Sadly, February 2008’s scheduled trip had to be postponed due to the post election violence in the resource poor communities. I had my £7000 just waiting to be taken with me along with another £2000 donated from a Trust Fund for more irrigation and solar pumps. Sr Mary wasn’t disappointed though as I sent the monies instead. Our four houses are built and now just awaiting their names and their families. I chose Montrose for obvious reasons and West Fife because their club gave an extremely generous donation of £7000 for one house. The other two are named The Sheiling and The Croft simply because those names seemed to fit.
Susan has been very busy too and District 1 Inner Wheel has managed to fund yet another house to be named The Wheelhouse.
I felt it was prudent to make a visit to Nyumbani in advance of the scheduled team visit in Oct/Nov. The team visit of course, was scuppered in February because of the political crisis at the time and now things have returned to normality I wanted to plan ahead.
It is so good to see how well the whole operation is working and this time I took another Rotarian, Frances Wilson, from my club with me and her comment after seeing it all was that I have been underselling it! We now care for over 4000 HIV+ orphans which is quite amazing.
The Village in Kitui district now has over 250 children and their grandparents installed in their houses, the school is operational and there is a general buzz about the place. The medical centre too has been tiled to a high standard and now occupies the whole of the original building as a new admin block has been built to facilitate all the offices etc. Guess what we now have built up toilets with seats! I think there must have been a few complaints from us mzungus about squatting!!!!
We very proudly put up the plaques on our four houses and Sr Mary assures me they will be home to four more families by my return in November. The communal washing area is still to be finished, but all in all the area looks fine.
Lea Toto is thriving and registering more and more children each week. Kibera clinic was spared from the havoc wreaked by the rioting thank goodness. The slums are being rebuilt but we could see the scars of the violence still visible all around Kibera.
The most pressing thing I would like Rotary and friends to fund next is a diagnostic machine (£50.000) for assessing the amount of resistance to the drugs the children are taking. We have one fourteen year old, Sammy, who is desperately ill and will not live. He is receiving the most excellent round-the-clock palliative care in Nyumbani (he is the lucky one, most kids do not get this kind of care or any care at all for that matter) having suffered three strokes, is blind and is being fed intravenously. When children have been on a certain medication for a long time they may build up an immunity to that particular drug but we don’t know this is happening until it is too late to save them by changing their medication. We have another three or four kids we think may be in this position. This machine would also raise revenue for Nyumbani through testing for all the other hospitals in the city and around.
I have sent out an SOS to all the clubs in my district because all I need is £5000 to add to what is in the pot at present. I hope to do a matching grant in conjunction with another club and to this end Frances has done all the paperwork and has liaised with the RC of Karen in Nairobi to be our sponsor club.
Phew! It just doesn’t stop. We need eight more classrooms for the school in the village but that will have to wait!!!!
I was accompanied this time by Susan Coull a member of the Inner Wheel Club of Montrose who has been an amazing stalwart in my quest to raise money for various Nyumbani projects and Jenny Milne, retired head teacher and wife of one of my fellow Rotarians. We had several things to do. Our main objective was to meet the first occupants of the four houses in Nyumbani Village (a complete eco village in Kitui District about 4 hours east of Nairobi which will eventually house 1000 orphans and their 100 grandparents) funded by Rotary and friends and the one funded by Inner wheel. What a joy! I met Elizabeth (a grandmother of around 70 years old) and her eight grandchildren who had been in her house (The Sheiling) for just a week. She will be given another three children to foster to make the number up to twelve, the maximum for each house. All they had were the clothes they stood up in, bunk beds and a few pots and pans but she had already dug over her shamba (garden) so that she could begin planting maize. She was so grateful to have a proper roof over her head for the first time in her life. Seeing this made all the hard work to raise the funds so worthwhile We then met Susan’s grandmother Catherine in her house (The Wheelhouse) and she had only been there a couple of days. Catherine had five grandchildren with her and will also eventually be foster Granny to another six.
Montrose Rotary Club has funded the first drip feed irrigation system and the first solar pumping system at the farm in the village. This is of enormous value especially when there is a dry season.
Our other accomplishments were the painting and restocking of a much larger pharmacy, the refurbishment and stocking of the Nyumbani gift shop, gifting a large number of books to the library and each cottage in the orphanage, the building of a covered waiting area at Leatoto Kawangare (one of the six slum clinics) and the distribution of a huge amount of goods such as clothes, shoes, pens, pencils, rubbers etc gifted by our many friends in Montrose.
One very pleasant occasion was my presentation of a Paul Harris Fellowship award to Sr Mary Owens who has been a tremendous brick in the building of Nyumbani and all its projects. Having been with Father D’Ag since its inception Sr Mary took over the reins (a huge task and not one to be undertaken lightly) of Nyumbani on his demise and has filled his shoes as no other could. Working morning to night, travelling abroad to fundraise, attending meetings, going back and forth to Nyumbani village regularly (on roads that are less than easy to negotiate especially in the rainy season as we found out) generally running and keeping tabs on everything and caring for each any every one of the children in the orphanage and in the Lea Toto programs. A strong lady of undoubted ability my Rotary Club was delighted to sponsor her award.
My last job was to visit The Rotary Club of Karen to renew friendships and to push forward the work of Rotarian Frances Wilson who has been instrumental in trying to gain a Rotary Foundation matching grant to help us raise the £50,000 necessary to purchase an analyser which will measure the amount of resistance building up in the children who have been on anti retroviral drugs long term. This is a vital piece of equipment which would further enhance the work taking place in Nyumbani Orphanage diagnostic laboratory.
I plan to return to Nyumbani with a completely Scottish team 6th – 20th March and have four places available. Any volunteers?