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Archive for January, 2011

DAY OF REST

Day Seven – January 31, 2011

                Sunday was a day of rest and enjoying the wonderful weather.  I don’t like to rub it in but the days seem to be around 70-75 degrees with a warm breeze and clear skies.  It only gets cool late at night but you would think we are in the middle of the coldest day in Indiana by the way a lot of people dress in town.  Dress is very modest here but many dress in layers – shirts, long sleeves, shawls, long skirts – all topped off with a winter-type coat.  I’m not kidding.  Saraellen told me that Kenyans seem to be cold a lot of the time and often use overcoats.  I’m sure most would not survive an Indiana winter.

                The afternoon was spent sitting out of doors talking with other visitors at IU House – it is a privilege and the way most Sundays should be spent – relaxing with friends.  Gwen Kopecky, from Indianapolis, is a nurse practitioner and has much experience in surgery at Clarion, Riley Hospital and others, but her passion is pediatric opthalmology.  She worked for ORBIS for many years, an extremely important organization that treats pediatric eye disease and chronic conditions.  Check it out at ORBIS.org and be amazed at the Flying Hospital that is medically equipped to land at airports all over the world where appointments have been set for children to be treated with serious eye conditions.  Many vision problems can be treated to prevent blindness and that is their goal – saving sight worldwide.

                They did serve dinner Sunday night – it was really quite good.  The menu was baked tilapia, broccoli , squash, onions with many good spices.  It reminded me of a ratatouille.  Also, garlic mashed potatoes and fresh cut vegetables.  While having dinner with the people I’ve mentioned before, Dr. Tal and Betsy Bosin arrived with their guest, Cindy Creek.  Cindy is a pre-school – 1st grade teacher in Bloomington and is here as part of a Lily grant to allow teachers in Indiana to have different cultural experiences to bring back to the classroom.  Dr. Harvey Feigenbaum and his wife also arrived on the same plane and all of the other doctors were telling me what a great contribution he has made in the medical field as a cardiologist in developing the echo-cardiogram technology.  It’s ironic that I have to come to Kenya to meet all these wonderful people from Indiana.

            This morning, Betsy, Cindy and I were off to Imani Workshop so I could have my shopping fix.  But for those who don’t know about Imani, it’s a very special part of AMPATH.  I was established in January 2005 as a branch of the Family Preservation Initiative under the IU-Kenya Partnership. Due to the stigma associated with HIV/Aids, many AMPATH patients have a hard time securing a job or accessing credit for a business loan.  The Workshop gives them a second chance and teaches them new skills; e.g., beadwork, paper making, sewing school uniforms, making shirts and other textile products.  There is a shop in their Workshop building and I bought as much as I could carry.  I was even back in the closets choosing my own material to order placemats and tablecloths.  Imani Workshops currently has 21 full-time employees and 20-30 part-time employees all producing high quality handmade goods.   

100% of the income earned through sales is reinvested in the workshop through which artisans benefit from employment, skills training and other forms of empowerment. Purchase an item from Imani Workshops and make a difference in the lives of many people in need!  This last blurb is taken from the IU-Kenya Partnership web site.

But the good news is that you don’t have to travel to Kenya to buy Imani products.  We have our own representative, Elsie Rotich, who is located at Wishard Hospital in the IU-Kenya offices and will take orders and also will sell the products at your special events.  We’ll have Elsie write a blog later to give you her latest information and product list.

          I’m sitting and waiting for lunch that’s served at 1:00 –  in about 5 minutes and am anxiously waiting for my meeting with the LACE Board at 3:00.  They are the ones who make it work and sacrifice their time and expertise.  We need to support them.

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Days Five and Six – January 29 and 30, 2011

                One of the best things about IU House is that it is a type of communal living.  My House is across the street from Dr. Joe and Saraellen Mamlin and I saw them soon after my arrival on Friday morning.  The dining hall does not serve meals on Friday, Saturday or Sunday so the first thing that Joe said was why don’t you join a group of us for dinner tonight.  This is the most precious invitation ever because any of the visiting guests are invited and the dinner conversation is all about different projects happening around the AMPATH Center. 

