Meet Bryant Shannon, a rising junior at the University of Florida in Gainesville and co-leader of one of the top three schools in the ONE Campus Challenge [OCC]. He studies Biological Engineering and Public Health, and has volunteered in small communities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Nicaragua to help raise awareness about extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, clean water, and respiratory illnesses attributable to open-air cooking. Eventually, he hopes to become a physician. While in Kenya, he looked specifically at “Challenges in Kenyan Healthcare.”
While in Kenya, Bryant blogged for the OCC. Two of his entries—capturing what happened on the ground—are below, with video and images from the whole team’s trip to Kenya bringing a personal face to a real, on-the-ground social justice movement.
The First Day in Kenya
Where to begin … I arrived in Kenya yesterday evening after a flawless flight from Uganda, where I have been interning for the last two months. It was an incredible experience, where I was in a rural clinical setting!
It was awesome getting to meet the other students, Steph, Tomas, Steven, and Melissa! They are all very different and ridiculous … clearly jet lag does not affect them. Nairobi is a beautiful city and everyone is so friendly.
Today we went to Kitie Secondary School and met with a member of the Ministry of Education, a representative from USAID Kenya, and the principal of the school. The school has grown dramatically in the last seven years from 23 students to 280. This huge increase in enrollment can be directly attributed to Kenya’s abolishment of secondary school fees in 2007. Currently, about 65%
of those who finish Primary School continue their education.
Students are still responsible for other fees that the government does not take care of, such as boarding, uniform, and books. Their performance in primary school determines the quality of the secondary school they will attend. Some of Kitie’s students walk nearly 45 minutes to get to school each day. Their level of dedication was also extremely evident when we got to talk to them about their personal aspirations. Many of the students came alive with such strong passion that can be difficult to find in the U.S. All of us were truly affected by the students’ desire to excel.
Finally, we learned about the role of USAID Kenya. They provide scholarships for over 3,300 students all across the country. Many of these students are orphans and are given priority in the program based on their grades. We were able to meet three students funded by USAID. They told us about how they hope to go to a university and how USAID has made their education possible.
Later in the day, we visited a teacher training college and learned about how they are becoming qualified to teach. They spoke to us about the lack of opportunity for employment after schooling. We also learned about the progressive training they receive to work with students with disabilities.
The later part of the afternoon was spent interacting with baby rhinos and elephants at an orphanage sanctuary. Many of their parents died from poaching, political unrest within the country, or they were merely abandoned. There were crazy warthogs all over the place that would charge anyone that got too close, including ONE Trips Director (and our guide) Tyler Denton. The place was also swarming with children, who enjoyed climbing everything and bothering the animals! All in all it was a great time.
Day 2: AIDS and Malaria Projects in Kisumu
On Tuesday, we had an early flight out of Nairobi. We were headed to Kisumu, a community near Lake Victoria where we were able to visit a clinic funded by PEPFAR. They serve over 1,200 patients that have HIV. Half of these patients were tested because they were sick, and the other half were merely curious about their status. The clinic provides counseling services in preventative health, nutrition, and hygiene.
OCC Kenya Trip participant Steven Thai talks about HIV testing in Kenya.
When an HIV patient’s CD4 count (a measure of the number for helper T cells per cubic millimeter of blood) dips below 250, they are given antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. USAID helps fund these ARVs. Patients are only required to pay 200 Ksh (less than US$3) for their laboratory tests and their medications. These drugs, when taken as directed, can lengthen and improve a patient’s quality of life.
Kisumu’s HIV prevalence is more than twice Kenya’s national average. This is attributed to the fishing culture of the community and the number of people commuting through the area. Fish are in such high demand that often women pay high prices, and are sometimes forced to have sex as payment for the fish.
The clinic has significantly decreased mother-to-child transmission of the virus to below 10%, with the additional funding they have received for the medications. We met with Brightone Odundo, a nurse in the clinic who told us about the complications that arise from combating HIV in addition to opportunistic diseases that take advantage of a compromised immune system, such as tuberculosis (TB). Over 80% of this clinic’s TB patients are also HIV-positive.
Another portion of our busy day that I found particularly interesting was their outreach program to decrease the prevalence of malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes. USAID provides insecticide for the clinic’s outreach workers to spray peoples’ homes.
One of the homes we visited was that of Millicent Adhiambo Obuya. She was widowed 10 years ago and has four children. Her children would frequently get malaria in the past, until she was educated about spraying and using anti-malaria nets from the clinic’s community outreach workers.
Once every year, members of the clinic spray the homes of people in their community. Millicent was warned to remain outside of the home for 2-4 hours and then to sweep and dispose of the contents away from the home. This minimizes the adverse effects of spraying in and around the home. She was also educated on the importance of bed nets in preventing malaria. The clinic sells these nets at a greatly subsidized cost of 50 Ksh (less than US$1). These nets normally would cost US$8-10. Since Millicent’s family began sleeping under bed nets and getting their home sprayed, they have had no incidents of malaria. It was a great success story to hear about funds efficiently allocated and making a difference in the fight against malaria.
Melissa Boles (another OCC Kenya Trip participant) interviewed Eunice Chacha. She is 22 years old, with two children, and found out she was HIV-positive three years ago.
Although the clinic has made significant headway with its progressive outreach program, things are far from perfect. Many of the community members use the bed nets to fish instead of to prevent malaria. They would rather utilize them for the short term of catching food then sleeping under them to prevent malaria. Others do not access the clinic enough to get educated about the importance of insecticide and bed nets. In addition, much of Kenya does not have the funding that Kisumu receives for many of these great educational outreach programs.
Today showed me there is a lot of hope in the fight against these infectious diseases, yet still much to do. Educational outreach is a very successful way to get people to understand how to prevent these diseases, which is necessary to get their cooperation for these preventative measures.
Check out other entries in the OCC blog—along with more photos and videos—at their website.