Well, a lot has happened since my last entry. I apologize for the lack of updates lately, but it is much harder for me to get on the internet while living at the hostel. Several events occurred last week that I want to comment on, so bare with me. I’ll try to keep it concise.
Last Wednesday, I got an opportunity to visit a local orphanage. It was an orphanage for HIV positive and HIV exposed children that currently has 34 residents ranging from 6 months to 12 years. The orphanage was started 4 years ago by a wonderful gentleman named Joshua. None of the children are able to be adopted out, meaning that the kids are kept until they are at least 18-years-old and are ready to fend for themselves in the real world. The kids at the orphanage are adorable, and I found it very difficult to walk away from them at the end of the day. One boy in particular – Eric – would not let go of me. He climbed into my arms shortly after we arrived and stayed there for hours. Whenever I would try to put him down, he would cling on tighter. Even if I let go completely with my arms spread out wide, he was still attached to me by his strong embrace. I wanted to bring him home with me so badly! I’ve uploaded a picture of him and me for you to see.
On Friday of last week, I went out in the field with a worker from a program called Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). Affiliated with AMPATH, OVC exists to look after children who have been orphaned or are in a vulnerable state that could leave them as orphans at any moment (i.e. children who’s parents are very ill). The OVC workers visit the homes of these children, do a home assessment, and provide them with resources to help them cope with their living situation, whatever it may be. OVC strives to treat the children in the home as opposed to removing the children and placing them in foster care. This approach promotes family living and helps decrease the amount of children who are separated from their families.
For my field visit, we went out to a rural area called Mosoriot just out side of Eldoret to see a 4-year-old girl named Ivy. Ivy was abandoned by her mother, who had recently found out that both of them were HIV positive. The mother, who is one of eleven children, was ashamed of her HIV status and the fact that she gave it to her daughter, so she left her child and fled town. In other words, Ivy’s mother was self-stigmatizing – a concept that is rather common in HIV infected patients in Africa. All of her siblings and parents are supportive and accepting of her HIV status, but she is so ashamed that she feels she must separate herself from her family. Thus, she left Ivy with her parents (Ivy’s grandparents) to be raised. When we visited the home where Ivy lives, it appeared that she was being well cared for. Though we did not get a chance to meet her because she was visiting one of her aunt’s in Eldoret during the school holiday, it seemed that Ivy received a lot of love from her grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The home seemed very sanitary and well equipped with living supplies (i.e. food, water, shelter, bedding, etc.), so we had very little worries about the safety of this child. If it had appeared that Ivy was in need in any way (i.e. malnourished, in need of clothing or bedding, etc.), OVC would have help provide what was lacking in the home. I have posted a picture of Ivy’s home and the roads that we took to get there. It was located in a beautiful countryside, somewhat “off the beaten path” (though most homes in Kenya would be considered to be “off the beaten path” by American standards). The second picture is of the neighbor’s house, but it gives you a better perspective of the area we were in. It was gorgeous landscape, though getting there was a slow and bumpy ride!
The last thing I wanted to talk about was the weekend trip I took to Lake Naivasha, which is about 3-4 hours southeast of Eldoret. A group consisting of myself and four other medical students (we gained one more IU medical student last week who is here for the August-September rotation—her name is Elisa) left for Naivasha on Friday afternoon with plans to visit Hell’s Gate National Park on Saturday. Hell’s Gate is a park with great wildlife and beautiful scenery. One of the appeals of it for us was that there are no predators there, so we were able to rent bicycles and bike through the park as opposed to driving around all day. There is also a gorge at the far end of the grounds, which can be hiked through. It's actually the same gorge where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. I've never seen the movie, but the gorge was an awesome sight to see!! I've uploaded some pictures of Hell's Gate, so I hope you enjoy them. There's also one of a baboon sitting in the tree at the camp we stayed at. Just a forewarning though, the pictures definitely don't do it justice!!
Well, that's all I have time to update for now. I'm rounding in the Newborn Unit this week, which Kenya's closest equivalent of what would be called a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the United States, so hopefully I'll be able to post more about my experience there sometime tomorrow. Only two weeks until I leave to come home. Time really flies when you're working in Africa!!!
I hope all is going well in the States. Much love to everyone. God bless.