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15 Years of Hope

We are SO elated to be celebrating 15 years as an organization this year! Read the press release below about how we have been bringing hope to rural Kenya for a decade and a half.

The full press release, along with links to other press releases, can be found here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/05/prweb12703906.htm

“Village HopeCore International (HopeCore) is making history in Kenya. HopeCore has a mission to eradicate poverty in Africa, beginning along the slopes of Mt. Kenya, and to improve the lives of Africans through better health care and education.

In a year that has been filled by almost constant negative news of Ebola and other problems in Africa, HopeCore’s story stands apart as a successful non-profit organization that, for 15 years, has continued to offer poor women and children hope and a healthier and more dignified life in Africa. The organization began with two men, 12 poor village women and $5000. Fifteen years later, its programs affect over 100,000 Kenyans. Below is its story.

Dr. Kajira Mugambi, the founder of HopeCore, was born in the area to an extremely poor family. He traveled to the US as a self-sponsored student, arriving at about 16 years of age and with less than $100.00 in his pocket. He graduated high school, and proceeded to attend law school at UCLA. After passing the California State Bar, he decided to return to the Kenyan village of his birth to help reduce poverty, and improve the health of his fellow villagers and beyond.

Dr. Mugambi founded a village bank that would offer micro-loans to poor Africans. The program has been a stunning success. HopeCore has been able to keep the bank’s loan repayment rate at greater than 92% over the 15 years. HopeCore has so far funded a total of 75 self-help groups or about 900 micro enterprise clients over that time.

HopeCore now seeks to offer micro loans for micro business operations every year to 9-12 new groups of 12 individuals (108-144 clients), and to increase the size of its village bank to serve more people. Ongoing funding of the bank is necessary to help more people move out of poverty to become middle-income members of their communities. At an average of 6 dependents per family, this program benefits over 5000 people in terms of better nutrition, greater ability to pay school fees and health/medical related expenses, and bringing electricity and water to their homes.

Dr. Phil Rasori, a global health specialist from Healdsburg, California joined up with Dr. Mugambi 15 years ago after hearing Dr. Mugambi’s vision and visiting the first area of HopeCore’s operations. Dr. Rasori started HopeCore operations with Dr. Mugambi and became the HopeCore medical director responsible for the design and implementation of all medical programs.

HopeCore’s health programs have been extremely successful. HopeCore was honored by the Maara Sub-County Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health for making the largest contribution to the health of school children in the sub-county of any organization operating in the area.

In 2014, HopeCore made further history in Kenya by being the first organization to bring clean, treated, drinking water systems and hand washing stations to an entire sub-county, encompassing 184 primary and secondary schools benefiting about 45,000 children.

HopeCore’s school clinic program brings health education and free clinical services to 72 schools, covering 20,000 pupils. In 2014 the program dewormed 5,225 pupils. The organization’s malaria prevention program has placed 14,500 long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets in villager’s homes, another first for this area.

In the Spring 2015, HopeCore will add an innovative Child/Maternal health clinic to all of its 72 partner schools. The clinic will provide free treatment for mothers and their sick children, as well as providing educational sessions on family planning, hygiene in the home, nutrition, breastfeeding, immunizations, and malaria prevention. The clinic plans to have a free health hot line for Kenya’s poor that will allow mothers to contact HopeCore’s health workers at any time for advice on all health matters and family planning issues. This health line is another first for HopeCore.

Few non-profit organizations in Africa survive for 15 years as the failure rate is phenomenal. HopeCore attributes its success to Dr. Mugambi’s hands on involvement with all HopeCore programs, the medical oversight of Dr. Rasori, and the financial support provided by the US Board. Five international foundations help support the projects but more funding is needed to expand the base of people who can be helped with these programs.

HopeCore has been successful for many reasons. It works with the Kenyan Sub-County Ministry of Education and Ministry of Public Health to analyze community needs, it offers fellowships to outstanding American college graduates who then live in the Kenyan village for one to two years and help with all of HopeCore’s programs. The US operations headquartered in Stockton, California are active in fundraising for the organization.

