Our Child Went Missing

69433603_888739851485226_5182694137949847552_nMy Song of Praise today (EXTREMELY LONG TESTIMONY ALERT) : I have not slept much in the last two days. For different reasons, but last night it was because my heart and mind actively remained in a state of worship and praise. Let me share why:

Yesterday – early afternoon – my daughter Shukri left the house to take a walk. She needed time alone to clear stuff on her mind. Gio – my grandson – and I relaxed inside a duvet to watch a cartoon movie as we waited for her to return. I had been writing until around 5am, so i appreciated this time for a series of short power naps. My phone was on a charger beyond my reach so i temporarily ignored the text that came in but then it begun to ring. It was Shukri.

“Mami, please call me back!” I loaded my phone with units wondering what this was about.
“Mami, I have run into Aunty Kitty. She is crying. Leroy has been missing since Sunday. They have not found him and they don’t know what to do. Please come.”

I shot like ten rapid questions at her trying to understand what she was saying but what I now remember is saying “Ok I am on my way.”

I showered quickly – my friend Kitty is extremely keen on things like that🙃 – dressed and left. I had called her first, but she wept mostly and I cried with her before telling her that I was on my way. I started getting that ‘floating feeling’ and prayed “God, please lead me to Leroy so I give Kitty good news when I see her.”

I went to the road but our regular bodaboda (motorbike taxi) guys were not there. I flagged one down, but he wanted too much money for the distance I was going. All this while God kept me in His deep, perplexing peace. I talked to everyone i met on that road – asking if they may have seen him, describing him, telling them to bring him to where we stayed or to the police station if they saw him. I was feeling very light headed and a bit wobbly on my feet and I realized that my BP was getting dangerously high. From the back of my head I noticed a bodaboda heading the opposite direction and called out to him.

We agreed on the fare and I hopped on telling this stranger my mission as I did.
He said “Haiya, I saw him. On Sunday afternoon. He was headed towards Soweto – Kayole. He had on a grey track trouser and green shirt and he behaved as though he was a little out of his mind. I remember him.” (Leroy lives with autism)

Ok…what are the chances…God was already answering our prayers. We met with Kitty, hugged and cried a bit and then Denno the bodaboda guy (God bless him…please bless him) repeated his story. Kitty showed him Leroy’s photo and he confirmed that that was the child he had seen. They exchanged numbers…just in case, and we released him.

We held hands and prayed then decided to walk to Kayole – hmmmm none of us had any idea how far that was (actually I did but my brain was on autopilot…) – as we walked we talked to anyone we met, familiar or not. At one point we got to an apartment building whose caretaker is fondly nicknamed ‘Odiero’. I shared our story with him. A well-dressed man was seated next to him. They asked for our contact details just in case and promised to tell others as well. The well dressed gentleman said to us “We will look but you must also know that some Kenyans are not good people and may ha…” I stopped him there. ” I need for Mama Leroy to be strong…so I understand what you are saying, but we cannot listen to you.”
“But I am just saying so that you know. Some…” I stopped him. Said thanks to everyone and we – Kitty, Shukri and I went on our way. He who has ears…you know we meet well-meaning people like these in our individual pilgrims and sometimes, unfortunately, are them.

We got to where we currently live, and met with a group of pastors who are my immediate neighbors. They told us to go to Soweto Police station as that is where he would be if anyone found him. They also advised us not to ‘catch feelings’ if the police were rude to us – they would be just testing us to see if we genuinely cared. We agreed and took two bodabodas – one with Shukri and Kitty and the other with me (I am wide load – not able to share 🙈)

The ride over the sewage flooded Soweto bridge with its murky green waters brought terrifying thoughts 🥺that I quickly pushed back “God, I KNOW that You are leading us to Leroy. You will not let us down.”

We got to the police station and were warmly received and served by the police officers we found. They too assured us that he would be found. Kitty’s Mum had joined us. She had been searching all of the previous night and all of this day, everywhere including in hospitals. The police told us that if anyone had found him, he would most probably be at a children’s home. We passed by the now closed chief’s camp and begun our walk through the slums of Soweto, looking for Leroy, looking through the children’s homes. One after another, they wished us well but said he had not been by.

Finally we got to one called ‘By Grace’ now in Kayole. The lady received us as she continued to cut vegetables. We repeated Leroy’s details and she looked straight at me and said he had been brought in the morning by police. “You must be his mother – you look exactly the same.” I smiled and shook my head and pointed at Kitty’s retreating back…she was weeping again.

“I was not able to take him in because I was full but I want to assure you that he is well and safe.” She continued. ” I could tell that he was not a street child but a well cared for one who baths every day” she said smiling gently.

We thanked her and went to look in the two police locations she had pointed us towards: Komarock and Mihang’o. We had no idea where those were but if Leroy had found his way there, so would we. Outside the home though, we met a friendly “Mama mboga” (Lady vegetable seller). She strongly advised us to first of all pass by the DO’s office as that was where such cases were first reported. She almost physically hauled us into a matatu…God bless you dear angel.

We got to the DOs and linked arms as we walked to the reception of the small police post. Kitty kept telling me “We will find him here.”

