Out in the field from Kenya

2 November, 2015

CBM supporters Christine, Wendy and Dona recently spent a week in Kenya experiencing the work of CBM first-hand.

This week, we recount the highlights of their travels as they are equally heartbroken and inspired meeting CBM partners, and beneficiaries whose lives have been ultimately transformed through the generosity of CBM supporters.

Day 1 – Dona

Why? One may ask, why subject yourself to live yellow fever, typhoid and cholera inoculations, daily doses of Malaria tablets, to view the work of CBM in Kenya (and I certainly asked myself those questions before embarking on this field trip). The reasons at first were purely logical: the commencing date of the field trip perfectly coincided with, to the day, a return from a walking pilgrimage in Spain; and, as a Uniting Church co-ordinator of Luke 14, I was interested in learning more of the work of CBM.

Christine, CBM’s Linda Mwania, Dona, Wendy and CBM’s Rob Nicholls

Christine, CBM’s Linda Mwania, Dona, Wendy and CBM’s Rob Nicholls arrive in Nairobi and head out to the Maasai Markets for a cultural experience.

This first day, which happened to be a Sunday, was full of adventure. After a good, jet lag inspired sleep, we ate a hearty breakfast, and headed off to church. “Nairobi Chapel, was held under a giant tent. We felt warmly embraced by 1000’s of worshippers, beautiful instrumental praise and excellent teaching on Peter’s call to ‘go beyond’ from Acts 3-4, and an inspirational call for ‘E Groups’ to become more focussed on discipleship, care and evangelism. Was it really 2 hours?

We then ventured out for a bit of culture shock… in the shape of the “Maasai markets”. The vibrant colours of fabrics, jewellery, beading, paintings, sculptures, along with the fervent negotiation of price, left us feeling totally “exhiler-austed”… a whole new experience, calls for a new word!

From one amazement to another… Dinner with Kirsten, the regional director of CBM, who administers Kenya, Tanzania, and beyond – a woman of many gifts, with a passion for transforming lives; this trip has already left the inoculations well worth the jab and swig!

Day 2 – Wendy

CONFRONTING would be an appropriate description of our field trip to one of Nairobi’s slums, where we visited a school where a day care unit for children living with mild to severe physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy were cared for by a team from CBM’s field partner APDK (Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya).

Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK)

Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK) Headquarters; Employing people living with disability to manufacturing wheelchairs and tricycles

The mothers shared their heartbreaking stories of all the difficulties of raising a child who lived with severe disability. They were unable to walk, and in some cases feed themselves, and in a couple of instances their husbands had abandoned the family, others were single mothers, and several had other children.

They told of the rejection by the community, due to ignorance, superstition, religious and cultural biases, the isolation they suffered often locking the child in the house so they could attend to their various needs. They told of the difference their lives had become with the support of CBM, and being able to bring their child to day care, which is a preparation for going to school, (although some may never achieve that), The children are supported by CBM and APDK with wheelchairs and various occupational and physiotherapies, and social, and field workers, who visit and provide support, as there is no government financial assistance.

Wendy meets one of the mothers accessing APDK day care support

Wendy meets one of the mothers accessing APDK day care support.

Their attendance there at day care means that their mums are able to work to support themselves and their family or attend to the needs of their family.
Earlier in the day we visited the APDK headquarters in Nairobi, where physio, and occupational therapy are carried out, and impressively, wheelchairs, and tricycles are manufactured.

The tricycles are hand operated wheelchairs, but with room to carry goods, and an umbrella, so that a paralysed person can carry on a mobile business, and be independent. Most of the employees there at that factory have physical disabilities, so, again, the disabled, or as their sign says, “People with other abilities” are employed.

Day 3 – Dona

If I were to describe this day as briefly as possible, I would choose the words, “scintillating joy”.

AIC Kajiado Children’s Centre and Prevention of Blindness programs.  Wendy and Christine witness a Maasai woman’s surgery.

AIC Kajiado Children’s Centre and Prevention of Blindness programs. Wendy and Christine witness a Maasai woman’s surgery.

We drove east of Nairobi to visit the Massai community where the AIC Kajiado Children’s Centre and Prevention of Blindness program offers medical and pastoral care for those with a wide range of disabilities, from Cerebral Palsy and cataracts to club foot and stroke.

