Archive for February, 2011

End of Safari

End of Safari

                I am on my way back to Indianapolis and my safari has come to an end.  It’s been a great journey filled with hope and gratitude for all of those things that we take for granted in the United States especially those legal rights we assume belong to everyone.  Kenya is moving toward a great future.  This past week they faced a “constitutional crisis” because President Kibaki according to the new Constitution was to “consult” with Prime Minister Odinga about making the appointments for Chief Justice, Chief Prosecuting Attorney and the Attorney General.  Instead, he announced them without “consultation” according to Odinga.  The issue was resolved by the Chief of Parliament sending it to a “justice commission” to resolve how the appointments should proceed.  It was a big step in trying to live up to the word of their new Constitution.

                Egypt has erupted and I haven’t been able to follow that uprising very closely, but my Kenyan lawyer friends say it is because it is not a democracy.  Kenyans do believe strongly in the rule of law but have been fettered by many corrupt officials.  They are trying to get all of the political rivalries straightened out, too, so that by August 2012, when the elections will be held, there will be no more violence in Kenya.  It is such a hopeful time to be involved with helping the citizens of Kenya.

                But I digress – again – and I want most of all to give thanks to our Indianapolis donors who have made it possible to open the doors of LACE and provide access to justice to those who need it most, the marginalized and vulnerable people who are suffering from HIV/Aids and who carry an extra burden and are still stigmatized by their own society.

                Thanks to Larry Reuben and the Reuben Family Foundation; Rotary Club of Indianapolis; Plews, Shadley, Racher & Braun; Baker & Daniels; Ice Miller; and individual contributors, Judge Margret Robb; Judge John Baker; Judge Ezra Freidlander; Judge Terry Crone; Members of the 2009 Team and now Board of Directors of LACE; Jerry Kelly, Theresa Willard, Donna Marron, Scott Enright; Becca Shelton; Terry Santos; Paula Whitfield; Larry Landis and his wife; Greg Ullrich; Dean Gary Roberts; Ida Lamberti; Diego Morales; Matthew Trick;  Avril Rua; Members of the LACE Board in Kenya; Our wonderful lawyer, Milkah Cheptinga; Vincent Mutai; Ken Nyaundi; and most especially Fran Quigley, my co-founder and friend, who has been dedicated to helping people in Kenya and marginalized people here in Indiana, too and Eric Gumbo, our co-founder in Eldoret, Kenya, who shares our dream and believes that the sky is the floor.

Please forgive me if I  have neglected to mention any other friends to our LACE Society.  Please keep blogging and let us know who you are and thanks.


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Day Nine – February 2, 2011

                The first meeting of the LACE Kenyan NGO came to order at the offices of Eric Gumbo, Eldoret, Kenya with the 1st Top Position, Eric Gumbo, 2nd Top Position, Vincent Mutai, and 3rd Top Position, Pat Riley in attendance.  The minutes were prepared by Eric as Vincent and I edited the NGO application and they will be filed in Nairobi soon.  It was thought by all members of our Eldoret Board and staff that this would have to be the first step in building capacity in order to attract grants and other money.  It was always the objective to help our Kenyan lawyers make this a reality.  Our Lace Board in Indianapolis will still operate through Indiana University Foundation to accept donations to be given to LACE for its growth.  Because of the high number of clients we are seeing each month, more money is needed for another lawyer, and paralegal help.  It is thought that the OSIEA grant will cover the costs of an administrative assistant at this time.  The sky is the floor.

            There was thunder and lightning as Vincent and I left Eric’s office.  A hard rain began and it became cool and electric – my most favorite weather.  This trip to Eldoret has turned out better than I ever expected. 

            This trip, however, would not have been as successful unless the trip I took in October 2009 hadn’t laid the groundwork.  In 2009, Fran Quigley and I escorted a group of lawyers to visit Eldoret and LACE so that they could see first hand how LACE was helping HIV/Aids patients and other vulnerable clients to have their cases heard in court and resolved through the lawyer’s consultations.  The group included:  Dean Gary Roberts, Jerry Kelley, Larry Landis and his wife     , Greg Ullrich, Theresa Willard, Donna Marron, Jasmine Parsons, Terry Snow, Paula Whitefield, Fran Quigley, Jerry Kelley and myself.

            In 2009 we started the trip with a three day safari to Masa Mara where we flew in from Nairobi to a landing field that was a strip of bare ground and were met by our drivers who took us to the nearby Serena Lodge.  The next 2 mornings and 2 evenings, when the animals would go to the water to eat and drink, we would drive through this vast savannah and saw every African animal you have seen at the zoo and more.  Out vans had open-air tops that allowed us to stand and photograph or just view the animals as close as you would care to be.  Ask any of us to see our pictures – if you have a day or two.

