My Internship with HopeCore (by Melavin Muthamaki, Community Health Worker)

Melavin Muthamaki, our intern, reflects on his experiences here at HopeCore

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Hello there! My name is Melavin Muthamaki. I’m a third year student at Kenyatta University, and I’m undertaking a BSc in Population Health. I have been greatly honored to be part of Village HopeCore International, where I spent three months doing my internship. I first heard of the organization from my friends who frequented the HopeCore Youth Centre. After accompanying them to the Centre, I became a regular and fell in love with the organization. It was because of this that when the time to start my internship came, I had only one organization in mind: Village HopeCore International.

My first day at the organization was a day of discovery. My idea of HopeCore was quickly transformed from just a Youth Centre to a far-flung organization with several departments. Some of these include:

1.The Public Health Department, which deals in projects such as the mobile clinics in schools, malaria prevention and mosquito nets distribution, distribution of clean water tanks and hand washing station tanks, and youth-peer providers, who distribute contraceptives and offer counseling.

2. The Micro-enterprise Department, which addresses poverty eradication through provision of loans and financial education.

3. The Administrative Team

I was deeply humbled by the warm welcome I received. I immediately felt that I was a part of the HopeCore family. Dr. Kajira Mugambi, the organization’s founder, usually says, “ A stranger is a friend you have not yet met’’. I have felt those words come to life during my stay at Hopecore.

I spent the first month (May) getting oriented to different HopeCore activities. I particularly enjoyed riding with Dave on the motorbike to check the status of the WASH tanks. This is done to ensure the tanks are well maintained and used for the purpose intended. We also checked that soap was always placed at the hand washing stations. In the event that the school ran out of WaterGuard, we supplied them with more. When I was not touring with Dave, I attended classes taught by Lenah and the other Community Health Workers to learn how to present lessons to pupils and parents, respectively. I also took part in the net distribution exercises whereby you give mosquito nets to ECD (Early Childhood Development) children. Their parents receive the nets after they are adequately equipped with knowledge on the purpose of the nets and how to use them.

In the months of June and July, I participated in health education whereby I taught pupils from different schools on matters pertaining to Malaria and Cholera causes and prevention. I did this with help from Armstrong who has been so helpful to me throughout the process. I also did growth monitoring which I enjoyed so much. I particularly enjoyed listening to Victoria as she taught parents about family planning.

Generally, I gained the knowledge, skills, and courage to do what I previously thought I couldn’t. The many visits to various schools where I taught those angelic kids will never be forgotten. I had no idea that I could learn from kids. Some always had me laughing with their jokes and others challenged me with various questions. I also enjoyed the MCH (Mother and Child Health) clinics. I also improved my social skills a lot. I learned how to communicate with different people, how to fit in the society, and how to cope with various attitudes from different people.

I had many challenges as well. For example, one time the Public Health team’s Land Cruiser became stuck in a puddle of mud and I had to assist in pulling it out. As the driver struggled to do the same, water from the puddle splashed on me. You can imagine how I looked, so dirty and disorderly on my way home that day.

Now that I’m almost done with my internship, I am going to miss the Village HopeCore family a lot. I will also miss seeing the happy faces of children or parents after helping them out. I really never want to leave, but I have my studies to complete and therefore I must go. I’ll surely miss the Public Health team, especially the stories and laughter shared each and every single day. I hope to see them all again someday!!

HopeCore’s health program was selected for funding and design support!

Village HopeCore International (HopeCore) is pleased to announce it has selected by Amplify, through Open IDEO, as one of the organizations to receive funding and design support for its Maternal and Under-5 Health and Education Clinics.

The maternal and child wellness program has grown from 15 years of experience in villages along the slopes of Mt. Kenya.  HopeCore recognized a gap in their health programming and that was that they were not accessing mothers or children under 5 years old. HopeCore continually receives awards from the Sub-County Government recognizing their contribution to the school system and the health of the local children.  Now the international community is supporting and recognizing these unique efforts.

HopeCore launched a health program in May 2015 aimed at improving the health of communities along the slopes of Mt. Kenya.   The program focuses on four modalities of maternal and child health: educate, prevent, treat, and advise. It has begun with 40 primary schools with the hope to expand to all 133 primary schools in the Maara Sub-County of Kenya.  A health hotline will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to any community members with health-related questions or concerns as well as a program to support the most vulnerable families, including pregnant women.

In November 2014 HopeCore accepted an online challenge conducted by Amplify and IDEO.org, through OpenIDEO (openideo.com) aimed at generating creative, innovative, and collaborative solutions to the world’s problems. The challenge was, “How might parents in low-income communities ensure children thrive in their first five years?”  There were 441 ideas submitted to this challenge.  Over the next 2 months, HopeCore staff worked collaboratively with experts from around the world to respond to questions and refine their ideas.

Out of all the participants, only 31 ideas were chosen for greater refinement, including HopeCore.  In January, HopeCore was one of 10 “Top Ideas”.  By then HopeCore was able to show results being seen through pilot programs and interviews with community members.  Through this process, anyone in the world was able to write comments and questions to refine or clarify the idea.

Working with an international audience, HopeCore was able to make the program clearer and potentially more effective.  This all paid off as in May 2015, HopeCore was chosen as one of five ideas to receive design support and one of only three ideas to receive funding for an idea.

This major international recognition will provide HopeCore with design and funding support in addition to bringing them onto the international scene of global health.  One member of HopeCore staff will travel to San Francisco in July 2015 for a design bootcamp aimed at developing strategy and learning new approaches to problem definition and problem solving.  This bootcamp will assist HopeCore in becoming more effective in developing and implementing programs that improve the lives of many communities in Kenya.

Another part of the IDEO.org award is a grant that will support the program.  This grant will allow HopeCore to fully implement the program and provide life-saving education and treatment to mothers and their children under 5 years old.

“This is a great day for us as it marks the moment that our programs have entered the international health and development arena and have been selected by an international jury to be the very best of the crop,” said Dr. Phil Rasori, Village HopeCore International Medical Director and Board Member. “Our organization that started with twelve women, two men, and five thousand dollars is now beginning to affect how health and development is conducted far beyond the Chogoria area.”

By introducing the mother and child wellness program as part of their health program, HopeCore is working toward prevention from an earlier age so parents will have fewer health concerns and expenses related to their children, thus allowing them to focus on economic productivity.  This new program will affect 22,000 mothers and their children, building on the 45,000 children already handled through other health programs.  With the support of IDEO.org, this project seeks to grow to impact 100,000 individuals in 516 villages.

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”

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.

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.

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