For 15 years, HopeCore has operated in a cost efficient manner. It is unique in that for every dollar it raises, 99 cents are spent in Kenya. All HopeCore American staff are volunteers and US office space and accounting services are donated. Almost no other non-profit based in the US can make this claim.

For more information, to get a media packet or to make donations, go to http://www.villagehopecore.org
For people to interview, contact: Anne Gildea, Global Health Fellow: anne.gildea(at)villagehopecorekenya(dot)or(dot)ke”

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HopeCore’s Microenterprise Program: The People We Empower (By Jillo Gubal Shamzad, Microenterprise Program Assistant Coordinator)

A Brief History

HopeCore’s Microenterprise Program was founded in 2001 when our first group of 12 women, called the Rwanchege HopeCore Pioneers, received their loans of $400 USD each. Since then, the program has grown and we have funded many more groups.

The first HopeCore loan group, the Ranchege Pioneers, during a 2014 reunion
The first HopeCore loan group, the Rwanchege Pioneers, were reunited in 2014 – 13 years after becoming the pioneers of what HopeCore is today.

Our goal as microfinance institution is to enable and empower member of rural communities by providing microloans for microenterprise development, business education, health education, and support to our loan recepients. This program helps the people of Maara Sub-County, Tharaka Nithi County, by providing them not only with education and training for personal development,   but also with an entrepreneurial mindset that will free their spirits to build a stronger future for themselves and their families. Our microloan distribution makes up a large majority of our funding and activities, but our overall goal is to reduce poverty in this area.

The Microenterprise Program Today

A loan client proudly shows off the cows she raises with her HopeCore microloan.
A loan client proudly shows off the cows she raises with her HopeCore microloan.

As of March 2015, Village HopeCore International loans have reached 984 recipients!

Our services have reconfirmed to me that we are making a huge difference in people’s lives. The amount of wealth our microloan institution provides may seem small, but the increases in income that these microloans encourage have profound benefits for the loan recipients and community as a whole. The profits our clients received from various business ventures have helped them to better their quality of life and education, empowered women to take a leading role in income generation for their families, and reduced the reach of deadly diseases like malaria and HIV.

Chogoria Uwezo Self Help Group

Our program is a very inclusive program, hence we do not discourage even people of special circumstances from applying for loans. We recently have begun working with the Chogoria Uwezo Self Help Group, a group of physically-disabled people who dream of bettering their businesses and improving standards of living for themselves and their families. “Uwezo” means “Empower,” and it is our hope that our microloans empower, encourage, and support the people of this group.

Here is a story of one of our inspirational clients from the Chogoria Uwezo Self Help Group:

Stephen Kariuki

Stephen-UwezoSHG-blog

Stephen Kariuki, 50, is married and a proud father of 3 girls: Ann Kathambi, Mary Wanjiku, and Sharon Njeri. Ann Kathambi completed college and holds a certificate in food and beverage administration, Mary Wanjiku has graduated from secondary school, and Sharon Njeri is currently in Class 8. He lives with his family in a rental home in Chogoria.

Stephen suffers from polio. He contracted the disease in 1966 when he was three years old, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Refusing to accept his paralysis, he tried different physical therapy techniques to learn how to walk, and he can now successfully walk short distances using his walking clutch and cane. He also suffers from other health issues including high blood pressure and a recurring urinary tract infection (UTI). Despite his paralysis, he has remained positive and does not let his paralysis negatively affect his life.

Stephen is known to be one of the most successful businessmen in his area. He possesses professional skills in the area of general leather work and leadership skills as well. He is the chairperson of Chogoria Uwezo, secretary of the Men’s Association at his church, and a member of the Board of Governors at Ndosha SACCO in Chogoria. He also enjoys playing the drums in addition to his various business ventures. From his leather work, he earns a monthly income of Kshs 16000 ($184 USD). His wife sells second-hand clothes and earns a monthly income of Kshs 6000 ($69 USD). Their general monthly household expenses are approximately Kshs 15000 ($172 USD). However, after paying rent, school fees, and other health-related expenses, their monthly expenses often exceed their monthly income. He dreams of one day becoming the CEO of a shoe industry one day, but knows that he needs extra financial help, which he has found through the HopeCore microenterprise program.