We repeated our story to the kind looking female officer…and the two others with her in the booth. She smiled and turned and picked her phone talking as she did. I cannot for the life of me remember what she was saying…just that Leroy was safe. She called a lady who still happened to be in the compound. Susan Owuor Njuguna runs a children’s program called Elroi Hope Center (Leroy:Elroi – see our God!!! El Roi is also a Hebrew name for God – ‘The God Who Sees me”).

The officer introduced us to her and she smiled. Took out her phone and showed use a photo of our baby taken that morning. Ok…here we all broke down and wept as we went into a worship session to the One Who sees us. Kitty ran to the gate saying she would only let up when she saw Leroy. We talked a bit with Susan. She reassured us over Leroy’s well being and that we would go home with him that night.

We got into a very noisy matatu headed to Mihang’o to meet a lady called Maggie who would give us our child. She is a child officer in Komarock. We kept asking the conductor if we were there yet. While alighting the conductor gave further directions to the police station
Vukeni barabara na mupenye hako ka chum hiyo pande ingine. Tembeeni mpaka mwisho utaona kwa polisi.” before whistling sharply and banging the matatu with his hand and taking off. We laughed at this delightful way of showing us the way. ‘Ka chum…”  😂😅.An elderly light skinned lady smiled at us and repeated the instructions in proper Swahili – telling us basically to walk through a path on the opposite side of the road till its end.

It was now about 7pm…and we were at the edge of Kayole. With no idea where we were and how we would get back home…just knowing that we had to have Leroy with us when we did.

We called Maggie and she came to us and led us into the police station. We met with the Child Officer attached to this station – Nduta – who had was already well on her way home before she was called back to assist us in releasing Leroy. They verified Kitty’s relationship with Leroy and then went to get him. Here Kitty broke and wept. And we all joined her when Leroy walked in. He too was in tears. Quietly, gently. We lifted up praise and the police must have taken a photo then.

Back home Leroy’s Nanny and little sisters met us with tearful hugs and we sung along 70201976_888728864819658_5975010660830937088_o.jpgwith a neighbor and praised God. He is worthy. He is Worthy.

We are so grateful for the destiny helpers He sent to protect Leroy on the two nights he was alone, and yesterday (For all who prayed, were kind to him, kept him for us, may you experience The God of Leroy in very special ways in your lives. To Soweto Police, Tassia Police Post, Buruburu Police Station, Kayole Police Station, DO’s Office Kayole, By Grace Children’s Home Kayole, And ESPECIALLY TO Missing Child Kenya, Child officers Maggie (Komarock) and Nduta (Kayole), Susan Owuor Njuguna (Elroi) and the Askari’s who sheltered him Monday night, as well as Denno the bodaboda angel who pointed us to look towards Kayole, to Shukri and Nancy… May God raise you and yours up to Himself to shower you with His Glory in every way. Thank you. Thank You ABBA.).

Truly grateful to Nancy, Sammy and their family for coming to take us home🙌…that’s how we did it and for everyone who prayed, called, searched with us, encouraged us…God bless you.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

#ComeUpHereAndSee #OurAllseeingHope#IHaveAnotherReasonToPraiseTheLORD

Mud in the House of God

Its been weeks of this…pain…increasing pain, escalating pain –  and then its been a week of intense pain.  I am sitting at a women’s meeting in a church near where I have walked my walk of faith for the last seven years. The worship has bought me peace but the pain, the darkness that clings tenaciously around my heart and head. I deny the weariness I have felt. The onset of my menses come with the call from God and His chosen servant to go in a fast, for this in indeed the gong of a new season. I have danced this morning, for the songs God chose for His daughters this day, resonate with the balm my entire life craves. I am not trying to impress God, nor any of His daughters…am fighting to find Him in this situation. I want to see my Daddy Eternal.

You see, with the silence of family- of friends, with the advice that I have received that points more to the grave…echoes the hollow taste of being useless to the world because you have measured your life by the standards of a system under which you no longer operate. I hear in my mind – a lot – “Did God really say that to you?” “But that is not really God’s MO.” “If this is how God treats you, then I would not follow Him.” “You are foolish to throw your entire lot with Him – you must leave Him just a little and throw your whole lot into surviving this world.” And the ache of hearing the comforted comfortable with whom I have stood saying to me “Your life is worth nothing without money – now look, where will you and your family live.”

I look down at my shoes, cheap rubber shoes, precious to me for they are a sign of a walk I have taken with my God. They remind me of the day God took me to view a house in an area I would never have afforded,even if i had turned my back to Him when He took me on this beloved stroll. They remind me of the many places, the many gates I have knocked, the many doors slammed on my face, the trips to my ATM – hoping and them weeping. They remind me of the morning, earlier this week, when I dared try take a step without them and ended up back home in less than five minutes with muddy sewage clinging on my sandled feet, all the way up my thighs, and up my beautiful orange dress and my sleeveless arms after falling into a pool that stood between me and the place I needed to get to. They remind me of both my yielded obedience, and my attempts at rebellion. They have dust atop and mud on their soles. I look at the floor around my feet and the black sooty mud particles that have soiled the portion around where I danced before weariness took over.