            After Masa Mara we took the plane back to Nairobi and next day flew to Eldoret.  The main roads were still very rutted and bumpy and it was easier to fly.  Now things are different and the main road from Nairobi to Eldoret is great. 

            After arriving in Eldoret, we toured the AMPATH Center and had a meeting with Milkah where two of our clients were able to tell us how LACE had helped them.  Jane told us that she was a rape survivor.  She had been assaulted by her uncle and ended up being HIV positive.  She went to the hospital and then to the police.  But in Kenya, corruption and gender discrimination cause many sexual assault cases to be dropped early in the process.  The prosecutor in Jane’s case first ignored her and then suggested she abandon the case.  But then Milkah came to her aid and pushed the case through the court process and her attacker was jailed and brought in front of a magistrate where he was convicted.  It was the only successful rape prosecution in anyone’s memory. 

Another client had been pushed off the land by her greedy in laws after her husband had died of AIDS.  Since the wife was HIV positive they wanted her and her children to leave. Milkah was able to arrange a settlement where the in-laws would give her some adjoining land and a place to live even though she still could not come back to their original home.  Tearfully, they thanked us for our support and expressed what a difference we had made in their lives.

            We visited the Moi University Law School where Larry addressed the Criminal Law Class and Dean Roberts taught the sports law section.  But the most exciting event was to watch Greg and Fran play badminton in the open center court of the law school.  It is a three story building where all of the classrooms open up to a deck that looks down to the center court where they have a badminton net and students play between classes.

            Another day, Elizabeth Chester, OVC Director, arranged for each attorney to accompany a case worker into a person’s home so they could see how families were living who needed assistance from the Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Department at AMPATH.  I think each attorney was greatly moved by being able to have contact with specific needy families.

            While there, Dean Roberts agreed to give a scholarship to Avril Rua who was volunteering for LACE while attending Moi Law School.  She is now finishing her LLM at IU-Indy Law School and plans to go back to work for LACE.  I bring her up now because one night she took the crew to a club in Eldoret to karaoke.  So we had great fun and while learning about what can be done to help others have access to justice.

            This same group of attorneys serves on our LACE Board in Indianapolis and we try to get together once every month to raise new ideas for fundraising and to keep in touch with our Eldoret team.  On this same website you will see our RACE for LACE campaign.  This was Jerry Kelly’s brainchild and we were able to raise a lot of money for our cause.  Stay tuned – because we will have another RACE for LACE at this year’s 500 Festival mini-marathon.  The Kenyans always win so come out and help us cheer them on.

            Sorry for the delay in posting this blog but I have left Eldoret and moved on to Kilimambogo, which is a village near Thika.  I met Dr. Tim Dudley and his wife Cindy at the Kili Hospital where Rotary has sponsored a dental clinic since 1994.  We have had no electricity for the last 2 days and today we are going in to Thika where they have an internet café.  I plan to have one more post about Lace and our sponsors as soon as I get back to Nairobi.  I am enjoying my time in Kili with Cindy and Tim.  Yesterday we had a party for the orphanage and the modest gifts that we gave them were appreciated beyond words.  At the dental clinic, I saw Tim treat an entire school by performing teeth extractions while another dental assistant worked on cavities.  I can’t believe what a difference this will make to those children’s lives.  There is so much good work being done in Kenya by our Indianapolis community.

            So, one last blog to come from Africa – when I get back to Nairobi.

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Greeting old friends

Day Eight – February 1, 2011

                Eric and I met Milkah in the LACE office at the AMPATH Center but Vincent Mutai was unable to attend because he was teaching his Environmental Law class.  The three of us got along so beautifully because accommodating more clients is what we all believe can happen.  The main idea going forward is to keep the LACE office at AMPATH as the central office.  Space is very precious there because all of their services keep expanding as they are developing a premier health care hospital in several different areas of practice – diabetes, heart conditions, neurology and other specialties. 

                Milkah would remain as our Managing Lawyer and be at the main office.  She would be able to screen cases, settle minor disputes, and go to court as she sees fit.  We received grant money from OSIEA for 2010-11 but the contracts have just been signed and advertising for two new positions has begun – advocate and administrative assistant.  This will allow LACE to take more clients and Milkah will get some much needed help.  She is so devoted to our cause that we most give her as much support as possible. 