Stephen’s major concern is the well-being of the other disabled members of his community. He says that there are some members that are in dire need of assistance and he hopes that HopeCore will be able to empower them economically as they did to them. He is currently in the funding cycle, and he has much optimism that he will significantly grow his business with the loan he has received from HopeCore.

It is people like Stephen who inspire my team and me to continue working to reduce poverty and empower our communities with the microloans, business education, and leadership training that the HopeCore Microenterprise Department provides.

Meet this blog post’s author…

Jillo Gubal Shamzad - Microenterpise Intern
Jillo Gubal Shamzad – Microenterpise Intern

Jillo Gubal Shamzad joined HopeCore as a full-time Microenterprise Department employee in July 2014, but was no stranger to the organization, as she had already interned with HopeCore before that. She is now the Assistant Microenterprise Coordinator and has become an integral part of the department through her hard work, determination, and initiative-taking.

Lennah educates the crowd at a county event on proper hand washing technique.

HopeCore’s Health Education Program (by Lennah Mwende, Health Educator)

In this blog, HopeCore’s health educator, Lennah Mwende, discusses the health education program at HopeCore that she has played a key role in since joining HopeCore in 2012.

Lennah holds a question-and-answer discussion during one of her health education presentations.
Lennah holds a question-and-answer discussion during one of her health education presentations.

HopeCore’s health education lectures were the foundation of our health education program. I give these lectures at our 72 partner schools when we visit them to conduct our school-based mobile clinics. Each presentation is age-appropriate and targets a specific audience to facilitate maximum understanding. The wide-ranging health curriculum topics include hygiene, nutrition, common diseases, malaria, first aid, fire/road/water safety, recreational drugs, sexual and reproductive health, adolescent development, reproduction, contraceptives, and STIs/HIV/AIDS.

As an educator, I always aim to capture the students’ attention before, during, and after my presentations. To do this, I use PowerPoint presentations to help visual learners retain information. In small schools, I conduct two presentations: upper and lower primary. When we go to big schools, I conduct four presentations so that the class size isn’t too large and students can hear and understand the lecture and later not be discouraged from asking questions. I also do practical demonstrations with both upper and lower primary levels and often hold discussions after the formal presentation is over, especially with upper primary students on popular topics such as sexual health and adolescent development.

Lennah engages primary students with an energizer called "I Have A Ball."
Lennah engages primary students with an energizer called “I Have A Ball.”

The health education presentations I provide as part of the HopeCore mobile clinics are intended to give students lessons about things that are not taught in the school curriculum. Because of this, most students always have so many questions, especially about sexual and reproductive health, as I mentioned earlier. I do my best in providing answers to these questions and referring students to trusted persons who may be able to answer their questions if I’m not able to.

I conduct frequent evaluations of student understanding whenever I visit a school so as to ascertain whether or not lessons need to be re-taught or expanded upon. I also ask students what they would like information about, which is how new presentations have been created. For example, in 2014, we learned from the students themselves that there is a recreational drug problem among youths in some communities, and from there, we developed a drug abuse presentation that I am giving to schools this year. The HopeCore health education program is ever-changing and ever-growing. We continue to improve it for the benefit of the school children, and by association, the communities we serve in general.

With the education the pupils and students receive, the HopeCore public health staff, as well as the students’ teachers, have noticed that hygiene and health has improved in genera. I personally have witnessed that they are able to express themselves better, understand their bodies and feel more comfortable in them, and feel more prepared for future life.

I am always inspired while giving education information and support to pupils because it is rewarding to know that I can do something help young people as they grow into adulthood receive the knowledge and skills to live healthy and productive lives.

I love my job at HopeCore and I believe through the organization I am a making a huge difference in lives of the pupils and communities.

Meet this blog’s author…

Lennah Mwende - Health Educator & Public Health Assistant Coordinator
Lennah Mwende – Health Educator & Public Health Assistant Coordinator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lennah Mwende holds three certifications: teaching, accounting, and computer studies. In addition to being HopeCore’s talented health educator, she is also the Public Health Department’s assistant coordinator. Moreover, on top of her important roles at HopeCore, she is a proud mother and will soon be earning her teaching degree.

