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
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 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
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.
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.
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.
How it works
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last month, in September, HopeCore’s WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) Program made history by putting clean drinking water and hand washing tanks in all 180 schools in the Maara Sub-County, a first in terms of how far-reaching a WASH Program has been in all of East Africa! 45,000 school children and their teachers benefit from these tanks, and the tanks have been and are being continuously monitored by a HopeCore public health worker. Here is his story…
My name is Dave Mwandiki, and I started working at Village HopeCore in 2013.
My job as WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) Program Monitor and Hygiene Educator is to make sure I ride the HopeCore motorbike to all schools where HopeCore has installed tanks for safe drinking water and hand washing and provided WaterGuard for treating drinking water. The schools are both primary and secondary schools and are in the Maara Sub-County. In September, my WASH team and I completed water tank delivery to all 180 schools in the Sub-County to bring clean drinking water and hand washing drums to 45,000 students.
I visit each of the 180 schools once every 2-3 months and talk to teachers and students about the condition of their water tanks. I make sure they are treating the drinking water with WaterGuard to make it safe, and I also make sure they have soap at their hand washing drums. Sometimes I need to go far and on very bumpy roads on the HopeCore motorbike to get to all of these schools, but I know that this is very good and important work.
I enjoy working in this department because I feel so nice to see people in good health. I educate students and others that when you wash your hands all the time (especially after you visit the toilet and before you eat) and drink treated or boiled water, you kick off some issues that can cause bad health.
Since HopeCore has started the WASH Program, there have been many reports that come to the office to congratulate the good work. This makes me proud of the work that I do.
HopeCore has a vision to reach the entire county with the WASH Program, and I wish for more donors to come in and assist this good work that serves people and serves my God.
This blog was written by Dave Mwandiki M’rewa, WASH Program Health Worker.
An Introduction to HopeCore’s Microenterprise Department What We Do, Our New Project, and Success Stories
By Martin Kimathi Kirimi (Microenterprise Assistant Coordinator)
and Jillo Shamzad (Microenterprise Volunteer)
Village HopeCore International is a small, innovative, non-governmental, community-based organization that has its headquarters in Chogoria town, Kenya. HopeCore works in Chogoria and its surrounding communities to alleviate poverty through microfinance loans and micro-enterprises with business training and support, health promotion, and disease prevention programs. Village HopeCore is cultivating a blossoming tree of liberty, justice, and economic prosperity in Kenya. This blog features the an introduction to the micro-enterprise division of HopeCore, descriptions of one of its new projects, and success stories from two of its loan clients.
Introduction to Our Program
The HopeCore Micro-Enterprise/Lending Program is not strictly a microfinance institution, but a poverty reduction and development project. Our goal is to eradicate poverty in the communities we serve (Tharaka Nithi County, Maara District) and one day, throughout all of Kenya. Our micro-enterprise services, provided to each of our twelve-member Self-Help groups, include:
Business and financial literacy training
Business plan creation support
Business monitoring and advice
Community mobilization and support through innovative development projects
Assistance for initiating merry-go-round banking and group savings plans
The HopeCore Loan Cycle
Merry-go-rounding Savings Scheme
Group members each commit to contributing a set amount of money each month, week, or specified time period. Every time contributions are made, one group member receives the entire sum of money. This continues until the group has completed a full merry-go-round, that is, when every member of the group has received the entire sum of money. This savings scheme is a method of saving that is interest-free and beneficial to both a group (for group cohesiveness and support) and an individual (as large lump sums of money are often more valuable than smaller amounts due to products or services individuals may wish to purchase for their businesses). Group members make contributions of some set amount of money and the group votes on how each member will receive the money at different time of the year.
