has several cows which were grazing in the school yard. They also have a couple of new buildings: a generator house (no generator yet), and a large laboratory building; funding for which was donated by a Dutch group that also donated funding for the bakery. The lab still needs plastering and some other finish work, as well as the "innards" – lab supplies for biology, chemistry and physics. High schools are required to offer these courses, and so up to now, the sisters have been sending students elsewhere to fulfill this requirement.

Sister Clare said that the mosquito nets donated by RMF have made a huge difference in the amount of malaria at the school, and they’ve really appreciated the toothbrushes as well. The school has a new nurse who has a diminished workload since the mosquito nets have arrived, although there are still some cases. The school nurse will be the one trained in the anti-malaria protocols; we’ll meet tomorrow afternoon to go over it, and then Koech, one of Didi’s graduates from Kenya, will come and do the "real" training.

Because of rising food and energy costs, the school continues to face serious financial difficulties. Staff hadn’t been paid for 2 months, and the sisters are having to make some very difficult decisions about downsizing the student body, since most students are not able to pay some or any of their room, board and education costs. The stress and strain is taking a toll, and I’m going to give Sister Clare some acupuncture this afternoon to help alleviate some of her pain (she is due for surgery next month for a medical condition, but is still trying to collect the necessary funds for this – meanwhile, she is in constant and intense pain).

While I was talking with the big folks, Judah was running wild and euphoric with the neighborhood kids. They all recognized him, and came running when they saw us. He disappeared into the neighborhood across the street for a while, coming back with a kitten and drinking some passion juice before disappearing again. Later we found him catching frogs with the crew, and they wrestled and did Bruce Lee imitations (really – they were choreographed like dance moves, with the ‘victim’ crumpling to the ground in a boneless heap when some fancy move was exacted upon them) as we walked home.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost my voice – a first for me, and something I think I must have picked up on my flights. I’m working to get it back before the training begins on Thursday at the camp, but it’s creating a bit of a challenge in the meanwhile.

There has been a Nigerian soap opera on the internet café’s television while I’ve been writing this – love and loss among traditionally clothed people often sporting animistic scars and markings. I think the latest twist (it’s a bit hard for me to follow) is a child who has fallen sick by someone’s curse, and the local traditional healer is effecting a counter-spell as the mother wails. The whole café (including me) seems pretty riveted. I’ll tear myself away to look for some lunch . . .

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