Promoting Health in Chogoria (Written by Winjoy Micheni, Community Health Nurse)

This blog is written by Winjoy Micheni, HopeCore’s Community Health Nurse. She describes her duties as nurse, her experiences while working with HopeCore as well as with other medical professionals who come to volunteer and work with her in Chogoria.

My name is Winjoy. I started working at Village HopeCore International in 2010. My job as a nurse is to promote the health status of Chogoria and the surrounding communities by addressing holistic well-being of the community. This includes:

  • Screening, examining, and treating childhood diseases by providing both preventative and curative services
  • Reducing risks associated with risky sexual behavior and unplanned pregnancies by educating youth and adults about adolescence, family planning, and sexual reproduction
  • Equipping mothers with information on how to take care of their children’s health as well as their own

School Health Programme

Winjoy distributes anti-malaria bed nets to primary school students.
Winjoy distributes anti-malaria bed nets to primary school students.

Together with my team through HopeCore’s mobile clinic program, we visit our 72 partner schools to offer medical services and health education once every three months. Here are the services our mobile clinics provide:

  • Deworming all lower primary pupils. By partnering with the Kenyan government, we will soon receive funding and support to deworm all 31,000 lower primary school students in the Maara Sub-County where we work.
  • Screeening, examining, and treating children (e.g. pupils with minor ailments including respiratory tract infections, ear infections, eye infections). Many pupils usually have easy-to-treat viral infections, and they are advised accordingly.
  • Anti-malaria net distributions. Malaria is still a problem in the Chogoria community, and we at HopeCore have a goal of giving every student under Class 1 a mosquito bed net. This helps protect some of the most vulnerable of school children. We also provide malaria prevention and treatment education to these children and their parents whenever we distribute the nets.
  • Counseling youth in schools. During my one-on-one counseling sessions with pupils and students, especially in secondary schools, I found that the young people are very sexually active and some do not use any protection. For example, last school term, I came across two students who had become pregnant and were immediately opting for an abortion. After talking to them and making sexual health follow-ups, they were able to make more informed decisions for themselves and go through with their pregnancies. I have also found out that most youths are using emergency (“Plan B”) pills more than they are using condoms, and therefore are at increased risk of contracting STIs and HIV/AIDS. I take time together with our trained youth peer providers to counsel the youth on family planning services.

HopeCore’s Vision

Winjoy makes notes about her student patients during a quick break.
Winjoy makes notes about her student patients during a quick break.

HopeCore has a vision to promote the alleviation of poverty in Kenya by providing microloans. In order to do that, we ensure that our loan clients are in good health. We therefore, as a Public Health team, visit microloan groups during their monthly meetings and provide health education, screening, and examinations for various conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension, etc.) We also provide family planning services to them. These services are performed on school holidays and during term breaks because of our department’s many activities through schools during times that schools are in session.

The loan clients can also visit our office clinic when I am available. Our clinic will soon become officially registered under the Kenyan Ministry of Health, and because I am the only nurse and extremely involved in health service and educational outreach, we will also soon be in need of more medical staff.

Working with Wazungu

Winjoy works with pediatric nurse Rachel, a volunteer from the UK Global Links Program, at a mother-child health and education clinic.
Winjoy works with pediatric nurse Rachel, a volunteer from the UK Global Links Program, at a mother-child health and education clinic.

Finally, I’d like to comment on how I’ve gained a lot experience from volunteer doctors and nurses, and express my gratitude to them. By being able to work in the field with them, I have gained more confidence to practice as my own as a nurse. It’s not always easy to make a diagnosis, but with the help, advice, and support of the volunteers, I have learned so much and have become a better medical professional. Thank you to: Dr. Anika & Dr. Andrew, Dr. Mary Lester, Dr. Sophie, and Dr. Dominic & Nurse Rachel. Most of these volunteers have come from the UK’s Global Links Program.

I am very happy with my job at HopeCore, and I know that I am making such a big difference in my community with this organization.

