I apologize, I’ve been horribly behind on this blog. Hopefully most of you are also following us on Facebook, where I’m better about frequent updates and pics. Most of the MKMF projects will be posted to the MKMF Facebook page – so be sure to “like” the site to see it on your news feed!
In short, we’ve been pretty busy! Shortly after my last blog, we also visited Mwithumweru where the school arranged a meeting with the head science teacher and some of the other science and math teachers. They were very excited about our plans for a math and science club, and will be the other site besides Kaaga where we will start the program.
We have also been busy planning for programs at the community library (at the School for the Deaf) over the Christmas break. We hope to revive an interest in the reading programs at the library, especially the Reading Stars program that Gwen Kidera started last fall. We will also have events for a couple of hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays during break in math, science, reading, and possibly even drama. I think we have some great ideas, just working out the details and cost estimates for supplies. I’m looking forward to it – it’s going to be fun!
A couple of weeks ago, Dorcas accompanied me on my first visit to the Meru District (level 5) hospital where MKMF provides formula (Nestle NAN and pre-NAN) for babies that cannot be breastfed – usually when the mother is very ill, has AIDS, or has passed away. There is also a high prevalence of malnutrition cases at this hospital – it is the largest government hospital in the region, and the worst cases are sent here from the surrounding rural areas. I was given a tour by various charge nurses and the supply officer, showing me the areas the formula was used and the ward where the malnourished children were taken care of. I had mixed feelings at the hospital – at first glance it was a far cry from the facilities we are graced with in America, but it was strangely peaceful as we walked through the manicured outdoor areas between the wards, with families stretched out on blankets in the grass, birds happily flitting between perches, and the sound of tropical plants rustling in the refreshing breeze. I guess I had lived in a concrete dwelling and fought the battle with the red rainy season mud long enough to recognize that the rooms were actually very clean – it’s just that plaster walls and concrete floors never look as pristine and polished as the tile and frequently-painted rooms foreigners come to expect in hospitals. The staff cared about their patients, and took precautions such as having a changing room at the threshold of the newborn and preemie area to put special clogs on and remove lab coats to prevent passing along any infectious diseases. I had to chuckle at the familiarity when the pediatric charge nurse pulled the supply officer aside on our rounds to explain she was behind on paperwork because they were swamped and undermanned. Yep, that’s nursing everywhere!
But the enormity of the work to be done was daunting! There were abandoned children that had been cared for by the staff for years. The need for more prenatal and nutrition education was apparent in cases like a tiny 2-month old baby that was pulled from the brink of starvation after its mother tried to feed it solid food.
But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Gwen started research by interviewing mothers/caregivers of malnourished children in the hospital. I took the work she was doing and built on it, and created a couple of forms in cooperation with the nutrition staff to collect the data we need while reducing the burden as much as possible on them. I will be working primarily with a postgraduate nutrition volunteer, and tried my best to make it his project as much as mine, hopefully something that will benefit him as he moves forward in his career. I delivered the final version of the forms that he helped me develop last week, and will make weekly visits to help and collect data. One of the biggest things we hope to collect is the region these mothers are coming from, so we can concentrate educational activities in the area. (On a side note, I met with another missionary last week that just coordinated a grant for a pilot project to train locals to conduct nutrition education in rural areas, so there is potential for cooperation in the future.)
We started our site visits for water and sanitation projects at Riburi Primary, located deep in the forests north of Meru. I won’t duplicate all the photos here, but please visit the MKMF facebook page to see the wonderful pictures from that memorable trip. We will be visiting a couple more this week.
Besides that, Dale has been busy giving class 8 kids math assistance for their test preparations for the all-important national exams. He’s happy to actually get to teach!
We’ll have several projects that could really use donations over the next few months. The sanitation and water projects are huge additions to quality of life for students and teachers as well as contribute to health and safety. We also will be providing small incentives for participation in the upcoming library events. Something students need is a math kit, consisting of pencils, protractors, dividers, rulers, and compass for geometry construction projects. They only cost about 165 Ksh – just under $2. We hope to purchase a few of these as the “grand prize” for frequent participation. For younger children, we’ll be offering things like pencils, pens, erasers and rulers. If you want to help, visit the Seeds of Grace website (our fundraising partner)…it’s an easy way to contribute to helping children succeed in their education!