Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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.


Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »