Strong Impressions


Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE, blogs from her trip to Kenya.

August 11, 2008

It was a long, action packed day today, hopping between communities, dispensaries (clinics), hospitals, and donor and partner meetings. We left our Nairobi hotel at dawn to catch a half hour flight to the northern Kenyan town of Kisumu. After landing, we loaded up in vans and drove straight out to Siaya District. Accompanying me today were Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota; Rep. Rosa DeLauro's Chief of Staff Kevin Brennan of Connecticut; Rep. Adam Smith's Chief of Staff Shana Chandler of Washington; CSIS Global Health Policy Senior Adviser Lisa Carty; and my CARE colleagues JoDee Winterhof, Kevin Layton and Stephen Gwynne-Vaughan.

There were a couple visits that really left a strong impression on me and others in the delegation. One was to a CARE program once visited by President Obama when he was a senator. The program is called Tego Od Dayo or Strengthening the House of Nanny. It supports more than 1,000 women to help care for some 3,191 AIDS orphans and children orphaned by other circumstances. One woman, Anastasia Akinyi Otieno, said her son was killed during post-election violence in Nairobi last year and she took in his twin daughters as a result. The project helps support this grandmother's small cereal and vegetable business through access to credit. Using modest earnings from her hard work, she provides for her family. Anastasia named her two dogs Obama and Michelle, evidence of how much she appreciates the support.

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( L to R: Shana Chandler, Deo Gumba (translator), Keith Ellison; Helene Gayle; Keith Ellison;

Stephen Gwynne-Vaughan, JoDee Winterhof meeting with the women of Tego Od Dayo.)

Further down the road at another village, we spoke to members of an HIV and AIDS support group. One woman, Consolata Anyango, said she can't stand silently. This district has a 24 percent HIV prevalence rate. Consolata and her group are living proof that life can continue after a HIV positive test. After finding out she was HIV positive in 2004, she joined some 50 others in this community, working to stop the stigma, sensitize the community and advise others about prevention. At the neighboring clinic,Bar Olemgo Dispensary, Moses Busolo, a nurse who supports and distributes antiretroviral medications to Consolata's group, reaffirmed the message. He explained, "There's no difference between an HIV-positive person and someone who hasn't been tested." Moses delivers, on average, 10 babies a month at this facility and sees about 80 patients a day. This small dispensary also provides services like family planning and antenatal care.

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(Consolata Anyango speaks to members of a HIV and AIDS support group.)

Tomorrow, the Learning Tours group comes together in Nairobito debrief and hold a public event to shareour thoughts from the trip. I look forward to the discussion.