Friday, July 31, 2009

Kevin, Collince, and Sharon

“Eat your dinner. There’s starving children in Africa.” We’ve all heard that line. We’ll let me put a name and a face with those children. Their names are Kevin, Collince, and Sharon. They are some of those starving kids and there are millions more just like them.
These siblings were brought to the hospital by a social worker. She filled me on their story. Apparently they were living with an alcoholic father who neglected them. Dad kicked the mother out of the house so she now lives in a different part of the country. All they had been eating was maize from neighbors’ farms. And Kevin, the 8 year old, stopped going to school so he could take care of his two younger siblings. Can you imagine a second grader in America dropping out of school to take care of his family?!
They came from the Children’s Ward for chest x-rays one morning. They patiently waited while their x-rays were taken. None of them made a sound. They just sat in a daze, too weak to really do exert any energy. I looked at these kids and wondered when the last time they had eaten. They were wasting away with distended bellies and stick thin arms and legs. Chigger bites covered their legs, the result of sleeping on a dirt floor every night with no covers. These are the faces of the starving children in Africa! All they need is some food and some love!
So for the next week they stayed at the hospital receiving food, medicine, and some TLC. Sharon, the tiny 3 year old, and I became pretty good friends during her stay. She just wanted to be held, something that she’s probably never experienced in her life. The first day she arrived she threw up all over me because her stomach didn’t know what to do with all the food it was receiving. I’ve never seen so much vomit come out of somebody so little. And by the end the week she referred to me as her, ‘Obama Mama.’ (Obama is synonymous with American here in Kenya.)
Collince, was the most malnourished out of the three kids, and he also started treatment for TB. He’s the most selfless 5 year old I have ever seen. One morning I was sitting with them as they ate breakfast. They each had a chuck of bread and some tea. Every tiny crumb that fell into their lap was scooped up and eaten. There was one remaining chuck of bread. Collince took is and split it in half and gave a piece to both of his siblings. This child is literally starving, and he’s giving the little food he has to his siblings! Wow.
By the end of their stay all three of them were bouncing off the walls, causing trouble around the hospital. A welcomed site compared to the condition they were brought to the hospital in. It’s amazing what a little food and love can do. They left with the social worker and hopefully were placed with a relative or foster family.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Fishermen

Every night Lake Victoria is illuminated from the lanterns of the fishing boats. The fisherman use the light to attract bugs to the water's surface which subsequently attracts fish that are then caught in a net. Hundreds of white lights flicker like Christmas lights. It's gorgeous; but that is the only beautiful thing about the fishing industry here in Karungu.
Here is the "dark side." The fishing industry draws men from all over the country to the lake to try to earn a living. They leave their homes, wives, and children to come here. In order to stay awake for a full night of fishing they often take illegal drugs to keep them going. This leads to addiction. Along with the drugs they are also involved in immoral sexual behaviors, since most of these men stay away from their families for long periods of time they look for casual sexual relationships with prostitutes. This only contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.
Fishing is dangerous. The boats that are used are old and leaky. Every boat has one man it whose sole responsibility is to bail water out of the boat all night long! Most of them don't know how to swim. They go out every night even during the rainy season where big storms with thunder and lightening last all night long.
The fish caught from the lake are exported to other parts of the country. Big companies buy the fish at rock bottom prices from the fisherman, just to turn around and jack up the price and sell it to people in other parts of the country that have money. These prices are too high for the majority of people here. It's insane that the people closest to the lake cant afford to buy the fish.
Those twinkling lights on the lake don't look so pretty anymore.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I Love Orphans!

I love orphans! Well, it stinks that they are orphans in the first place but these kids are amazing. The 60 kids at Dala Kiye (Luo words meaning ‘orphan home’) are the most resilient kids I have ever met. All of them are HIV positive, and have horrendous stories of what their life was like before coming to the orphanage. Some of them were ‘half orphans’, and lived with the surviving parent who was also infected and too sick to care for the child. Others are ‘complete orphans’ and lived with a grandmother who was too old to care for them. Most of them were neglected, malnourished and not on ARVs (antiretrovirals). Most of them came to the orphanage after being treated at the hospital. The reality is that if these kids were not at Dala Kiye they would probably be dead. Since coming to the home their lives have changed completely. They eat, receive medications, go to school, and now have 59 other brothers and sisters. I often forget they are HIV positive because they are so healthy and active, but every evening at 7pm I am reminded of it when all playing comes to a halt and they go take their meds.
Here are some of my favorite photos of the kids.

Tony and Mercy

Sunday afternoon at the lake

Simion and his soccer ball.