You are always blessed with meeting Indiana people and and I was lucky tonight to meet Dr. Tal and Betsy Bosin.  Dr. Bosin is  professor emeritus of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Indiana University Medical Department at Bloomington.  They have made many trips to Eldoret and we know many people in common.  He is doing exciting work with medical students in a village medical setting.  Dr. Larry Goldblatt, IU Dental School and Rose ( last name escapes me, sorry) joined us for dinner.  We went to Mama Mia’s Italian restaurant not far from the IU campus and their food was great and service even better.  Everyone loves Dr. Joe and Saraellen.

Rose did her medical residency at the AMPATH Center  a few years ago and now has been employed as the Director of Emergency Services in the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital where she must see some of the most difficult cases.  Rose sees victims of rape, sexual abuse and domestic abuse when they first come to the emergency room.  I have talked  before about the rigorous paper work that is required before “defilement” cases can even be charged and Rose and I both agreed that in our long range planning we should include a nurse that could take needed information, perform tests and guide them to LACE for prosecution.  This, of course, would help us both. 

At the next table to us were a group of engineers tied into AMPATH from the U.S. who had engineered and dug the well for a nearby village.  They were quite exuberant over their achievement since  water access is one of the most pressing problems in most of Kenya.  Dr. Tal and Betsy Bosin came in as we were leaving with their guests from Eldoret that they had known, I believe, from a public health connection.  These people we meet become life long friends.

At dinner, Dr. Joe and Saraellen invited us to join them the next morning to attend a dedication ceremony in a village near the Turbo Clinic that AMPATH  operates.  Little did I know, I was in for the experience of my life that leads me to strengthen my support for AMPATH and the LACE project.

We left at 9:00 a.m. and those who know Dr. Joe know we had to be punctual and know that we would probably be the first ones there.  It was a jolly group –  Dr. Joe, Saraellen, Dr. Tal, Betsy, Dr. Goldblatt and me.  The roads are better but they are still full of potholes and speed bumps. I forgot to mention the speed bumps that are place every few miles until you are outside the city.  This is the Uganda Road which goes from Uganda to Mombasa so there is heavy truck traffic, pedestrian traffic and all types of transportation including the crazy mutatas which is the public transportation.  One word about the mutatas.  They are generally van type vehicles that have crazy paintings on their side, slogans, etc, bananas and other fruit on the top carriers and they are so packed with people it looks like a clown car.  Usually two young men have the sliding doors open and stand on the side step in order to get people in and out quickly and, of course, get the fares.  They weave in and out of traffic as quickly as possible and mainly create more havoc than already exists in traffic.  After a few bumps – wherewe hit our heads on the top of the SUV we were travelling in – we stopped at the Turbo clinic where Dr. Joe works two days a week.  We picked up Rachel who is the director of that clinic for the last 9 years and is a nurse practitioner and physician’s assistant.  Dr. Joe said that these clinics would not operate unless we had such wonderful people as Rachel who lives on the grounds.

While travelling through Turbo, which was the center of  a lot of the post-election violence, Dr. Joe and Rachel told us that most of the buildings we were seeing had been burned to the ground.  There was a car lot where 50 cars had been parked and all had been destroyed.  Along side the road, you could still see black patches where transport trucks and other vehicles had been burned and people killed.  Dr. Joe said that one of the semis had been carrying coffee and it burned for weeks.  You didn’t need a coffee house because the smell alone would give you a caffeine high. 

We arrived at the village where Kimbilio Hospice was situated and turned on dirt roads that had ruts 1-2 feet deep from the rainy seasons when it turns to mud.  The trick is to drive around them which is impossible but we made it.  The day was picture perfect with the clearest bluest skies in the world, cotton ball clouds and the softest breeze that held you in its arms.

Kimbilio Hospice was a miracle to behold.  It is a 26 bed, inpatient hospice that houses adults and children living with terminal illness.  Their pamphlet states that their services include:  management of pain and other symptoms and provision of psychological, social and spiritual support.  Admission to Kimbilio and length of stay is determined by the assessment and recommendation of the Living Room team and the availability of beds.

