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.

HopeCore’s WASH Program (by Dave Mwandiki M’rewa, WASH Program Monitor)

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.

Dave and fellow HopeCore public health worker Martin Murithi show off one of the 1000 litre clean drinking water tanks.
Dave and fellow HopeCore public health worker Martin Murithi show off one of the 1000 litre clean drinking water tanks.
Students enjoy clean drinking water from one of HopeCore's donated tanks.
Students enjoy clean drinking water from one of HopeCore’s donated tanks.

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.

Dave covers many miles and rough and rugged roads in his motorbike whenever he goes to monitor tanks at schools.
Dave covers many miles and rough and rugged roads in his motorbike whenever he goes to monitor tanks at schools.

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.

Dave with the HopeCore motorbike, ready to go to monitor schools
Dave with the HopeCore motorbike, ready to go to monitor schools
One group of loan clients receive their first Village HopeCore loan

An Introduction to HopeCore’s Microenterprise Department (by Martin Kimathi Kirimi & Jillo Shamzad)

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.

One group of loan clients receive their first Village HopeCore loan
One group of loan clients receive their first Village HopeCore loan

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:

  • Microloan advances
  • 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.

Soft Loans

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.

Normal Loans

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.

Second Loans

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 loan group meets for business training and as a support group to discuss each member's activities
A loan group meets for business training and as a support group to discuss each member’s activities

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.

Our very first HopeCore Greenhouse
Our very first HopeCore Greenhouse

            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.

Our first greenhouse crops - tomatoes!
Our first greenhouse crops – tomatoes!

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
The pioneer HopeCore Greenhouse youth group and a past microenterprise fellow pose proudly with some of their crops in front of their greenhouse
The pioneer HopeCore Greenhouse youth group and a past microenterprise fellow pose proudly with some of their crops in front of their greenhouse

Success Stories

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 Mwera
Esther Mweweria

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 Mwirigi Kaburu
Moris Mwigiri Kaburu

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 was a collaborative effort by Martin Kimathi Kirimi and Jillo Shamzad.
This blog was a collaborative effort by Martin Kimathi Kirimi and Jillo Shamzad.

 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.

 

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