Friday, March 30

Feeling the pain of loss

The team that is with us are close friends, family and colleagues so when bad news came to one of their team members yesterday it affected the whole team.

One of their team members is Sue, a kindergarten teacher. The kind of teacher we all pray would be our children's first teacher. Full of joy and wonder at God's creation. I have laughed and enjoyed her so much this trip as she shouted with joy at every animal she saw from the bus. I have held her as she wept when she saw the children - hungry and dirty.

In the middle of night before last I was notified that Sue's brother died suddenly and expectantly of a heart attack. The decision was made by her team leaders to wait to tell her until when we returned from the first day of the medical camp. All day I watched her knowing the news she would receive that night.

Sue had dreamed for so many years to come to serve God in Africa. Her family has asked her to stay to fulfill her dream. So for today she is going with is to serve in the second day of medical camps.

She is with her friends here and Pastor Hirbo spent time with her last night which she said greatly helped.. Pastor Hirbo she more now than ever before knows how important it is to reach the lost before it is too late.


Praying for this team as we experience together the joy of serving and the pain of loss,


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Learning from the ground

After a 13 hour bus ride (5 hours of the travel was off road) we arrived in Marsabit. The team did well in spite of hurt backs, swollen legs and a few broken hearts at the conditions we were seeing out the windows of the bus. As we had done most of the pill counting and organizing the medications before we left Nairobi we had just pouring of liquids medications to do in the evening.

We bought soccer balls - 12 of them. We shared with Pastor Hirbo that we thought we could leave two at each medical camp and use the other 6 on Sunday during the what if? event. Pastor Hirbo asked us not to leave the soccer balls at each village as he was using soccer balls to evangelize. He explained if we just give things like soccer balls he loses the opportunity to use them to reach the people with the gospel.

He shared how recently he used pencils and small notepads to reach a group of Morans (the young warriors of the tribes). He used the pencils and notepads to teach them to write. The young men soon were asking Pastor Hirbo to pray for them.

Pastor Hirbo has taught us how we can stand behind him and support his ministry as he reaches the unreached tribes. We need to be careful not to get out in front of him and make it more difficult for him. So today we took the balls with us and some of the team members played soccer with the kids while the rest of the team was doing medical camps. When we left the medical camp, we took the balls with us as Pastor Hirbo will use them to create soccer teams and teach the kids more than we could have in one day.

Learning more and more how to help....


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Helping Without Hurting

Partners for Care has received a team from Michigan...prepared to try to help without hurting. We have worked together for the past 8 months preparing the team in the US to come and the team in Kenya to receive. It isn't easy to bring together people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different day-to-day lives. But, they share a common goal to - serve God and to reach the unreached with the love of Christ.

This is a medical/dental team and we are traveling to Marsabit to hold medical/dental camps. We are excited to be going with Pastor Hirbo to see the children of Parkishon and two other villages where the children are infected with jiggers.

In preparation to come, the US team read "When Helping Hurts". Each person came understanding they came to join an existing team already bearing fruit. They came desiring to leave the team on the ground more equipped to do the work God has called them to do.

One of the best part is what a teachable spirit the members of the US team have. Together we look at what we are doing and ask "are we helping or hurting". The Kenyan team is our best teachers. So, together we are learning.

Over the next couple of days I will share with you our mistakes, our paradigm shifts and what we learn.

For now we are 27 people headed for Marsabit through the desert off-road bouncing and hanging on to the bus seats so we don't fall off.

More later from Marsabit,

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Ask a young person....

Ask a young person what they want to do when they grow up and they might tell you they want to be a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer so they can get a lot of money. Ask them why they want a lot of money and they may tell you to buy a house, or a car or even a boat.

Tonight I asked those questions to a young man who is working for Partners for Care. His name is Jefwa and he is 19 years old. He is a friend of a close friend of Franko's and he comes from the coast. He is one of thousands of young people in Kenya that have to dropout of high school because they cannot pay school fees. He came to Sammy in January and said he just wanted to go to school. Sammy loves to help young people like Jefwa. He enrolled Jefwa in our 2nd Chance School and gave him a job helping at the PFC House. He is paid $30.00 a month. He is very bright and doing well in 2nd Chance. He shows up early every morning at the Partners for Care House to help. I never see him idle. He is a very hard worker.

Now back to the question. The other night I took Jefwa and Franko for tea and "chips" (french fries). Jefwa told me that was the first time he had ever gone out like that. I asked Jefwa what he wants to do when he finishes 2nd Chance. He told me "be an engineer" so he can make a lot of money. I asked why he wanted to make a lot of money. He said, "I have 5 brothers under me who I want to help pay their school fees so they can go to high school." That is a big dream for a young man who himself hasn't completed high school. But, God is a big God and I think He will honor Jefwa's desire to help his brothers to go to school.


