Life in a Kenyan Village Helping 1000 Orphans
Kate Conlan has recently returned from a two month volunteer placement at Nyumbani Village in Kenya.
This remote village prides itself on being a bio-friendly and self-sustaining community serving 1000 orphans and 100 elders who have been left behind by the “lost generation” resulting from the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Village Co-founder, Loreto Sister Mary Owens developed plans back in 2006 to serve as a model for future initiatives.
Kate graduated from Melbourne’s Loreto Mandeville Hall, Toorak in 2008 and currently works as a Theatre Nurse. Below she has penned her unforgettable whirlwind experience:
Life in Nyumbani village was so different to what I could have ever imagined! It offers so much more than just a home for children and grandparents who have been left behind as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Approximately 10% of the children here are infected with HIV. The children live in clusters. There are four houses to a cluster and one Shu Shu/Babu (Grandmother/Grandfather) in each house. There is a primary school and a senior school, as well as a youth polytechnic. The students in the polytechnic can study carpentry, welding, dress-making and hairdressing courses.
There is also a fully functioning medical clinic which has a permanent doctor and nurse, as well as counsellors and a lab technician. This allows for comprehensive check-ups for the children, grandparents, staff and local community members.
My time and skills were spread between numerous projects. This included time at the clinic, public health projects and organising a photography competition and exhibition!
Wednesday mornings I worked in the clinic distributing HIV medication to patients and assisting with children’s health check-ups. This involved weighing the children, measuring their height, temperature and assessing their overall wellbeing. We also took this time to relay the importance of taking their medication regularly.
When I wasn’t in the clinic, I spent my mornings working on four other projects; hand hygiene, oral health, women’s health and a photography competition and exhibition.
Hand hygiene and oral are both very important but the community needs to understand why, as this area needed improvement. It was my job to educate the children on the importance of washing their hands regularly and effectively, as well as teaching them to brush their teeth. I managed to turn this into a fun exercise by using games, activities and songs. I taught them simple songs to the tune of ‘Row, row, row your boat’. I also worked to find an effective solution to the shortage of soap and toothpaste. Especially toothpaste, as it is very expensive there.
My time at the Nyumbani Village was truly amazing. I was so warmly welcomed by the staff, but especially by the children. Wherever I walked in the village, I always heard someone yelling my name and running over to say ‘hello’. I was never alone as wherever I walked there were always 10 children by my side by the time I reached my destination!