It Takes a Village
Imagine—land in Nairobi after 2 days of flying; arrive at hotel to an amazing buffet at the pool with our ONE travel team and ABC News producer and cameramen; venture to room for shower and sleep by 2 a.m.; up and back to airport at 6:50 a.m. for 1 hour flight to Kisumu; greeted by the AMAZING Kayla Laserson from the CDC right off of the plane; drive 1 hour through the villages of rural Kenya for an extremely moving experience with HIV/AIDS home based counselors; load the bus for a yummy lunch and drive to KEMRI/CDC Clinical Research Center (simply wow!); then back on the van to Kayla’s home for the honor of sharing a meal with Kenya’s women leaders (including Momma Sarah Obama!!!); finally arriving back at the hotel around 11:00 p.m. to check some email, post some facebook, and write a small blog.
You would think after a day like that I would be a zombie, but that was not the case today! I am not sure that words can describe the emotions felt by all of the ONE Moms when we pulled up at the Lwak Nutritional Center today greeted by a crowd of beautiful smiling, singing, and dancing women. I could not hold back my emotion. We all exited the bus and joined in their celebration with song, dance, and lots of cheek greetings. Whatever feeling of fatigue I was feeling was replaced instantly with joy and energy. I am still singing their words in my head which translated to “the visitors are here…the visitors are here”. Following our welcome they performed a song and then spoke words of such gratitude to US for providing a program that has given them the training needed to take on leadership roles in their community. They are called Village Reporters and they support the implementation of Kemri/CDC projects and studies. These VR’s are currently making home visits to women at varying stages of their pregnancy. In order for these vital government programs to be funded it is essential that data be collected and results be monitored. These women have embraced this leadership role. All morning I kept reflecting on my experience becoming a leader for ONE. I could see my own “coming alive” in them!
The women community leaders are not just located in the Lwak area. We also visited the women of the Dunga beach fishing community who are leaders in the conversation of HIV/AIDS in the fishing community. This group had all lost a family member to HIV/AIDS. They shared their personal stories and thanked the US supported programs that are providing members of their community with the medications needed to stay alive and healthy.
Surprisingly it did not stop there. We then were taken back to Kisumu where we met the Volunteer Tuberculosis Ambassadors. This was “living proof” that funding for these programs is saving lives and building better, stronger, and healthier communities. Tuberculosis accounts for 200 deaths per hour and the treatment is a strict regimen of daily medication for 6 months! These volunteers are all former TB patients and now are assigned to someone in the community to visit every day for 6 months to ensure they are taking their medications. The patient we met is now healthy and preparing to become a TB Ambassador herself. She is going to “pay it forward”. We were taken to a celebration of former TB patients who were bed ridden (a whole tent full!) and were given the gift of a broom to “sweep” TB out of their community and off of this planet!
Are you inspired yet to take action? I hope so!! We say that “it takes a village”. After what I witnessed today I say, “it takes a mom”!