Monday, January 30, 2012

A Place Called Mikindani

It's no secret, the busy pace of life in Mikindani: the shops aligning the main street, the daily football game around the six o'clock hour, the constant patter of footsteps up and own the stairs, or the swishing of water as it is splashed in an artistic manner—at the mercy of the mothers' hands downstairs. Dust becomes a cosmetic in this town, accompanied by daily perspiration. The heat is up! It's warm, its humid, and it's tropical. Yes, tropical; mangoes fill the fruit shops accompanied by pineapples and avocados, while banana trees dot the roadside. Colorful congas (designed material wrapped around the waist like a skirt) fill the streetscape and there is movement, music, business, and life – day in and day out.  
Summary of New Assignment
This place has become my new home! It's called Mikindani. Just across the causeway from Mombasa Island, Mikindani is 'home base' for a series of community based health clinics throughout Mombasa island and the surrounding mainland villages. Its urban and bustling, no doubt. As an intern with AFCA (, I have joined the efforts of a community organization known as Community Based Health Care, (CBHC) Mombasa, to work on their agriculture project for children with HIV/AIDS. It's been exciting! CBHC provides many vital services to not only Mikindani, but eleven other villages in the surrounding area. Through support groups, education, health services, and now agriculture, many children and adults with HIV/AIDS are being treated, encouraged, and are moving out of poverty. My role is to assist the Nutritionist with trainings, for children served through the clinic, in gardening and small-scale agriculture techniques, while digging, transplanting, and imagining possibilities in the CBHC garden. (More to come next month!)

Transportation Here and There
One aspect I love about traveling is how diverse (and creative!) people are when they want to get from place to place. Foot, bicycle, horse, train, stilts, bus, car, camel, elephant, tuk tuk (3 wheeled tiny vehicle)...then there's the Kenyan matatu (van). Often filled to their maximum capacity, the matatus in our city are fast, colorful, music boxes that rewrite where the road goes and when you can travel on it. In other words, the get people from place to place but often with abrupt, creative stops along the way! It can be fun to ride, once you know the routes. Until then, though, I think I'll hold on tight! It will be my primary form of transportation in and out of the garden and surrounding community (besides by foot!)

A Familiar Miracle
The Project Coordinator at CBHC is a very peaceful, articulate, caring Nun from one of the local Catholic Parishes; her name is Sister Veronica. This week I had a chance to visit the farmland where CBHC has started to cultivate a larger portion of land. We stopped to visit the Ministry of Agriculture on our way and I noticed... a moringa tree! We asked the representative within if he knew anything about it and he didn't, but mentioned that a lady comes to harvest the leaves every once in a while. I smiled to myself because I had just spotted another tree along the road and had begun to explain its benefits to Sister Veronica on the way. I plucked a few leaves and tasted them and turning to Sister Veronica, hoped she would taste them too. (Curious about moringa too? Here's some insight from ECHO)

Then, one morning later this week, Sister Veronica called for me from her office window, “Kate, come to me for a moment” in a gentle Kenyan accent. She had a visitor within. The visitor was another Sister who introduced herself as 'one who knows about moringa!' She started sharing her personal experiences with it – her father was sick with TB, he consumed ½ spoon of moringa in his porridge three times a week and within a month, his health had improved. How excited this Sister was to speak about moringa! Her face was brightened, as the experiences she shared, you could tell, motivated her to share this knowledge with others.
Sister Veronica is convinced. She wants to start planting it this weekend. I feel positively about this momentum, too, as it could become a great asset to what is available for treating children that suffer from compromised immune systems, plus, it holds the potential to be an asset to the micro-enterprise options available for many people whom CBHC serves.
I will be in touch soon -
                             ~ Katie

As is often the case, the words of the psalmists often bring encouragement through times of transition. Perhaps these will be for you as well...

Many are they who say of me,
"There is no help for him in God." Selah.
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And he heard me from His holy hill.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Matching Grant Awarded to AFCA

We write grant requests all the time and from time to time, we receive great news of having been given one.  Grants are hard to come by!  But, the One Days Wages grant comes at a perfect time for us.  It is a matching grant, which means that ODW will give $12,035 to AFCA if people donate the same amount to us. 

With that in mind, please consider making a donation today at our project page on ODW's website. 100% of donations will be given to AFCA, so everything about this grant is excellent.  And, of course, we will use 100% of the funds we receive directly for the kids.  We will do what we said we will do.  No questions asked. 

Please support this initiative so that we can receive the matching grant!  And, share with many, please.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is an AIDS Vaccine on the Horizon?

I read an article the other day that stirs hope in the fight against AIDS. I’ve summarized it here and trust that you, too, will be encouraged.

According to a December 20, 2011 article by Mallory Clarkson at, The University of Western Ontario announced that they are ready to begin human clinical trials for an HIV vaccine. The vaccine was developed using a killed whole virus strategy which is a different approach than was used in three failed human trials from 2003-2009.

In January 2012, the first phase of testing is scheduled to begin. During this phase 40 HIV-positive volunteers will enter the trial and the vaccine’s safety will be the central focus. The second phase will involve 600 HIV-negative volunteers who are at high risk for HIV infection. This part of the trial will measure immune responses. During the third and final phase, 6,000 HIV-negative volunteers in the high-risk category for HIV infection, will measure the efficiency of the vaccine as compared to a non-vaccinated group.

There is much anticipation that this vaccine will be successful. If it is, it will provide much hope to a world that desperately needs hope in the face of HIV/AIDS. It will be important for us to remember, though, that a vaccine is not a cure and millions of people will continue to need treatment for HIV and AIDS well into the future.