I encourage each of you to visit the website of www.LivingRoomInternational.org to discover the miracles that one person can accomplish.  Julie McGowan, its founder, first volunteered to work with Empowered Living International, a Christian group delivering inspired services to many people in Kenya.  After working with them for a while she lived with Pastor Dave and his wife, Allison.  She brought home two malnourished babies that no one wanted to care for and the three of them fed these babies every two hours–one of them died  but one of them survived.  Later in the day Julie addressed the group and explained that was the beginning but it  mattered less what the results were than the process of caring for these children that everyone else had abandoned and treated like their life did not matter.  This began her mission to provide palliative care  to provide quality of life for individuals and families facing advanced disease.

Julie showed us the Hospice which is not complete but has all the concrete in place, wiring done, rooms walled in and the back veranda is open to the most beautiful view of the countryside.  She plans to bring mattresses outside to the deck to allow patients to be outdoors in their last days of life.  We saw the kitchen that is basically a well-ventilated open pit oven with good counters for cutting their many fresh vegetables and meat.  For this community celebration they had over 100 people preparing the food for 1000 people.  I have heard of community events but have only experienced such love with Julie and her Living Room International program. 

After Julie’s experience treating people at the end of life she went to talk to Dr. Mamlin at AMPATH  and they have worked together on her project to prepare for this wonderful day.  She is truly his protégé and he calls her an angel.  After a few years she went back to her church community in Los Angeles.  It is a Christian Assembly Church and over 3000 of its members sponsored this project with money and prayers.  She came back to Eldoret with $2-300,000 dollars to build her dream.  In fact, her pastor, Mark and the assistant pastor Tom were at the dedication and pledged their continued support.

After touring the Hospice, Julie took our party to the 3-sided open tent that had been erected for their visiting dignitaries and community people.  As I told you, they are very respectful of ceremony and honoring those who have helped them.  The dedication was supposed to begin about 12:00 but those of you who know Kenyan ceremonies, everyone took their time.  But time became irrelevant as each person was able to speak their heart about the meaningfulness of this Hospice in their community. 

The ceremony began with the school children dancing and singing for their guests.  This particular school was started for the many orphans in this area – most of them because of parents and other family members dying of AIDS.  There is still such a stigma that surviving family members will not take AIDS children in.  The second group of school children who danced were from the local school.  Later, a very distinguished guest that came and spoke was their local commissioner – seemed like a county commissioner – in charge of their schools.  They now have many children who finish the 8th grade provided for them in the community but then do not have the money or willingness perhaps to go to the next form.  The Commissioner spoke to this crowd about the importance of education and how the future of their community depended on these educated people coming back and helping them support each other.  Julie told us of a particular AIDS orphan who was very bright and they are trying to get him to the next form.

Other distinguished guests included the Area Commissioner -who might be equivalent to our state legislators – the Indian family who built the Hospice, the Living Room Board of Directors, many pastors offering  prayer and another doctor from AMPATH talking about servant leadership.  Of course, Dr. Mamlin was  treated with such love and respect and was able to tell his story of how he got involved with HIV/Aids treatment by seeing one of his Kenyan medical students in the Aids ward – Daniel – and understood immediately that something had to be done.  Beginning with this one patient, they are now treating 1200 patients. 

But, of course, Julie was the main attraction for all.  She kept reminding us who the real special guests of honor  were – the three women who were dying of AIDS and were brought back to life through the help of AMPATH medicine, services and the village clinic’s follow-up.  They all stood up and gave thanks to the crowd and it was incredibly moving.

But the most moving words I have ever heard – and I have heard many – came from Julie.  She talked about her journey to this place and this is the place she chooses to live.  She extended her love and care for each individual who was in the community – and by now there were 1,000 people there because it was getting time for food to be served.  She had in her arms, while she spoke, Flovia, a 5 year old girl, who had been abandoned and left to die who was now quite lively and beautiful.  Her words were about others and the message all day was about losing the self and loving your neighbors.  I was so incredibly fortunate to be in a place where you could see this message in action and the outpouring of love was palpable and strong. 

Of course, the ceremony  is now at least an hour behind the time scheduled and there are other people who were to give prayers but Julie is also a wonderful administrator and went immediately to the exchange of gifts which was a very important part of the ceremony.  A group of villagers from nearby gave Julie a sheep and a group of Kalenjen women gave her an elaborate robe they had made for her, Pastor Dave received a cane that is a very important symbol of leadership in their community.  Other dignitaries received coffee cups that said The Living Room – probably brought by the American pastors for such an event. 

Now, about 3:00, it is time to eat.  You cannot imagine the food.  The “dignitaries” were able to go back to the Hospice to eat on the open air veranda.  I’m not sure all that was served, but Julie told me that a bull had been butchered for the event.  There was much rice, chicken, beans, topped with a vegetable soup and a special broth on top.  It was delicious. 

So ended a day I shall never forget and one has once again affirmed the purpose that I feel as I travel to Kenya or serve in my community.  I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis Health Foundation which helps to sponsor the AIDS fund in Indianapolis.  Please ask me about these organizations when I see you but better yet, find those partners in giving that speak to you and the community you want to serve.  It will change your life.

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Day Four – January 28, 2011

            After our GOOD NEWS meeting with OSIEA, Gumbo and I couldn’t have been happier.  Our LACE Board in Indianapolis and the LACE Board in Eldoret, all knew that we had to take the next step – organizational structure, capacity building, setting priorities and meeting those goals.  Our small group of “founders” along with Rotary and other generous contributors (I will mention them soon) have gone about as far as we could go on a shoe string.  But the need keeps building and we are still the only free legal aid clinic for people with HIV/Aids in at least Eastern Africa.  As Gumbo and I were leaving the meeting we had a chance to share the joy we will always share of seeing our dream become real.   He held both of my hands in his and looked up at the sky and said, “Remember when our dream was sky high and now we have reached the clouds.”  That’s what Kenya is all about.

            Thursday evening Carol and I attended the meeting of the Langata Rotary Club at the famous Nairobi Club.  I have attended this meeting each time I am in Nairobi because it is primarily young professional people who have the best interests of Kenya in their hearts.  It’s also a lot of fun.  The speaker was Pastor (can’t begin to spell it) and he was so inspirational.  Usually Rotary clubs do not have a religious speaker but Pastor talked about the times in our life when we truly discovered what we were meant to do.  He said his early dream was to make money but knew that was something he could not “live or die for.”  But his message was to encourage all of us to help young people discover their purpose in order to have meaning in their lives.  He pointed out that in Africa 70% of the people are 40 years or younger. 

            Kenya has a goal that by 2013 they will have a strong middle class and will not be in the bottom range of any statistics.  Pastor wants Kenya to be a Donor nation and reminded everyone that Kenya had given money to Haiti and a few other countries.  He doesn’t want people from other countries to ask how we can help without realizing it’s a two-way street and Kenyans have many skills that could help other countries.  This same attitude is one reason the IU-Kenya Project is so successful.  When Dr. Bob Einterz and others from Wishard Hospital first came to Kenya they formed a partnership based on mutual learning and respect.  It is the same spirit of LACE.  When I asked Dr. Mamlin what could lawyers do to help the IU-Kenya Project he said to me, “I don’t know – why don’t you go ask them.”

            Off to Eldoret early Friday a.m. – 6:45 a.m. which really doesn’t matter because time becomes pretty meaningless when there is such a time difference between my worlds.  I couldn’t wait to tell Milkah Cheptinga, our lawyer at LACE, the good news from OSIEA. 

            When I’m in Eldoret, I stay at the IU House.  It is adjacent to the hospital campus that includes the AMPATH Center, HIV/Aids Hospital, Mother Baby Hospital, Mortuary, Cool Stream Restaurant, Sally Test Children’s Center and other buildings that assist in food distribution.  I love the IU House – others aren’t so stuck on it because hot showers are in short supply.  But there are approximately 8 residences with four or five rooms in each one.  The residents and other visiting doctors stay here when they are working on projects at the hospital.  Purdue University has several pharmacy students here to do a type of residency practicum.  We all eat meals together and it’s a great time to meet others involved in AMPATH.  Dunia runs all of the administrative issues at IU House and it was wonderful to see her.  As I was checking in about 8:30 a.m. this morning, I ran into Dr. Larry Goldblatt of the IU Dental School.  He just arrived yesterday and will be here about a month.  The IU Dental School has always had a presence here but they are going to associate more closely with the AMPATH program if it all works out. 

            As soon as I got settled, I  walked down the street to the AMPATH Center to tell Milkah the good news.  For all of you who have been here and know how dangerous it is to walk along that street because of all the traffic, you will be shocked to know they have made curbs and a “type” of sidewalk with chunks of stone, small stone on top and then they pour tar on top of that.  It’s still a work in progress. 