Meet this blog’s author…

Winjoy Micheni, Community Health Nurse
Winjoy Micheni, Community Health Nurse

Reusable menstrual kits (by Stella Kagendo, Community Health Worker)

Introduction of reusable menstrual kits

By: Stella Kagendo, Community Health Worker- Village HopeCore

Millions of women and girls around the world do not have access to safe, healthy, and reliable options for managing their menstruation. I would like to share what I learned and gained from a training I attended organized by Days For Girls to become an Ambassador of Women’s Health on reusable menstrual kits.

Reusable menstrual pads offer girls and women a safe, effective, and sustainable solution in managing their menstruation. It is made up of two components: the shield and the liner. The kit is composed of two shields and eight liners.

My experience at the training

I was able to interact with other women from different parts of our country when I attended the training. We shared more about our customs concerning menstruation, facts and myths surrounding it, and how our girls and women face menstruation according to our tribes. As ambassadors of women’s health, we are to intervene and help the girls and women in improving their health.

Resuable pad demonstrations
While exploring the different parts of a reusable pad and showing others how it works, I am able to interact with many women and discuss sexual health topics.

I also had an opportunity to increase my knowledge on various topics, we learned about anatomy, reproduction, hygiene, STIs, and human rights, to name a few.

In the practical learning sessions, we were taught and shown how to build tippy taps for hand washing and the part which drew my attention the most was how to make the reusable menstrual kit. We were taught how to cut, sew, and make the liners and the shield. We also had a chance of doing practical presentations on how it is used using demonstration underwear we had. From my experience, I can share my knowledge with others through educating the girls and women on reproductive health, emphasizing menstrual health.

A woman practices using a reusable pad on a sample while I help her.
A woman practices using a reusable pad on a sample while I help her.

How it works

Shield

The shield is a cloth holder resembling a disposable winged menstrual pad. It has a moisture proof fabric inside that keeps menstrual fluids from seeping or passing through. The wings have snaps so the shield can be secured in the underwear without fear of falling out. The user can use the shield for the whole day.

Liner

The liners are soft and absorbent. The liner is folded into thirds and placed inside the shield in order to absorbed the menstrual flow. On heavier menstrual flow days, one can layer more than one liner in the shield to create a thicker pad for more absorbency.

When the liner is soiled the girl or woman can remove the liner from the shield and replace it with another one. This can be changed after a few hours, depending on the menstrual flow. The soiled liners can be stored in a drawstring bag, for privacy, when in public settings, and can be later washed in your house.

Care

The soiled items should be washed daily with soap. After washing the shield and the liners, they should be hung outside to dry. The liners can be ironed to help them dry faster. The shield should not be ironed because it has a plastic barrier inside which can melt. It is important to clean the kit properly. When cared for properly, this reusable kit can last up to three years.

What's in a "Days for Girls" kit (from daysforgirls.com)
What’s in a “Days for Girls” kit (from daysforgirls.com)

Conclusions

A girl is faced with many threats for lack of a simple basic resource: sanitary pads. She worries her uniform will be soiled, she worries about deteriorating in her studies due to missing classes because of her periods, she risks her health by using what she can to prevent soiling her clothes, and she suffers from lack of knowledge due to silence on female reproductive health. All of this adds up to women and girls feeling ashamed, getting infections, and missing opportunities month after month. Lack of access to basic sanitary pads to manage menstruation threatens a girl’s education and her health. HopeCore hopes to, in the future, step up to help change this situation. I hope to ensure that a girl knows who she is, that her health is vital to her future, and also, to ensure that she can go to school, and stay productive and healthy.

Stella unpacks HopeCore's school-based mobile clinic medications & supplies box. One of Stella's main roles as a CHW is to provide support and triage services to HopCore's nurse during mobile clinics.
Meet this blog’s author: Stella unpacks HopeCore’s school-based mobile clinic medications & supplies box. One of Stella’s main roles as a CHW is to provide support and triage services to HopCore’s nurse during mobile clinics.

Celebrating 15 years of public health and microenterprise service to communities in rural Kenya