I look at the room full of women, and the aches of their journeys, their triumphs and their defeats crowd in on me. I begin to pray for them. I talk to their Father and mine, I ask Him to meet them here, because they woke up this cold morning to meet Him. I join in to their ululations, their worship of The King of kings, I sit down to listen to the woman of God. Then my phone rings and I see that its Daddy calling and the dams break for me. For the last eight weeks since this orgy of pain begun, i have longed to see his name on my ringing phone – I have longed for his voice telling me that it would be well…but there has been silence. And now I am not able to take his call. The tears escape and flow fast onto my dark blue skirt as I disconnect and text him a short message “I am in church.” I find out later, that he had not really called – his android reached out to me in error. But by then, I am frozen from all the weeping I  have done before The Throne of my Eternal Daddy. Why hasn’t He come? Why is my rescue and that of my family taking so long?

I look to my feet…there is sooty mud under my cheap but faithful rubber shoes…and I have caught the eyes of those that try not to stare at them – the combined dust and mud that have encased my feet. I have a race to run. I rest.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

My One Time at a Time

Many times, you cannot imagine it getting to where you hope it will not: then it does, and God Alone holds you as you take a step at a time. A breath at a time. A word at a time. A tear at a time. A smile at a time. An ache at a time. A lifetime at a time. Sometimes a kick at a time, a setback at a time, an insult at a time, then back to a breath at a time, and His Embraces – one at a time.
Hope has endured. I look at another sunset, and the horrors of the night it heralds, but also the amazing view of what God’s words alone can create and sustain as I look at the moon, the stars, the clouds and sometimes encounter creatures that He made to conquer the nights.
So its gotten here, excruciatingly so, but how else would I have known His enduring Love, Might and Friendship here, if I hadn’t walked this night with Him? So I take another step, another breath, take in another bout of pain, block another onslaught of fear in His Might and allow His Word to take me in and hold me and mine within His Promise, Himself. I rest. I rest. In His Everlasting Arms. I rest.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

They Return

They Return.
They rebel in the dark. Enjoying the companionship, laughing loudly into the night…they think themselves clothed, and luxuriously so…not tattered like those with whom they come into contact and discard as inferior. Those whom God Himself had stripped and caused to fall flat at their onslaught. They capture cities, in the dark. They are well fed, seemingly orderly, considered wealthy by the nations that watch them march past…predictably. They pass by seasonally, and at the sound of their approach the nations flee to hide, for a season. In the dark. They are terrible and fearsome…yet almost frantically, they carry the worship of the conquered and vanquished as cherished and practiced souvenirs. In the dark. Oh, they are mighty, impervious, in the dark. Round and round they march, dying off yet rejoicing at the new births – the greatness of their numbers, in the dark. They are a coveted and covetous army, Laughing loudly, they articulate in their criticism of their God and His chosen leaders, in the dark, they march round and round.
 
Then…The Light dawned on them…and they realized that it had been long since they marched. The ancient chains that had anchored them to a mountain, had reached its limit. That they were hungry, wretched, that their decaying and shredding cloths covered patches of their bodies – just enough to keep them sufficiently deceived that they were luxuriously covered, in the dark. At the full stretch of their chains their left feet were captured tenaciously by concrete pits that produced maggots which crept up their legs, eating through their mobility rendering them dead even as they lived: laughing loudly, raining criticisms on those they could make out in the dark, believing themselves covered, fed,marching as they slowly died.
 
And The Light came and beckoned them, He broke them, crushed some, and then deliberately mended their hearts, their lives. The Light opened their eyes so that they could take Him in. He soaked into Himself the stench of the rot they had become in the dark; took over the dust that had imprisoned them causing them to tug their left feet free of it and take a step forward. Then another. They walked away from the stench of their own graves, God Himself stripping them of their grave-cloths; He embraced them, washed, refreshed, fed…then dressed them in true luxury…cloths that could not wear out, could not be stripped off them, did not attract decay, armors made to fit – that could not be stolen from them.
 
Now an army marches into the Dawn, limping as they re-learn to walk. They laugh deeply, cry deeper still, speak healing gently into wounds – their own and those of others. They speak and their hearers are no longer condemned but strengthened…they march away from their ancient path, forsaking ancient, rusty chains their heads raised and focused towards The Light. As they come…their true majesty is visible, strong, healed, prosperous, loving, kind, invincible…a people come destroying the feigned valiant, an army that heals the land they march through. Home is beckoning. They Return.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

The Child Would Not Die or Be Silent

How long does it take for one to forgive their mother or father for what they did to them?” the little girl asked me. I smiled, but not from amusement. I was trying not to cry. Which was impossible anyway…because ever since I had walked into this children’s home and rescue center in Nairobi my whole system had frozen. God had taken over…I had known to be in prayer about this particular assignment the whole week. I had been invited to replace Pastor Terry Gobanga who was away – and it was not really about filling her really large and excellent shoes. It was about being asked to share wisdom with about 67 children…who were there not because their parents were no longer alive, but had allegedly become predators that orphaned the children they had borne.

This was the second rescue center, mostly inhabited by children who were healing from sexual violence, that I had been asked to speak at in a month. I wondered about that. But as I held a five week old baby girl in my arms, then later looked around the circle of about 30 eyes (the rest had been excused from my session for a play session with other members of the group we had gone with), I wondered how I could answer that question. Most of us, resent those that call us to account for the way we raise our own children: Mostly because they catch us at a moment, and make it about our entire parenting. But these were not ordinary parenting moments…although it seemed that it was becoming more normalized, this was a crisis.