We were greeted by the very caring and professional director, Daniel, and were then led to the cataract examination area. Turning the corner, I had my first glimpse of the Massai women… tall, dignified, strong and wise, fabrics draped in brilliant colours, ears laced with brightly coloured beads, necks encircled with many bands of woven colour and dangling silver chains. Many had one eye covered, waiting eagerly for the eye patch to be removed.

After surgery, a patient is guided back to her bed to rest with a patch on for 24 hours.

After surgery, a patient is guided back to her bed to rest with a patch on for 24 hours.

We greeted each other initially with some reservation, but soon conversation grew, and we were welcomed into their world with smiles and hugs. One lady, dressed in purple, with thousands of beads, was ‘Susan’ who was 55, and had 12 children. Her husband sat opposite, dressed in a grey suit, his ears revealing a lifetime of elaborate decoration. When her patch was removed, she was overcome with joy, as were each of the others. Another sat for a long time, with her arm around my shoulders – and it felt warm with the heart and soul of our mother father God. She joyfully praised God for her healing.

We noticed some Massai women who were waiting for operations the next day, weaving their necklaces. We bought some from them, and took a ‘selfie’ in celebration of a day that was more than memorable.

We had experienced once again the fantastic results of CBM sponsorship – evident in changed lives brought about by authentic supportive communities and skilled staff whose care for those with disabilities is miraculous. We saw the fabulous diverse creativity of our God who plants His unabashed love into those who answer His call.

Day 4 – Christine

We return to Nairobi for our final day of new sights and experiences. We followed the right arm of the Rift Valley, the views at the top were spectacular plus, of course, many colourful roadside stalls.

We visited the AIC CURE children’s hospital. After a briefing on the work and vision of the hospital we enjoyed a lovely Kenyan lunch. In addition to the children treated at the hospital they have 38 regular outreach clinics especially to care for children with club feet. These clinics enable weekly plaster changes for 6-8 weeks then splinting. This often avoids the need for surgery. There are also monthly mobile clinics. The hospital provides full rehabilitation services including splints, prosthetic limbs and wheel chairs. The family liaison counsellor shared his own journey of scoliosis and a near fatal spider bite.

Christine at AIC CURE Children’s hospital.

Christine at AIC CURE Children’s hospital.

There is still a lot of stigma attached to congenital abnormalities. The patients we visited included a child with severe cerebral palsy who had a release of groin contractures. This will assist him to be able to use a special chair in the future. There were both congenital and traumatic leg/feet abnormalities corrected. One 7 year old boy had hand surgery to release burn contractures. Both he and his twin were burnt in a fire at four months old. Their treatment included skin expanders under the scalp for three years. Their mother was so happy that soon they both be able to function fully.

Another man had both his legs amputated for a “leprosy like” condition. He has been restricted with mobility using a wheelchair. With prosthetic legs he is now able to start his own business and rejoiced that he can now attend church again. His brother will have the same surgery soon. Private clinics assist the funding for much needed treatment for those who can’t afford much, if anything at all. After overcoming fear and reluctance to accept treatment, they will experience a improved quality of life that opens up more opportunities and a better future.

Day 5 – Wendy

This will probably be the last post before we fly back to Australia tomorrow night (Friday), when we will arrive in Brisbane on Sunday morning!
After an hour and a half in the snail paced Nairobi traffic, we reached our hotel, which was built in the heady days of the 1930’s, and is set in lush gardens, manned by armed guards.

Dona and Wendy say their farewell’s after an action-packed week in Kenya.

Dona and Wendy say their farewell’s after an action-packed week in Kenya.

Our time in Kenya, has been nothing less than incredible! The things we have seen, and the people we have met, either in community settings, or even in their own homes have been privileges which most people would never have the opportunity to share in.

This has been made possible because we were there as representatives of CBM Australia, and the partners of the work who we visited, and the people they care for, are incredibly grateful for the financial support they receive from CBM.

So we go home with fresh understanding of the impact of the work on the lives and livelihoods of so many people here in this vast continent of Africa, and what a joy and a privilege it has been!

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