Groups that are successful in the merry-go-round savings phase, as well as a “table banking,” or group savings/loan phase, are eligible to get “soft loans,” money that HopeCore adds to the group table banking amount. With this additional money, the group members are able to lend more money within the group, and hence, get more money. The HopeCore soft loan is either KSHs 30,000 or KSHs 60,000 per group, depending on a range of reasons that are made clear to loan clients during group training. The soft loan repayment period is six months at the interest rate of 4.5%. HopeCore encourages its clients to lend the money at an interest rate of 10%.The 5.5% is retained as additional money to the group table banking, and the remaining 4.5% is the interest rate that goes to HopeCore.
HopeCore loan groups are usually loaned a total of KSHs 360,000, with each member in the group receiving KSHs 30,000. The repayment period for normal loans is two years with the first two months as a grace period. This grace period allows clients to invest the money and earn and collect their profits before they start paying back the amount they were loaned.
If individuals are successful with repayment of their first loans, they can apply to receive second loans before the first loan period has ended, or after the period is over. If HopeCore micro-enterprise staff determines that their needs are sufficient and that they have proven trustworthy and capable of receiving and repaying a second loan, individuals will receive another loan at the same interest rate as the first.
Throughout these stages, business training – which includes business plan drafting, savings advice, and networking/communication support – is offered to all of our loan clients.
A New Project: The HopeCore Greenhouse
A “greenhouse” is defined as a building or complex in which plants are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to industrial-sized buildings. The greenhouse project is a new innovation in HopeCore. Groups are trained and given loans to finance the purchase, installation, and maintenance of their greenhouse with the hopes of growing enough marketable crop to make a substantial profit.
We believe our Greenhouse projects are very productive and helpful to the youth who can form a group and commit to work as team to make their group’s greenhouse a success. HopeCore has lent money to youth for the purchase and management of two 8×15 meter greenhouses.
The HopeCore Greenhosue Group was loaned KSHs 360,000 to purchase two greenhouses, install a drip irrigation system, and buy seeds, fertilizers and other materials. From the greenhouses the group is projected to be capable of repaying the money within less than a year, assuming they put in a considerable amount of effort and work to successfully manage the greenhouses. HopeCore has ensured the pioneer group members of this new project will get the best in terms of consultation, advice, and moral support to encourage group cohesiveness and understanding of greenhouse operations.
The expected results from the Greenhouse Project are:
Increased income for group members
Increased food security in the Maara District, in which HopeCore operates
Self-employment opportunities for the youth
Better and improved food products
Moral support and encouragement to youth who are in between jobs and educational stages in their lives
As HopeCore loan clients, individuals who receive our services are part of our HopeCore family. We are very proud of the following individuals, as they have overcome many obstacles and successfully improved their businesses and are now happy, healthy, and prospering.
Esther Mweweria, age 48, hails from Klambugi, a small village in Majira, and was forced to drop out of school in Form 2.She is married and has three children who are under her care. With her level of education, she was faced with adversity and found it difficult to “dream big,” but there is one thing that inspired her and that is her passion: knitting. Despite the hardships that surround her life, her passion lifts her spirits, sharpens her focus, and gives her hope for better times ahead.
Initially Esther was in a school uniform sweater knitting business that earned her little living for her and her family’s survival, as she did not have the means to quickly produce as many school sweaters as were demanded of her. Her husband was in a coffee and banana farming business to supplement what the wife earns. Esther continued to reassure herself and her husband that her past and current circumstances didn’t determine her potential for future success, and this mindset has helped them persevere. After receiving the HopeCore loan of 30,000ksh ($352.90) on May 2012, Esther felt reenergized and even more hopeful for a bright future, despite the struggles she and her husband had gone through. She is currently in her first loan cycle.
Before her loan, Esther went through HopeCore’s business training program. This training (i.e. how to develop a business plan and how to keep up-to-date records) not only mentored her but also inspired her to not change who she was and instead focus on the huge potential of what she could become. With this training and the loan money under her belt, she expanded her knitting business and bought a new knitting machine which helped her work more efficiently. This led to increase in the number of customers, resulting in an improvement in her standard of living. Prior to the loan, Esther used to earn a monthly profit of 15,000ksh ($176.40), and that catered for all her home expenses (feeding, paying school fees, medical bills), but after the HopeCore loan, she now earns an overall of 32000ksh ($376.40) monthly and is also in the initial stages of running her own dairy farm. Her overall percentage increase for her household is 213%.With the profit she now doesn’t strain in paying school fees and her children are able to eat nutritious food and afford good medical care whenever they are sick.