In this particular home, all ‘except one’ (and I shudder at the use of those two words – because it was still one too many) had been assaulted by a mother, father or uncle – biological. Most of these children were in delicate security situations since their parents’ cases were still ongoing, and there was need by some clans to either “mute or get rid of the evidence.” Most of them were girls…but there were boys too…one too many. There were others who were or had been admitted in hospital, to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries to lend their lives some semblance of normality. Most of the girls were first borns of at least one of their parents, or their only female child. I looked at their Mum1 – the founder of this home…fourteen (14) years of mothering other people’s children in their worst states had not dimmed her life Light.

How could I answer the children? What would forgiveness look like for them? How do you answer a child who in one moment, or a hundred, had endured war in their genitals to satisfy the hungers of a parent who temporarily forgot that they were supposed to protect not prey on them? Does forgiveness mean that what happened to them was ok? That it should be forgotten? That the children should repent of these (Because they were so often stigmatized – Mum1 shared for instant how one ‘church’ had denied them baptism after going through the classes under the excuse of not being able to afford T-shirts.) Many of these children bore the brunt of these shameful acts against them again and again as they lived each breath with the rejection of the extended families to which they had once belonged – who had perhaps initially celebrated their births and birthdays – who now wanted to forget them for the shame they are accused of bringing home. “For why hadn’t they just died instead of crying out, or getting pregnant, getting an important benefactor and family member whose quaint habits could be ignored into ‘disrepute’ or incarceration for ‘just’ a moment? Why wouldn’t they just let this go and keep up the facade?” This seemed to be the attitude their families had towards them.  What exactly would forgiveness mean for these?

The nightmares needed to end, the healing to come. Forgiveness may be about the offender (e.g. When God forgives our sins it puts us in the best place with Him), but it’s more about the offended (Humanly speaking). You forgive even when the fault is not confessed or admitted to because if allowed to – one offense can define the rest of your life in the worst ways possible. Unforgiveness often translates to meditating on an offence and giving it the power to shut down the functioning of what is still functional in us to hit back at the offender and survive the offense. Meditating constantly on what was done to you gives a grievous injury even more power over you than  it had initially. It can colour, darken everything…take away your smile…your life. I cannot remember what I said to them, because I was praying a lot, and asking God to speak to His little ones.  But they smiled…and they spoke…and they gave me strength as well. There was nothing God could not heal. It was hard leaving the home, leaving them behind to go be with my own household…I had intended to leave by 2pm. I was there till 6:30pm. It was hard to leave these little ones that because they still suffered from parenting wounds had become part of my own story. Their hugs, the whispered stories after the main session, the tears they allowed me to see, and the feel of them as they held onto me while I prayed for them – made them mine – indelibly. As I left though, I realized that they were indeed in the best place they could be for now, having been rescued and that for this moment were truly safer because they cried out and refused to die.

But somewhere in this same neighborhood, in this country, in this globe, other children were unfortunately starting the journey they were walking. I prayed that their parents would be hit by Heaven’s Might, that they would not put their babies through this, and that the babies who had gone through this, would find Hope again, find God, in parental touches by those in whose hands God would place them in. I don’t know…

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Keep Talking Penina

Keep speaking to me Penina, even though I am no longer listening…I am asking of God for myself, what you could never achieve in your strength. For what, if He gave it to me, I could never keep the crown for…but know for sure that I must return to Him – for it is eternally God’s.

Penina…if I were you, I would direct my speech at The Almighty, ask Him for more than this world could give…incomparable to any other; I would not waste my strength raging at my current barrenness…for there is no gain that my grieving could truly give you. I know my waiting and searching has taken long…but I am not cursed as you think.

And even though you use my place of worship, my bended posture before The Almighty God as an occasion for mockery, accusation, and although I have wept at your taunts and slander…I am not cursed…I am more blessed than you could ever imagine me to be. For when silence engulfs your mockery…you eyes will open to the Magnificence of God in my life…and while your name fades into oblivion…or maybe shines for reasons different…God makes mine unforgettable in His books…because of my bended posture before Him – the posture that brings you so much mirth.

I have touched The Scepter of God…I have touched His Heart…because He let me..stand on my knees..before Him. Keep speaking at and about me Penina, for it is your route to oblivion and my platform to eternity.

#HeHeardHeGave

“And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, YEAR BY YEAR, WHEN SHE WENT UP TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.”
1 Samuel 1:6-7

Behold The Man

The Man is betrayed by his friend in the inner circle; and his friends scatter because of the menacing cloud of enemies that surround Him; one of His friends stands his ground a while, and takes out his sword to inflict injury on one of His enemies, but The Man, stays his hand, and performs First-Aid on His enemy, in a way that would be envy of the best cosmetic/reconstructive/plastic surgeons of this century.
The friend who stood up for him, who follows stealthily somewhere within his crowd of enemies, will a few hours later deny ever knowing him. The accusations against The Man are flimsy at best, ridiculous, false, but not one of the ones He so powerfully blessed is brave enough to stand up for Him. So they take away His name, tarnish His reputation, and He will not defend Himself. The slander against Him, kills Him literally. And yet His enemy is given no reprieve, for God rises to now cloud and shake the world, to open and spill out the contents of graves, and to tear at religious barriers that kept His people estranged from Him. Three days later, The Man walks – no longer dead. And God lifts Him up, and seats Him on a Throne before which both His friends and enemies must stand at some point in eternity. For The Man, on earth robbed of His Name, Heaven bestows A Name, The Name at which all knees buckle either in Loving Faith or in Terror.
 
Let Heaven name you for the name the earth has taken from you for your loving service for God. God is Worthy!
 
“Kite ne kit Nyasaye nyaka e chakruok,
to ne ok otuere ni nyaka osik marom gi Nyasaye,
to notimore gima nono,
Nokawo kit misumba,
mi odok dhano mana ka wan,
kendo konenore ka dhano kamano,
to nobolore, kendo no winjo wach nyaka tho,
mana tho mar msalaba!
 
Mano eomiyo Nyasaye ne Omiye duong’ ahinya e polo,
kendo Omiye Nying’ moloyo nying’ duto.
Kamano gik moko duto manie polo
gi manie piny kon manie bwo piny,
Omi Nying Yesu duong’,
kendo ji duto mondo ohul ni
Yesu Kristo e Ruoth,
Mondo Nyasaye Wuoro Bende Oyud Duong’.”
Jo-Filipi 2:6-11 (Philippians 2:6-11)

From Traditional Birth Attendant to Birth Companion – Jane Mukuyi’s Story

Jane Mukuyi4.JPG“My Grandmother was a ‘Mkunga wa Nyumbani’ in Chepkaka where I grew up,” begins the elegant 66 year old mother of four. “Of my many siblings I was closest to her. From the time I was 12 years old, I would assist her perform her vocation. She would send me for things while I watched her deliver women of their children. When I got married at the age of 21, and moved to a nearby location, I too, started practicing. My grandmother’s reputation had preceded me and they assumed rightly that I was likewise gifted and inclined.”

Jane was a nursery school teacher. She, however, gladly volunteered her services helping women through pregnancy and the delivery of their children. “When a woman, in the places where my husband and I lived, suspected that she was pregnant, she would seek me out for some sort of clinic. I would wake up at around 6am to find them waiting outside my house, most of them not having even washed their faces. They wanted me to touch their bellies and let them know the progress of their babies. They would come for me to massage them with oil, or just because they had woken up from an uncomfortable night. Many came in as many times as thrice a week during their pregnancies. In the latter parts, I would massage them to ensure the baby was presenting well. I have since learnt that this could mess things up for the baby and the mother.” She says sadly.

“When a woman went into labour, depending on our agreement and her condition, I would either go to her house or she would come to mine. In mine they would deliver in the kitchen. In theirs, it depended how many rooms they had. The idea was that men could not be part of the process. If there was only one house, they would make themselves scarce.” She remembers.

“If one of my women was due, I would prepare a herbal concoction to rub her down with during labour. The woman would get down her knees, legs apart. She was not supposed to have had a bath before labour. I would guide her to push down the baby. Twice there were complications that led to the babies coming out leg first, but thankfully I successfully managed all such cases without a single fatality. I never delivered a child that was in breach. In a normal situation, I would wait for the head of the baby to present, then using my thumb nail, cut her down there to allow the baby to come out. Once the baby was out, we would use one of the mother’s garments, normally a dirty one, to cover it. We would cut the cord using the bark of a sugar-cane. The woman had to stay indoors for three days. She would not bath. She would use an item of clothing that she had worn to get to the Mkunga’s house to catch her flow. It was all very dirty and unhygienic, and yet I knew no other way. Some of the children I helped birth are now married or even in university. I know of five that died before the age of three years.”

Nine years ago, Jane was one of the TBAs that the Ministry of Health reached out to, in response to a WHO policy, to train in emergency child birth and transform into Birth Companions. Until then, she had never met or known of any other TBA except her grandmother. “That is when I realised that we were conveyors of ill health and not of life as I had previously thought.”

abraham-wanyonyi1Behavior Change Communications Coordinator Abraham Wanyonyi of Save the Children elaborates on this. “More than 50% of unskilled deliveries are conducted by TBAs. They have gravely impacted on the Ministry of Health and their partners’, GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children – Kenya’s attempts to get women to deliver in hospitals under sanitized conditions. They can therefore not be ignored in our efforts. The National  Health Policy 2007 – 2012 provides that they stop providing deliveries and accompany expectant mothers to health facilities. This was just a statement, and there was nothing to support it in terms of making this a reality.” This is where the partners came in. They use the training curriculum adapted from AMREF’s Linda Afya Mama Na Mtoto to reorient them on their roles, give them a small reimbursement towards transport, and have monthly meetings with them.” He says.

“For many of them this is a calling. I remember that when HIV became widespread many TBAs in Western and Nyanza provinces were wiped out by it. You can imagine the hygiene issues, the infections, I mean many health facilities are still struggling with hygiene control. These challenges are more than doubled in a poor old woman’s house.” Abraham laments.

Jane is now an unrelenting firebrand with regard to getting women to attend clinic and deliver in health centers. From being the one sought out to offer clinics, she now accompanies those who do, and seeks out those who are resistant sometimes to the point of having interventions that involve the husband or the chief to get the women to go. “They are tough but I am tougher. I go with them for their initial clinic, then for the fourth of the five mandatory times, and then for delivery. I will ride with the woman on the bodaboda ambulance, and will only deliver if there is a roadside emergency. Otherwise, I go with her to the health center, and stand by her taking care of her needs throughout labour. I act as the link between her and the health facility staff on how far she has gone, and also alert them if I sense there is trouble. I will also accompany her back for post-natal clinic.”

Nurse Violet Nyongesa.JPG58 year old Nurse Violet Nyongesa, of the Bunyala Sub-County Hospital dons the Birth Companion Apron in solidarity with Jane for this interview. She describes the Birth Companion’s role throughout the maternity journey as crucial but thankless in terms of remuneration. “With all they do, we are not even able to offer them a cup of tea. They have really helped raise the number of women giving birth in health centers from 30 to about 100 in a month. We are normally understaffed, with about three nurses on duty at any on given time. When they come in with the mothers in labour, they stay with them. They get them water to shower, clean them after delivery and give them clean linen. They are also usually much better able to communicate with the women than we are. They are really part of the team.” She speaks softly. “I know it is better for a woman to deliver at a health center, despite the challenges we face, because of the sterile environment and because we are able to deal faster with any challenges during the process. The baby is also kept warm. When a child does not cry at birth, we are able to resuscitate them. It is also easier to register a child who has been born in a health center as opposed to at home.”

Jane now makes a living from her farm and also receives support from her four grown children of whom she is very proud. “The training that the partners have given us have earned us renewed respect within the community. The uniforms they have provided makes us stand out in a good way. We are also involved in Table Banking. I love that I am now helping give life the healthy way.” Concludes a smiling Jane.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Why Women Preferred Being Delivered by Traditional Birth Attendants, By Abraham Wanyonyi, Behavior Change Communications Coordinator and Communications Point Person in Save the Children Kenya, Bungoma Office

  • Facilities often understaffed and have little attention during labour whereas with a TBA it’s just the woman. She receives a lot of tender loving care, the backrubs and encouragement.
  • The language often used by the TBA is gentle as compared to that used by the overworked, little appreciated Health worker.
  • Men who find health facilities crowded have access to their wives during labour to support them.
  • Socialisation, everyone in your family has been delivered by a traditional birth attendants, its difficult for women to start a new trend especially at her in-laws.
  • The TBAs are part of the community. With Devolution in particular people may prefer to be attended to by someone from their own communities than a well-trained ‘outsider.’
  • Distance to the health centers make it preferable for women to walk into the TBAs house during labour.
  • People feel safer with older, and more experienced women.
  • Perceived high cost of delivery even in public hospitals whereas TBAs are compensated with what you have. A leso, a chicken etc.

Story and photos by NaMeD Afrika Studios, Kenya

First Published on The Standard Newspaper’s Wednesday Life Pullout, September 28, 2016

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2000217596/no-more-giving-birth-at-home-for-women-in-kenya

 

Abbygail Mwanduka’s Battle with Migraines

javagraduation-007About a month ago I had an attack while crossing the streets, I had to stop right there in the middle of oncoming traffic. It’s bad. You cannot move. You are not afraid of anything else, as the headache becomes everything. I almost did not come today, because I had a crisis last night, but my mother prayed for me all night. Recently the headaches have been frequent and intense, since I have no way of procuring treatment and medication without medical cover. I require approximately Kshs 10,000/ every time I visit the doctor to cover consultation and medication. My current source of income cannot support that.

I first had a seizure in 2003 while in primary school in Mtitu Wandei. I thank God that my father had a medical cover for us, so I was treated at either Pandya or Aga Khan Mombasa, I cannot really recall which. My mother would ensure that I had my medication and things remained relatively stable. When I joined High School, I would have a seizure maybe once or twice annually. However, things went terribly wrong when my O-Level results were released. I had failed. I was devastated and my father was very angry and disappointed. I am my parents’ first female child and they naturally want to see me doing well. My results had found me recovering from an appendicitis surgery. My mother suggested I go back to school to try again to better my results. I was admitted, this time at a school in Machakos, in form three with a fresh surgical wound. Subsequently, I spent approximately one and a half of those two additional years in high school, away being attended to medically in Mombasa. My final exams also found me out and I was brought in from hospital to do my examinations.

I failed again. Dad was livid. My medical alone had cost them approximately 5 million in my High School days. I attempted suicide by taking all my Migraine medication. I slipped into a comma that lasted a week. I was diagnosed as being in Psychological trauma, stress. My father and I went through a week of counselling at Mombasa Hospital. He mostly avoided me before and after this time, addressing me through my mother.

My mum suggested that I take a certificate course in IT. I joined the Kenya Polytechnic and moved to Nairobi to live with my Aunt in Kariobangi. I would sometimes faint in the house while with her. After my certificate course, which I now passed, my parents took me to Catholic University of East Africa to pursue a Diploma in IT. My dad was much friendlier. My self-esteem which had been really low, was boosted by his approval and my marks. During the six months that I was at the University, I only sought medical attention twice, for unrelated conditions. I did very well in my examinations.