Humbled to know a young man who doesn't desire things but desires to help his family,

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Wednesday, March 14

MedShare visits Partners for Care in Kenya

Recently, board members, the Executive Director and staff of Atlanta based MedShare included a on their trip to Kenya a visit to Partners for Care. The Kenya team was very excited to host the MedShare team to share with them about the work of PFC and to thank them for the 40 foot container of medical supplies and equipment PFC recently received. The following is an excerpt of a posting on the MedShare blogspot written by one of their board members.

I am Terry Blum and I have the privilege to serve on MedShare's board. This is my second trip with MedShare and it is a wonderful journey in terms of learning and sense-making.   Quite frankly, I am not sure I can construct meaning from all that I am sensing from my eyes, ears, mouth, fingers and nose.  I am also sensing from my heart, making this whole experience so difficult to justly describe.  As someone who is quite cerebral in everyday life, this adventure touches below my head into my heart and reaches into the region of feeling and intuition.  The incredibly rich tapestry of the lenses of the people with whom I am touring, all of whom are awesome in their own way, is coupled with the wisdom of those we visit.  I know I will not be the same when I return as I was when I left Atlanta in that huge airplane.

After wonderful bonding and familiarizing ourselves with the agenda, we got into the reason for MedShare today by first visiting St. Mary's Nairobi and then Partners for Care   I will report on Partners for Care which is part of the mHealth alliance which engages in mobile health initiatives among other things.

Our group transitioned from St. Mary's to Partners for Care with lunch at the incredible Safari Park Hotel, where Sam (communications director) and Samuel (director in Kenya) from Partners for Care joined us. The grounds of the Safari Park are quite elegant and could have been a movie scene from colonial times or an upscale suburb anywhere.   The food and the group's camaraderie are awesome, but the contrast with the needs of so many is evident as one passes by the slums of Kibera (2nd largest in the world after Soweto with estimates of 1-2 million residents), and Marurui where 26 - 30,000 people live.
En route to the clinic, we rode on a really bumpy road that went on for quite a while.  We came to a stop outside a building that was the initial Partners for Care destination for most of us.  The signage said,  what if? Life Changing Center.

"what if?" is a question of what it would be like  if there were no AIDS in Kenya. While most of us went into the clinic building, Lindsey Barber and Charlie Evans went into Marurui slum with Peter from Partners for Care. Peter took them to visit a friend's home as well as to complete a patient assessment to show how the mHealth program works. The hand-held device relays medical information and pictures to Dr. Vincent at the clinic. Dr. Vincent then triages the patient relaying the instructions for caring for the patient to Peter. Each entry creates a secure medical record for the patient.

Partners for Care was founded by Atlanta nurse, Connie Cheren, who came to the MedShare store for supplies for some of her medical team mission trips. PFC has 8 programs in addition to the clinic. As we walk past the goat on the corner into the what if? building through the door with Clinic written on it, we found a world of hope and love. At the what if? Life Changing Life Center, there is a one room clinic, class room for their Second Chance program that prepares 20 students for the national graduation exam with 2 years of education.  There is also a computer room that serves 20 adult students at a time.  Forty-five or so have received or are receiving training and 20 have found jobs.

Meredith with the PET
Going into the clinic run by Dr. Vincent we saw a PET, personal energy transport vehicle which was sent in a MedShare container. Other programs include sports programs for the kids, with volunteer coaches, including a policeman who was tired of just arresting kids, a malaria prevention program that has distributed thousands of treated malaria nets to households with kids under 5, and the wonderful music group Temples of Worship that draws crowds for AIDS awareness and prevention. There is also an 8k race that is run at the same time as a 5K in Atlanta (the Kenyans finish the longer race quicker!)
Their Marsabit program is really striking. Partners for Care serves one of the most impoverished sections of Kenya. They treat children infected with jiggers, a kind of parasitic flea that enters the skin and reproduces so the children can't walk. The inflammation is incredible. 350 children have been treated with anti bacterial soap and water after which the hands and feet are covered with Vaseline. 89 have been provided with shoes that can help prevent the jiggers from infecting the children.

The health programs are important as 473 Kenyan children under 5 die every day, 71 due to HIV/AIDS, 93 to malaria….90% of these deaths are due to preventable causes!  So Partners for Care is there to help reduce child deaths.

Our visit was truly inspirational….we were sung to with a Jambo (welcome) song which included Hakuna Matata, reminding me of the Lion King and the Circle of Life!  They also sang a song "Smile"…happy for you… will lift you up, hold your hands, loose your pain, so you smile again. They ended our visit by singing "That Little Light of Mine" in English and Swahili….We left on our bus singing "That little heart of mine, let it shine," knowing the love in the hearts of the Partners for Care staff. The passion and inspiration of the Kenyans who spend so much energy to do their work to serve their own people is a memory I will always cherish.  They are rich in spirit, and thanks to them there is a little more light shining for many.

The MedShare team with the Partners for Care staff
From Connie - we are grateful for their visit and for telling their story on their blog. We are privileged to work with MedShare helping them connect surplus with need. They are welcome at the Partners for Care home in Kenyan anytime!

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