Progress report from spring, 2008



HARAMBEE service trips are productive, but also intense and grueling.   This is not all intentional:    travel conditions & accommodations are unpredictable and not optimal, we keep to an ambitious schedule, & we meet many good people enduring severe injustice.  It’s especially difficult to see children with preventable, curable diseases, children who are hungry because of drought & crop failure, & those excluded from school because parents can’t afford even minimal school fees.  Yet we’re continually inspired & energized by the courage & deep faith of those we meet.   This trip was no exception—on all counts.  (As soon as possible an image gallery will be created showing photos from this trip.  Please stay tuned!)


The goals for the May, 2008 HARAMBEE trip to Kenya included the following:

a.      Maternal/child health needs assessment study

b.      Initiating a student health clinic at Mutaiti school in Kaluoki Village in rural southeast Kenya

c.       Beginning a high-protein porridge lunch program at the school

d.      Monitoring HARAMBEE’s craft groups and dairy  goat/chicken/honeybee program


Bray Johnson (a fifth-year nursing student from North Dakota) and I returned safe and sound after our

3-week journey.  Among our findings and accomplishments:     

Kenya remains enchantingly beautiful, filled with unsurpassed wildlife that delights & refreshes & mystifies.


More sobering:  Those living in rural areas are greatly in need of basic health education, including simple hygiene information to eliminate ringworm & intestinal worms, and dissemination of World Health Organization recommendations for maternal/child care (particularly regarding HIV).  Solutions often seem simple, but must be combined with economic and other education initiatives.  HARAMBEE strives to address all three major development concerns in a community:  Education, economics, and health care.

We encountered HIV+ mothers who were told by local “nurses” that they must not breastfeed their newborns—contradicting WHO directives.  Result:  8 of 10 babies born in Kaluoki Village this year have died from infection.  This must change! 


Average birth weight of Maasai babies is 4 ½ lbs. because the pregnant mothers are starved during the last half of gestation--an age-old custom, presumably to make for an easier delivery of a small infant.  Result:  infant mortality rate of 30% among some Maasai.  This, too, can & must change.    


One of the charms of working in Africa is that much can be accomplished with little.  We received a $1,000 grant from IBEJI, a Chicago nonprofit organization.  That relatively small amount of money will improve the diet of almost 300 schoolchildren in the village for a school year & this will translate to improved health and school performance of the children.  Blessings to Selena Awoleye for facilitating this great gift!   In Nairobi, our workerand friend Leonard Chanenza helped us locate a posha (mill) where we purchased high-protein uji, which we brought to the school and served to the children.  It will be prepared three times a week and served to both grammar school and high school children.       


One of the teachers told me of her great concern for a boy named Steven she feared was suicidal from severe depression.  The best student in his class & the oldest child in a large family, he had to leave school in February because his parents can’t afford $180/year for school fees & books.  He sadly watches his friends in high school every day.  HARAMBEE doesn’t fund individuals, but I couldn’t forget this boy (read below).


With the generous grant from St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church in Naperville, Illinois, we began to evaluate the children’s health & plan for a clinic at the school.  Bray came outfitted with donated basic supplies and equipment, and we set up an exam table in one of the schoolrooms.  I was able to locate and hire a Kenyan “clinical officer” (similar to a physician’s assistant), Dr. Moraa, who will continue the work.   We made home visits to meet parents, and he will give a series of educational lectures students, teachers, and parents.  Stay tuned for more progress.  AND…surely Dr. Moraa can’t do all this work without help.  I called for Steven, interviewed him, & hired him to assist Dr. Moraa at his bi-weekly visits.  Salary:  $180/year.  The following Monday I got a call that Steven was back in class & was given a kerosene lantern so that he can study and read at night.      

We began with oral rehydration therapy training for moms.  For further encouragement & economic stimulus, we met with some of the grandmothers & placed an order for their hand-woven baskets and rugs.


Animal program:  It’s always a treat to visit the dairy goats and their new owners:    

We have provided more than 50 high-yield dairy goats at two sites, with 15 more ordered.  We heard again & again about the wonderful effects of goat milk.  As our program is intended for those who are HIV+ , we’re  thrilled to hear of children & adults staying healthy & gaining weight when this “miracle food” is in their diet.


And…we were able to make goat cheese, another valuable food, thanks to the skilled preparation & donation materials from the Rider family at Blue Rose Dairy Farm ( in Winlock, Washington.  (YEAH, Blue Rose Dairy!)  We didn’t have a stove, running water, or measuring cups.  But it worked, and was delicious.


So very much was accomplished on the trip.  Solar cooker distribution will continue when spring reaches Kenya in September.   In the meantime, HARAMBEE has donated 20 solar cookers to women in the Sudan refugee camps—where gathering firewood daily puts them at risk for rape…or worse.  It’s a privilege to do this work … and, as usual, the people of Kenya thank you.  They know God understands Swahili…because you are an answer to their prayers.  Blessings to you.  Come with us next time to help—we need you!