            Milkah is wonderful and praised God for the success of LACE and its promising future.  Milkah is the reason we are still in business.  She works very hard and has some wonderfully innovative programs of her own design that she has started.  Recently CARE International has discovered the wonderful work LACE is doing to ensure victims of rape and sexual violence have the support of our legal clinic. The protocol and detailed forms that must be filed are quite impossible for many victims.  This has discouraged prosecutions because the police chief won’t file charges unless all of the forms are perfect – which has been just another way to deny justice.  Within the last year, LACE has assisted rape victims and has had convictions that were rarely seen before.  She knew I would be in town but when I dropped by there was a room full of clients waiting.  We have made plans to meet again Monday and talk in detail about short-term goals we need to meet.  She proudly showed me a new file cabinet and a new printer they had just purchased.  A little money goes so far for such important work.

            I decided to walk downtown which is only about 3-4 blocks? from the medical campus.  I still hadn’t changed my dollars to shillings and couldn’t get by much longer using dollars.  The rate of exchange is about 80 shillings to one American dollar.  I was getting hungry and remembered my favorite Chinese restaurant is in Eldoret and it is called the Siam House.  I walked several blocks from the bank and was getting confused about where the restaurant was located and stopped to ask a taxi driver alongside the road.  A wonderful gentleman stepped up beside me and said he would show me where it was.  We started talking and he had been a school teacher for 25 years in Kericho and only came to Eldoret when he had business.  He intervened in my conversation with the taxi driver because he thought the taxi driver was going to take advantage of my “being lost” and charge too much money. 

He told me that he had attended Pacifica College in 1965 and had lived in Kericho  since that time.  He was very well spoken and truly wanted to be of assistance.  As it turned out, he really didn’t know where this restaurant was so we stopped at a butcher store that we were passing by with half sides of beef or something else hanging by hooks in the front windows.  He started asking directions of a man behind the counter in Swahili and soon there were three or four other men discussing directions and then one would come outside where I waited to get further information.  It really takes a village to set me in the right direction.

            Actually the restaurant wasn’t far from where we started but I told him I thought I could make it from the butcher store if he had other business.  He said that he wanted to escort me there because he always made it a point to help Americans when he could because they were so good to him when he lived in the United States.  As we parted, he asked me what I was doing in Eldoret and I told him that I was working on a legal project to give legal assistance to HIV/Aids patients.  He stopped and looked at me very sincerely and said thank you.  He said his business in town was to sit with his sister-in-law- who was dying of AIDS and his brother had died from AIDS a few years ago.  I’ll never forget his face.

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Building Capacity

Day Three – January 27, 2011

            The reception I attended last night co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and General Electric was really great.  I met the most interesting people from all parts of the world.  Many GE executives had flown in to have meetings with their counterparts in Africa to show their continued support for new energy projects.  I talked to a president of a wind energy company and it seems that this is being seriously considered as part of Kenya’s future.  Tony, Carol’s friend and now mine, is starting a geo-thermal energy company and it is getting favorable support as well.  I met the general counsel of GE who went to college at Notre Dame.  But I talked mainly to Larissa from Russia who is a vital part of GE’s financial team in Africa.  She was leaving today for Angola which, of course, has many different issues than Kenya.  There are times that many of us are guilty of talking about Africa in general without realizing and appreciating the myriad cultural differences.  I also got to meet Ambassador Michael Ranneberger  who was quite amiable and spoke with great optimism about Kenya’s energy potentials. 

            After the reception I joined Carol at the Crowne Hotel, one of the newest in Nairobi, for the Capitol Markets Awards Banquet.  Some of the categories were best pension plan, best stock broker, best CEO of the year, etc.  It was similar to many award banquets I have attended in Indianapolis but I was quite taken about the respect for ceremony and the respect give to each of the winners.  It reminded how important ritual is in our lives to show that respect to each other but how often we are too busy. 

            The best part so far, Tony and I talked Carol into going to Florida, the disco bar of your dreams.  It probably hasn’t changed since the 70s with the lighted disco floor in the center of the room with tables and bench type lounges on a second level with those little tiny tables at your knees.  Of course the décor was crushed red velour and dirty carpet that smells like beer.  But it was reggae night and all the beautiful girls were dancing and showing their stuff while the men ogled and didn’t dance.  Sound familiar?  It was a blast from the past.

