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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.

Welcome

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