I needed to go in for an evaluation at Aga Khan Hospital in Parklands. Up till this time, I had not had a particular doctor I was seeing. It was here that I met Dr. Sylvia Mbugua. It was she that finally diagnosed me with Migraines. She recommended an MRI and noticed the number of seizures that I had experienced. She also noted my mental distress. She managed me well. She recommended a tripartite medication that took into consideration and cancelled out the negative side effects, including possible barrenness, that could have resulted with me just taking one form of medication. She also warned me against taking Betapin which for me had the effects of making me high, in the way alcohol would and another drug Rizatriptan that induced suicidal thoughts. She recommended lifestyle changes in terms of diet and exercise which included drinking a lot of water. I could not drink especially wine, and not smoke. Manipulation of my hair into various styles affects me so I keep it short. Since I am no longer a student, and my current employer is new and does not offer medical cover I have been without medication between April and September. I now live alone with my sister in Nairobi, and enjoy my work. I hope that I can be able to go back to school, mainly so I can again have access to my father’s medical insurance which covers me as long as I am a student. I also pray that I can find Dr. Sylvia again so that she can continue to walk with me through this. She left Aga Khan hospital. I now mostly try to manage the Migraine attacks through my lifestyle.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

photos and words by: NaMeD Afrika Studios

First published in The Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine – September 25, 2016

The Boda-Boda Saint Named Gordy

gordy-and-the-12-bodaboda-men-of-bunyala2The man arrives at the health center late into the night. He is helped by a community health volunteer, and between them, they support a wailing pregnant woman. All of them are wet, and bloody. A nurse takes the man’s place and supports the woman to the labor ward while the man gets someone to sign a little book and then leaves into the night. He is back two hours later, in different clothes, equally wet, equally bloody, this time he is holding a baby in one arm, while supporting a tired woman with his other. The nurses rush towards him and relieve him. They know him well. He is here almost every night. He is not staff, he is a perpetual good Samaritan.

gordy-with-baby-hildaWe traveled to Bumula sub-county, Bumula village to find out from the 34 year old married father of three Godwin Simiyu Wanyonyi (Gordy) just why he does what he does. Many men would probably rather walk through fire, than be with a woman, for any period of time, who was in labor, especially in the latter stages, even when it is their wife or close relative. But in Bungoma County we met, not just one, but 13 of 23 men with a different perspective. And just in case you are thinking that Bungoma County has hoarded Gynecologists, you are wrong. These are ordinary men, Boda-Boda riders with a calling that leads them to choose to be around pregnant women in labor, to support them by taking them, free of charge, to a health center for medically assisted deliveries.

“I don’t know why, but most women give birth at night,” begins this hero in Kiswahili. “Some nights I get as many as three urgent calls. I respond to all. Many of them are in advanced stages of labor and this for me means that we sit on blood and water all the way to the health center. Sometimes we make it. Sometimes the baby comes on the way to hospital, and I never shy away from the challenge of helping out. Most times the lady is accompanied by a Birth Companion, a Community Health worker, her mother in law or a female relative. Sometimes, like last week, it’s just the two of us.”

Even in the best of times, the rush to hospital when in labour is, to say the least, uncomfortable for most women with the ever present risk of losing the mother or child to the journey. This is even more challenging in the counties outside the capital. In some places, women are ferried on the back of Lorries transporting quarry stones in attempts to save their lives and those of their soon to be born babies. gordy-taking-a-woman-into-healthcareBernard Mare, a Transport Officer with the Ministry of Health Bungoma explains “Many places in the County are inaccessible to regular ambulances due to climatic and infrastructural challenges. Many homes are at least 5kms from the nearest health centers and can only be accessed through footpaths, sometimes mountainous like in the Mount Elgon areas. When it rains, and it is night, family and community members here either use makeshift stretchers with blankets to carry women either  to the centers or to a waiting Bodaboda at more level places. Some are brought in on wheelbarrows. Bodabodas, though considered dangerous by most, is the way most people get anywhere these parts of the country, so it makes sense to encourage their use, with caution of cause.”

“I have been a Boda-Boda man for 9 years, and whenever I see someone sick, I help  them – for free. I think this is what built my regard in this area, but I didn’t know just how much until the election. In June last year, the sub-chiefs angordwinnounced in the markets and in the villages around that they were looking for a Bodaboda man to help the villagers get to hospital, especially in the night. They, the Government, GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children, had laid out about ten requirements that this man needed to have.  He was to be dependable, a man whose phone was never off, with a volunteer spirit, not a drunkard or criminal, someone who would best represent the community. I had a funeral on the day the election was to take place so I went” Says Gordy.

“The requirements were deliberately stringent. With the challenges in the area, including security, we needed mature men, with good reputations, with valid Riders’ licences, Insurance and a log book showing that they owned the bike they were riding.” Explains Felix Makasanda a Community Development Officer with the Boresha Programme that rose up to respond to Gordy’s initiative.