            But I’m getting confused about my blogging days since now it is 10:15 p.m. here but only 2:15 p.m. in Indy.  But I can’t wait to share my news about the meeting Gumbo and I had this afternoon with Anne Gathumbi of OSIEA.  It couldn’t be better.  As we expressed our concerns about expansion and funding, she told us they had just talked about those issues in a project meeting.  Remember how I said that you are always where you should be – Anne said that they had already scheduled a team to go to Eldoret to assess LACE and decide together with our team how to build capacity, prioritization issues and gave every indication of allowing a grant renewal to be considered around July.  We also talked about the potential of a paralegal program in the district offices.  It couldn’t have been better news for our continued growth.  Anne had great praise for the way that our clinic is emphasizing human rights for all HIV/Aids clients.  We have a plan!  Within 2 to 3 months, an assessment will be done and then followed by setting priorities and building capacity.  There may be money available from OSIEA to help us through this process.  We definitely need administrative assistance because poor Milkah is doing it all.  Anne was very sensitive about recognizing the good people who have worked at LACE and how our organization must support their needs.  It was a great conversation that spoke to all of our concerns of what the next step should be.  Gumbo felt equally positive and excited about our future.  Also, I leave for Eldoret tomorrow and Gumbo and I are going to talk at length about applying for our own NGO in Kenya.  This will be a necessary step as we build an organizational structure that others will feel comfortable to support.  I’ll fill in more details after Gumbo and I talk to more people – including magistrates – while in Eldoret.  This will help give our Indianapolis LACE Board more direction as well.  It’s all good.

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Day Two  (Wednesday, January 26, 2011)

My meeting with Anne Gathumbi of the Open Society Initiative  of Eastern Africa (OSIEA) has been postponed until tomorrow.  So I’ll take this time to explain what an important partner OSEIA has become to LACE.  I have taken their mission statement from their website, http://www.soros.org:

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media..

After my first trip to Eldoret in 2006, Dr. Mamlin, Field Director of the IU-Kenya Project, suggested that I contact Fran Quigley, who is now a visiting professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis.  In 2006 he was working for the IU-Kenya Project and traveling between Indianapolis and Eldoret with some frequency.  Fran, as co-founder of LACE, was able to meet with the OSIEA in Nairobi about funding.  I had suggested this meeting to Fran after finding the following article on their website that perfectly described what goals we had in mind for forming LACE .  The article is entitled Ensuring Justice for Vulnerable Communities in Kenya, A Review of HIV and AIDS–related Legal Services, Date: April 2007, Source: OSI, Author: Kristin Kalla and Jonathan Cohen:

“In Kenya, a range of human rights abuses fuels HIV infection among the country’s most socially disadvantaged populations. Abuses such as domestic violence, rape, early marriage, child sexual abuse, and trafficking into sexual exploitation help drive the epidemic among women and girls, and are indicators of the epidemic’s impact on communities and livelihood security. While litigation and legal services can go a long way toward addressing these issues, the vast majority of Kenyans living with HIV and AIDS do not feel able to access the formal legal system, according to Ensuring Justice for Vulnerable Communities in Kenya, a report published by the Open Society Institute Law & Health Initiative and East Africa Initiative. “

Fran has met with Anne Gathumbi on several occasions and after we opened the doors in October, 2008, OSEI traveled to Eldoret and graciously gave us a grant this past year which will allow us to double our clinic by hiring another attorney, administrative assistant and perhaps a paralegal.  This will be the main subject of our meeting tomorrow because we are both interested in the medical/legal partnership.  But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we want to expand  our services into the villages.

As I believe we are always where we are meant to be, I found a new publication from OSEI that was posted in December, 2010, before I traveled to Nairobi, that described their program for Community-Based Paralegals.  This will also be an important part of our ongoing discussion with OSEI.  The AMPATH program has 57 distribution centers in the surrounding area that serves it

Many of the LACE Board in Indianapolis, that I’ll talk about in detail later, traveled to Eldoret in 2009 and were able to view the operation for themselves and  traveled to a few of the distribution sites.  One of their first suggestions was to develop a paralegal program so that the people in the villages who could not easily travel to Eldoret could be given access to justice, too.