Esther also learned from the HopeCore Public Health Staff not only how to prevent ailments but also how to plan for her family. She is able to sleep under the HopeCore-provided treated mosquito net and get access to clean water, proudly living by the saying: “A healthy nation is a wealthy nation.” Esther hopes one day to build her business and expand its influence such that she will be the sole provider of school uniform sweaters in Chogoria.
Moris Mwigiri Kaburu was born in 1979. The 35 year old carpenter ran a carpenter workshop that didn’t earn him much for his survival. He is married and has two dependants children hence was able to engage in charcoal selling business to earn a living. He wasn’t able to do much business with the tools that he had, and hence was living in poverty. Life was not simple for Moris due to the high cost of living; he was subjected to work tirelessly and relentlessly so as to provide the basic needs for his family. He struggled to work harder and more intelligently in order to survive during these demanding times. His Spouse was in chapatti selling business which earned her 7,300ksh ($85.80) to supplement what they earn in the household.
After successful business training, he was fortunate to receive a HopeCore loan of 30,000ksh ($352.90)during the month of May 2012; this was his first loan cycle.Moris was initially in a charcoal selling business to provide basic needs like food and clothing for his family before the funding. According to Moris, having been funded was the life-changing moment for him that ultimately led him to success. With his perseverance and commitment, he was able to overcome obstacles and move forward toward supporting his family and achieving his dreams. Business training inspired good business ideas in him and helped him become proficient in record keeping. With the loan, he was able to expand his workshop and purchase materials to help him provide more services to his clients. Due to HopeCore’s support, he was able to earn a profit of 5000ksh ($58.80) per month from his business. His overall household income increased to 12,300ksh ($144.70) with the loan due to diversified business ventures (charcoal selling and carpentry) .This is a percentage increase of 246%.With his profits, he was able to install piped water and send his children to school. Moris is also very happy that he is able to begin building a more secure stone house with these profits. Because of the health education also included during business training, he now practices good hygiene and family planning and prevents malaria by sleeping under the insecticide-treated mosquito net HopeCore provides all its loan clients. Moris, who now aspires to purchase a farm given the great progress of his business, is certainly a man full of hope and proud of his successes.
This blog post was written by Martin Kimathi Kirimi and Jillo Shamzad, both HopeCore staff members in the Microenterprise Department. To learn more about them, as well other staff members, please see the “About Us” – “Current Chogoria Staff” section of this website.
My first month in Chogoria with Village HopeCore International by Natasha Abadilla, Global Public Health Fellow
My name is Natasha Abadilla, and I am one of two Global Public Health Fellows working with Village HopeCore International this year. I first learned about HopeCore through a database hosted by the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford, where I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Biology. Dr. Phil Rasori, HopeCore’s medical director and one of its board members, came to guest lecture at the Stanford Medical School one day, and we met to discuss HopeCore and how I could possibly become a Global Public Health Fellow. I’ve always been interested in public health, especially in the developing world, and I have gone on public health trips to Guatemala and the Philippines during summers in college. When I met Dr. Phil in December, I knew that I wanted to take some time off before applying to medical school, and after speaking more with him in about HopeCore, I was extremely interested in being part of such a great organization.
On July 7th at 5:00am(!), I landed in Nairobi and took my first steps on African soil. As I rode to Chogoria with Anne, the other Global Public Health Fellow who had already been in Chogoria for two months and had traveled to Kenya to work with other NGOs many times before, I couldn’t help but be reminded of home. While Kenya is definitely still a developing nation, and my island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii is not, the red dirt and miles and miles of lush green vegetation definitely made me feel less homesick. Also, the view from my bedroom window in my apartment – which is located within the Chogoria Hospital compound and right next to Chogoria Girls Boarding school (definitely close enough for me to hear the 4:30am wake-up bell and listen to them singing every morning before work) – looks almost identical to my neighbor’s backyard at home. On top of all of that, I get to sleep under a mosquito net (as malaria is still a big problem in parts of Kenya), which turns my bed into a princess canopy bed, something I’d always wished for but never got until now!