“When we were just about to bury, I got a call from one of the community health volunteers who knew me well. They told me to hurry back to the market and try my luck. There were about 60 riders who had responded to the call. Some had been campaigning and had come with their supporters. When I walked in, their morale dropped, and one or two asked me what I was doing there. The short of it, is that most of my competitors became my supporters. At the end of it, the community shortlisted five of us, and I got the most votes,” smiles Gordy. At least, Gordy could now fuel his bike on his mercy errands and have a something left to care for his family.

gordy-with-his-wife-janet2“It’s not easy,” his beautiful wife Janet Nafula contributes. “Many of the women get pregnant in the food season and give birth in the drought season. Sometimes these calls come in at night. As a human being of cause there are times I feel bad, but I have learnt to wake him up and release him, with a prayer. The night holds many issues. I am proud of what he does. Sometimes it rains, and in those nights, he could get as many as three calls. Which means I get to wash more clothes, but I do not mind it. I know he is out saving lives, and I trust him totally. He has never been one with a wandering eye, so that does not even worry me,” she says playfully. “He is a responsible father and husband. We have never slept hungry, he has bought and built on this plot, my children are all I school by God’s grace, the last being in a private school. He has helped set me up in a small hotel business where I have 4 employees, and where he comes in to help from time to time. We also farm goats, chicken, maize and beans, which is where we started off.”

How do they get to know his number? “My mobile number is like a hotline around here. The Chiefs announce it during funerals, in churches, at the hospital during clinics and at meetings. Former traditional birth attendants as well as community health volunteers have it.” Gordy explains. beneficiary-1-mildred-simiyu-with-baby-hildaOne of his beneficiaries Mildred Nanjala Simiyu, not a relative of his, who had her baby in March this year shares how on the day she went into labour, they had no way of getting to the hospital. The young mother of three, had walked to the health centers in the company of her loving mother in law for the first two births. This time though, it was raining, dark, and the path to her home in Bonambobi village in Bumula is full of twists and turns and narrows to barely passable footpaths closer to home. It is about two and a half kilometers from Gordy’s. She had challenges with pregnancy related hypertension. Her mother in law had heard about a BodaBoda Ambulance that transport’s people to hospital for free. “I was surprised by how fast he responded. He rode fast, it was just the two of us that night. My mother in law had to stay back to care for the other children. He saved my life and that of my baby Hilda. If it was not for him, I would have died in the process of trying to have the baby here. She kept presenting her chin first.”

beneficiary-2-jessica-wamalwa-with-baby-prosperJessica Wamalwa had a similar experience. She got Gordy’s number from a neighbor at around 11pm in the night. It was a rainy night. “I was overwhelmed. He was gentle and encouraging. He would ride at the pace that was comfortable for me, but would not stop when I asked him to. He said it was important to get me to hospital. Sometimes he would use one arm to hold me steady on my back. We rode also with my mother in law. By God’s grace I had baby Prosper at 3am.”

Gordy confesses that there have been some challenges. The weather, the roads especially on rainy nights, his susceptibility to frequent bouts to malaria and pneumonia. The lack of proper riding and safety gear is also a challenge for him. “I wish also that they would train us in basic first aid so that we could be more useful in cases where the babies come before we get to the health centers. I have so far, in the past years, had four women give birth when I was taking them to hospital.” gordys-colleague-pastor-wilfred-sifuna-otunga-1The other Riders agree with him on these challenges. Pastor Wilfred Otunga who has been doing this work for 20 years due to his love for children says “There is also said to be a ghost rider who terrorizes road users. Many who have seen it describe it as a jacket riding a bodaboda. I have never met it. I believe God has been with me. Many of us have also met with thugs and thankfully none of us has lost their bikes.” Lack of clarity on the role they are playing, by police on patrol was previously a challenge, but since their partners gave them branded reflector jackets with government and partner logos and branded as Ambulance.

Gordy’s twelve colleagues are grateful to him for his perseverance, and good example that impacted all of them to do the work they do. They also appreciate the assistance that has come as a result of their love for their communities. Like Gordy, many have bought land and built their simple homes on them. Some are educating children at all levels including at the University. They have also initiated businesses for their wives in which they work when they are not on the road. Most importantly, it has enamored them to the communities that chose them for this noble work and are committed to supporting them. They echo Gordy’s sentiments as he concludes our day, “I am convinced I was born to do this. I am grateful for the help I have received from the partners, but I did it before and I will do it long after they leave.”

vipslit@yahoo.ca

 

What They Said

Mildred – Gordy is the kind of person who reacts urgently to every call. If it was not for that, I would have died in labor. He is helping the women here, they will not have their children at home unless they do not have Gordy’s number. The number of deaths of mothers has also reduced significantly. I have his number and would recommend him to any woman in labor.

Jessica – Gordy’s work is meaningful. I don’t think my neighbor would have helped me without transport.  I had seen his number on display during clinic. But on that day, I got it from the community health volunteer who is my neighbour called Martin.

dr-brian-inima-moh-bunyala-subcounty-hospital

Dr. Brian Inima

Dr. Brian Inima – MOH Bumula Sub-County: The BodaBoda Ambulances have increased greatly the number of hospital deliveries.

transport-officer-moh-bungoma-county-bernard-mareBernard Mare –Transport Officer MOH Bungom: Gordy has a lot of passion for the work he does.  He has a big heart.

img_0031Dr. John Papaya – Coordinator of Community Health Services, Bungoma County: Gordy has a lot of humanity. No man would otherwise volunteer to do the work he is doing.

Photos and Stories by NaMeD Afrika Studios – (Nashon David Dwoya and Vip Ogola)

First Published on The Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine on September 4, 2016

http://sde.co.ke/article/2000214893/birth-by-boda-boda-bumula-riders-who-provide-free-emergency-transport-to-women-in-labour

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