Paralegal programs have been successful in other countries in Africa.  Fran and I were privileged to visit a very successful paralegal program in Tanzania as guests of Abbott Labs through his friend, Andy in 2008.  We flew from Nairobi to Dar as salam where Andy and the attorney director of the program, drove us to  district sites of government in the bush.  I’ll never remember the names of those three villages we visited but all three of them treated us like visiting dignitaries.  At the second site the paralegals brought chairs outside and placed them under the “elder” tree which I have pictured throughout all my readings of African tribal life.  Each of the paralegals told us about their role and an example of how they had helped their neighbors.  This all had to be translated for Fran and I but he did a great job in attempting to make his remarks in Kiswahili.

The paralegals are all residents of the village and have been selected by the other residents for this position of “paralegal.”  It is a voluntary role but considered quite an honor to be able to hear the problems of their neighbors and be able to suggest solutions that are provided by law.  All the paralegals had been trained by a lawyer about basic precepts of their laws and how they might apply in local situations.  One story I remember most was told by a wizened elderly woman in a very animated manner.  As soon as I learn how to add pictures, I will add her beautiful face.  Many women in the village had come to her and complained of an older man who was fondling the young girls and inappropriately suggesting sexual acts.  The paralegal invited the man to come to her room in the district government building because she had to talk to him.  Because of the importance of this position in this village, the man appeared.  She explained to him that the girls were below the age of 15 and the law protects them from this kind of behavior.  He said he would follow the law and she claimed to have no further trouble from him.

It reminds me of what we see in Kenya as well.  There seems to be great respect for the law but most of its citizens have never had access or knowledge of what the law is or how it applies to them.  We have had several success stories at LACE also where as soon as the law was explained, people did want to comply.

In Tanzania we stayed overnight at a beautiful resort that was across the water from Zanzibar.  That night at dinner, our gracious host, sponsored a dinner where the local judges, district officers and their office workers were his guests.  The protocol is very strict about where people sit, who speaks first and last, who sits at the head table and ceremony is very important.  It was a wonderful experience and upon reflection has given Fran and me many insights on our own expectations for such a program in Kenya.

Tonight I will be Carole’s guest at a reception held at the Africa Serena Hotel co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and General Electric for members  of the business community who are involved in numerous energy projects throughout the country.  I will get to meet the Ambassador  after all.  Then we are off to an awards banquet and Carole and two other prominent banking officials will present awards to the top bankers in Kenya.  I made her promise to take me to “Florida” later, too.  Florida is an old style disco and her friend, Tony, tells me that Wednesday night is reggae night.  This club has been in Nairobi since the late 60s and is almost an historical site.   More later.