                Later, Gumbo and I went for a drink at the Eldoret Club.  It is truly a throwback to the old English colonial system and similar to our country clubs in America – complete with golf course and swimming pool.  I am so fortunate to have Gumbo in my life as we share the same dreams and hope to serve the marginalized people in Kenya society beginning with HIV/Aids patients.  As Eric says, the sky is the floor.  The evenings was magical as we sat on the porch drinking Tusker beer and knowing that not too long ago this social event could never have happened – a white woman and black man sharing a drink and sharing ideas.  As we were talking, Hon. Dr. Linah Jebil Kilimo EGH, MP came by and sat with us for a while.  She is with the Ministry of Co-operative Development and Marketing and is from the Eldoret area but works in Nairobi.  Her position is very high in the government and was most interesting.  She and Gumbo talked about the Constitution and its impact on election reform.  There are many other complicated factors involved with getting ready for the election of 2012, but everyone is getting ready. 

                This morning started at the OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) Office at the Ampath Center.  When I came to Eldoret in 2008, I met Everlyn, and Sharon at the Burnt Forest Distribution Center.  Everlyn was 10 and she was considered the head of household because both of her parents had died of AIDS and the relatives would not take them in because Sharon, age 8, was HIV positive.  There were two other children at home, Winnie, age 6 and Tobias was only 2.  Everlyn and Sharon had walked many miles that day from their home to get the free vegetables, oil, and beans being given away at the Center and this was the food that had to last them two weeks.  We watched the girls loading themselves up as they were going to turn around and walk back home with their food in large burlap bags and the cooking  oil in a gallon jug.  I asked Elizabeth, the Director of OVC, if we could drive them home and she agreed.  When we got near their hut, we parked the  SUV and started walking across corn fields and near other huts until we reached their hut.  It had been padlocked while they were away and they had put their goat inside the hut so no one would steal it. 

                At the side of the hut was a lean-to , opened on three sides, where the other family members had put the girls’ mother and the 4 children while the mother died of AIDS.  After her death, the relatives would not take the children because Sharon is HIV positive so Everlyn was head of household taking care of her three other siblings.

                Through Elizabeth and Dora, their caseworker, I was able to send them to a boarding school where they were able to have an education, boarding and food for 9 out of the 12 months.  It is still a problem when they go home for the holidays because it seems that they might be abused by other people around them when they are home.

                So in 2009, I got to visit them at the Real School but there were so many problems with the school that they had to be moved to a new school nearby.  So today I got to visit them in their new school, Kapsagat School, near their home community.  Everlyn was very withdrawn today and we were told by the Principal that she has not been doing well in the 7th standard – which is like our 7th grade.  But keep in mind she didn’t even start school until 2nd term in 2008.  The principal told us that she had to beat her to make her do better.  Of course, I was stunned but  Elizabeth said that beating is often the  way that school children are treated to make them learn but she responded to the principal that beating would not help her learn.  She handled it very well but it is unlikely to change.

                Overall, the school is left over from the colonial period, started in 1934, and is still operating with the same protocol as an English boarding school.  Sharon, who is 11, is in the 1st standard or 1st grade with her sister Winnie who is 9 years old.  Sharon is developmentally behind the others but has been taking anti-viral drugs for several years now and is generally in good health.  Winnie gets top grades and has a wonderful cheerful disposition.  But we got her started in school at the right time. 

                Elizabeth talked to the principal while I was there and suggested other steps the school could take to make sure Everlyn succeeds.  Sharon needs special attention and her sister Winnie said she would help her with her school work.  Winnie had trouble seeing the blackboard so OVC was going to arrange to have all of the girls eyes checked.  It was so good to see that they are getting the attention and basic educational needs that will help them succeed in their future lives away from school. 

                Betsy Bosin went with me and her friend, Cindy Creek, who is a teacher in the Bloomington Schools.  It was quite an eye-opener for her but we all came away with a greater understanding of their school system.  Overall, the girls are doing fine and I am a proud mama.

                This afternoon, I am going to the Moi University Law School with Vincent and pay my respects to the Dean.  I have met him the last three times I’ve been in Eldoret and we want to keep that relationship strong.  In 2009, Dean Roberts came with our attorney group and met with this Dean also.  It resulted in a scholarship being given to Avril Rua, a student of Moi Law School, and she is now getting her LLM from the Indiana University Law School at Indianapolis.  In exchange for this wonderful opportunity, she has agreed to come back to LACE and work as an advocate when she finishes her schooling.  Avril, if you are reading this, the Dean and Professor Mutai both speak very highly of your achievements.

                After this meeting, Vincent and I went to Gumbo’s office to talk about a Kenyan NGO being formed but I’m too tired now to write about it.    More tomorrow.

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