Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kibera, Episode Three

We have completed our work in Kibera so this will be my last posting about this sensational - as in sensory overload - experience.

This has been a successful trip. We certified several trainees: Irene, Maureen, Adah and David in VIA and Cryo, and Richard in VIA. The three other new trainees were exceptional and we look forward to their certification in the future.  We will be posting photos of all the trainees. We performed two LEEPS and six Cryos. The flip books we donated on a prior visit are being used, among other things, as teaching tools for women waiting for their examinations. Our relationship with Carolina for Kibera is moving along. In part due to access issues - the CFK facility is further into the slum and down a treacherous hill - we have not been working there. Rather, community workers from CFK brought us several patients to screen at Shining Hope. One super friendly CFK woman assured us that she takes care that all her population receive necessary shots, vaccinations and tests. I'm sure she does!

By the fourth day our corner of Kibera was starting to feel like a neighborhood. A mural project we noted on the first day was completed. Sewer pipes were at rest along the main road, waiting for installation. The woman crocheting a blue blanket was busy with her project. The man frying donuts at the turn in the road was chatting with his friends. Hair braiding, a social as well as grooming activity, was going on everywhere. Chickens strutted and pecked. The popcorn, fish, charcoal and vegetable vendors were in their regular places. The exotic was starting to look normal.

Most of our patients are Christians, which is the predominant religion.  However, we saw many Muslim women as well, like in India, only there the mix is Hindu and Muslim. You will occasionally hear the call to prayer, and mosques are scattered about. There are reportedly 42 tribes represented in Kibera. More traditional Kenyans may have arranged marriages, marry within their tribe, and pay the bride price. Kenyan women tend to be somewhat shy and Kenyans generally speak softly. They have beautiful smiles and teeth, and dressed in tradition clothing women are truly striking. 

One of the benefits of staying at the Guest House is meeting inspiring people doing interesting things. We have met:

--  A young woman doing research on the contribution of hippopotami to nutrient transfer from soil to streams. Yes, it's exactly what you think. The animals graze on the land and poop in the stream, serving as vectors for the nutrient transfer, sort of like erosion. She's trying to figure out whether this is a good or bad thing.
--  A young British man proctoring a United Nations debating event.
--  A young woman designing products for production by a rural women's coop.
--  A surgeon here for volunteer work.
--  A Mennonite man here for mission work.
--  A retired couple from Denver doing teacher training at the Kibera Girls School next to our clinic. In fact, one of our team members, Deborah Crabbe, met them on the plane coming over and we all went to dinner together this evening.

And of course we met Esther, who has been so helpful to PINCC with travel arrangements and other things. She and her fiance Simon came to dinner with us one evening. They are lovely young Kenyans starting off life together.

Just a few words on security. A substantial portion of the employed population here must be involved in security work of one sort or another. As I mentioned before, most homes and buildings of any size have a wall and a guarded gate. The ATM we have used has a guard armed with a machine gun fitted with the size of magazine much in the news in the states lately. Parking lots at shopping centers are guarded and gated. At the upscale mall where we ate tonight the guards searched some cars before allowing them into the lot. On the other hand, there is no official security in Kibera. We were told that the clinic is guarded at night by men with bull horns. Should anyone approach the facility they will blow the horn and the community will come out in force. Another example of how the residents improvise services normally provided by government.

Perhaps one of the most fun things to do here is shop. There is a tremendous variety of affordable items. This morning we visited a shop selling attractive crafts made by disabled people. We were impressed with the well made, creative and even whimsical choices. Kay bought a bunch of things to sell at our spring event April 7. Later we visited the Masai market in downtown Nairobi. This is a not to be missed scene. If you're into it, you can have a terrific time bargaining. It's real life theater. Some of the vendors truly love what they do and are naturals at sales. Sometimes you can get a better price if you also agree to buy lunch from the vendor. Watch out for the items made in India or China, but mostly you'll find products from Africa.

Much has been written about Kibera. There is even a commercial tour of the area that gets five stars on Trip Advisor. Check it out. There is considerable controversy about how many people actually live in Kibera. For a contrarian viewpoint and some great pictures, check out

Sent from my iPad

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