Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Challenges of Health Care for Mothers and Children in a Rural Village in Kenya

When you enter the name Ngai on a popular search engine, the most common entries provide information about the omnipotent Kikuyu creator God.

Ngai is also the rural village in the former Eastern Province of Kenya where Muemi Mbiti grew up. The village of about 5,000-8,000 is located in a valley, away from most cities.

The isolated nature of the village and surrounding villages (which together have a population of about 20,000) comes with some challenges. There is no full-time clinic in Ngai, which means that residents must travel far to other centers of population to get needed treatment. This the context that led Hellen to leave her village for the capital city of Nairobi to train as a nurse at the Cicely McDonnell School of Nursing. Read more about her journey here.

While she has made a career in nursing in the United States, Hellen has not forgotten her roots. She often returns to her village, and one of her priorities is to help build a medical clinic in Ngai. (If you would like to help, contact Hellen by e-mail)

Offering of Letters organizers
Offering of Letters Workshop
Her training as a nurse and her first-hand experience with the impact of poverty on mothers and children in her village made Hellen the ideal speaker at the Offering of Letters workshop in Albuquerque. This year's letter-writing campaign, entitled "Survive and Thrive" urges Congress to prioritize support for maternal and child health programs, emphasizing nutrition.

Representatives from St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, La Mesa Presbyterian Church, All Saints Lutheran Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Central United Methodist Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. Timothy Lutheran Church, All Saints Lutheran Church, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, and St. John XXIII Catholic Church attended the workshop. And we had a couple of guests: Dominic Kasgel (from a different region of Kenya) and Hellen's daughter Michaela.

We asked churches to hold their Offering of Letters early, as we hope to influence the appropriations process and avoid the electoral season in the fall. Here is our ask for this year.

Below is a short video of Hellen's talk.

"Where I come from, there is no running water. We don't have electricity.  Even when we want to immunize our kids against childhood diseases--polio, mumps--we don't have anywhere to refrigerate them.  It might be provided by the World Health Organization, but how do you make sure that the vaccinations are actually good to use? There's no ice, there's no electricity, there's nothing, and those are the kind the kind of vaccinations we get..."
And here is a video of life in Ngai (courtesy of St. John XXIII Catholic Community in Albuquerque, which is her home parish--and which is supporting the efforts to build a clinic in the village).

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