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Greetings from Nairobi where the sun is shining, a soft wind blowing and the sky is blue with no clouds.  Now that I’ve told you what you don’t want to hear back in snowy Indiana, I am going to report about my trip with news I hope you will want to hear about our LACE project.
The Legal Aid Center of Eldoret (LACE) in Kenya is a human rights law clinic working in close association with AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare).  AMPATH is an organization partnership consisting of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Moi University, and a consortium of North American universities led by Indiana University.  In cooperation with Kenya’s Ministry of Medical Services and Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and with funding from numerous sources mainly PEPFAR, the USAID-AMPATH partnership coordinates one of the largest and most effective HIV care and control programs in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Since beginning in 2001, AMPATH has enrolled over 100,000 Kenyans into HIV/Aids care in Ministry of Health facilities which has expanded through its programs in clinical services, food security and income generation.
In October 2008, LACE introduced a critical missing component to AMPATH’s care system – an onsite referral program able to respond to the legal challenges of persons affected with HIV/Aids.  In 2009, LACE represented and counseled 336 HIV-positive clients in cases including:  land and inheritance issues, gender-based violence prosecutions, defense from debt collection and criminal charges, and family law and defamation claims associated with actual or perceived HIV status.
Without the financial support from the Indianapolis legal community and the Indianapolis Rotary Club, LACE would not have happened.  The most important early contributor was Larry Reuben through the Reuben Family Fund and the Indianapolis Rotary Club which helped us hire our first attorney and provide her an administrative assistant.  The AMPATH Centre provided us with free office space and we opened our doors in October, 2008.  There have been many important contributors since then which I fear to try to name at this time because I will inevitably forget one, but I thank them all and will provide a complete list soon.
I left Indianapolis on Sunday, Jan. 23 at 1:30 and traveled first to Detroit.  From Detroit, I traveled to Amsterdam which was an 8 hour flight.  From Amsterdam, and another 8 hours later, I landed in Nairobi.  I arrived in Nairobi at 8:30 p.m. on Monday evening (local time).    The time difference between Indianapolis and Nairobi is 8 hours.  The airport is much improved since my first flight in 2006.  When you first enter the country you must have a VISA which you can buy at the airport.  What used to take at least an hour to wait in line to purchase has now been miraculously improved by adding more lines.  The next improvement comes when you go down an escalator to the luggage carrels which are working and each flight is assigned to only one carrel.  Baby steps.
But the nicest improvement for my travels has been having friends waiting for me when I leave the chaotic atmosphere of the airport.  There was Christopher, the driver we used in 2009, and Rose, a friend I met through Carole Kariuki.
Carole Kariuki has been a friend to many in Indianapolis.  She lived in Indianapolis for one year while she worked at the Sagamore Institute as a research fellow.  My first trip in 2006 was arranged through Carole and her many Rotary friends.  My first trip was organized  by Rotarians from the Indianapolis Club – Tim and Cindy Dudley, their friend, Phil, Gregg and Jannett Keesling, Rev. Kent Millard and his son Kendall Millard, his daughter Corrine and an assistant pastor from St. Luke’s.  While in Nairobi, we met up with Marty and Sue Moore.  These people have remained my dear friends since sharing such meaningful times.
While on safari(which means journey) in 2006, we traveled to Eldoret, the site of the IU-Kenya Project at the IU-Moi Medical School.  This is where LACE was conceived and born and is now toddling through its infancy.  This is the real subject of this rambling blog and I will be telling you more about it as my adventure continues.  I will travel to Eldoret on Friday, Jan. 28th and describe in more detail the AMPATH program and the wonderful campus of the IU House, Hospital and the Ampath Centre.  Also, the Sally Test Nursery which performs a wonderful service for the abandoned and sick babies and the new Mother and Baby Hospital.
But just a word about my time in Nairobi.  Carole Kariuki that I introduced earlier, is the executive director for KEPSA, which is as best I can tell, a super Chamber of Commerce that is designed to help promote business interests in Kenya.  Today, she is meeting with representatives from the World Bank to keep all parties well informed of business opportunities. The U.S. Ambassador, Michael Ranneberger, is speaking to her group about “Hope for the Future of Kenya.” I have a copy of his remarks and they outline how Kenyans can face the challenge of implementing their reform agenda and the constitution in order that the electoral process in 2012 is open and transparent.
Many things have improved here that are easily observed.  There are many buildings being erected all over town and the transportation, while always horrendous and hard to navigate, is being tackled in a more organized way.  The roads have improved dramatically  and the highways between cities has been a priority that makes intrastate travel much easier.
I am visiting the High Court in Nairobi tomorrow with a lawyer friend, Eric Gumbo. You will hear much more about Eric as I continue to report since he is the founding lawyer in Eldoret of LACE and is responsible for a lot of its success in getting started.  Now his business brings him to Nairobi more often and I can’t wait to see him tomorrow.
This is my fourth trip to Kenya and each one is its own safari.  What started out as a dream – providing access to justice to the poor – has begun with LACE providing lawyers to HIV/Aids patients in Eldoret.  This safari is to see how we can broaden our base to help many others have that access to lawyers and the assistance that lawyers can provide.  It is so important to expand everyone’s participation in the democratic process.  Many people call the young people in this country “cheetahs.”  This seems to have started because the young have adapted so quickly to cell phones, computers and other electronic devices, that they are running very fast past their parents and other generations.  It is the cheetahs who will begin to demand their human rights – and I include access to justice – as one of those human rights
No matter the size of the villages or the status of those I have met, each have gone to extraordinary measures to help us achieve the successes that LACE has defined.  Those who have crossed our paths understand that the simple can be powerful and we do not need to try to make it too complex.  All you need is a willingness to ask others to help you fulfill a dream of equal justice for all.

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Welcome

This is our first post on our Lace Kenya blog. Welcome

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