Not even an hour after we got to Chogoria, Anne and I walked over to the HopeCore office from our apartment (about a five minute walk) to attend the Monday morning briefing with the entire HopeCore staff. I soon found out that they had been waiting for almost an hour for us to arrive to start the meeting, which I obviously felt badly about, but everyone was so quick and kind to welcome me into the HopeCore family. I couldn’t help but think about how angry people would be back home if I showed up to my first day of work having kept everyone waiting for an hour! From day one, even though I was exhausted and jet lagged after my 25+ hours either on a plane or in an airport, I knew I was gonna like it in Chogoria.
The next four weeks have flown by so quickly. When we were at a public health meeting and Anne suggested that I write the next blog for the HopeCore website about my first month in Kenya, I was genuinely surprised to realize that I have been here for that long. While I know I’ve already learned a lot and feel comfortable in Chogoria, it still definitely feels like I’ve just arrived. Instead of trying to go back and remember what I did week-by-week, I’ll just make a list of things that make me feel lucky and thankful to be here in Chogoria as a part of HopeCore…
1) The public health team projects definitely do make a difference and are rewarding to be a part of. There was a viral article about the countless American aid organizations that go into developing nations with good intentions but end up doing more harm than good because their work is not sustainable, and HopeCore is definitely not one of those organizations. Anne and I are presently the only foreign staff members – the other 16 or so are Kenyan and from the area – and while its Board of Directors are mostly from California, HopeCore is based in Chogoria and was founded by Dr. KK, who is from Chogoria and spent years in the United States going through high school, college, then law school. Below are a few photos from the various HopeCore public health projects and an infographic that shows just how many people we reach in the Chogoria community.
After a month here, I am finding my niche in the organization and work is getting busier and busier, which is actually a pretty good feeling.
2) The staff here has been so welcoming and sweet. I can definitely tell that they care about each other, and now that I’m part of the HopeCore family, that they care about me. Meetings are run a bit differently here than back home, and everything moves a little more slowly, which isn’t always the best for an organization’s efficiency, but the staff is always in good spirits – which is nice to know before walking into the office every morning.
3) I’m eating healthier here than I ever have in my entire life. This is partly because I’m afraid to trust myself to properly cook the meat sold at the butcheries here, and partly because like back home, the fruits and vegetables are all so fresh and delicious, but unlike back home, they’re all sold really cheaply in the market, which is on my way home from work. You can also get beans, lentils, corn, and just about anything you need to make a good meal there. I’ve always loved experimenting in the kitchen, and I’ve cooked some of my most surprisingly tasty dishes here.
Another thing I’m grateful for, food-wise, is that we get tea served in the office every day. The tea is always accompanied by a snack (for example, we always have samosas – my favorite – on Thursdays, and chapati – very similar to Native American frybread – on Tuesdays) which I always enjoy. (Anyone who knows me back home knows that I love to snack.)
4) Work-life balance is really good. I’ve been able to meet new friends and meet up with old friends from Stanford who live in Nairobi over the weekends, as well as do all the tourist-y things that I want to get around to doing while I’m in Kenya for the year.
5) As I said earlier, Chogoria is absolutely beautiful. I’ve been able to see quite a bit of it from the back of a motorbike or through the window of a Land Cruiser as we’ve gone out as a public health team to mobile clinics, distribute mosquito nets, and monitor water tanks, and I’m always taken aback by the long stretches of tea fields and lots and lots of green everywhere. It reminds me of an unpolluted, more simple and pure version of home.
And in a nutshell, those are my stories from my first month here in Chogoria! I’m so happy and thankful to be here, and I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here.
Transforming lives through enterprise, health, and education