"A memorable and inspirational trip"

20 November 2014

In today’s blog Claire Hallinan and Jane Stanley say farewell to a memorable Harambee — but not before gaining a few more insights into the impact and importance of the work they have been helping to do.

On Wednesday the 12th and Thursday the 13th of November we again took part in running another Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course. This time we had already met some of the new Community Health Workers (CHWs) from Chebowar while installing stoves and during the polio vaccinations. This experience, as well as our visit to the remote village of Katung, really made us aware of the importance of what we were teaching and how it would benefit these communities. Once again we were taken aback by the eagerness of the participants to learn and by the appreciation they showed to the Friends of Londiani team.

On Wednesday night Esther, one of the Kenyan Friends of Londiani team, gave us an insight into the Alternate Rites of Passage (ARP) training that was also taking place in St. Kizito’s. It was difficult and upsetting to hear about the female genital mutilation (FGM) practices that still occur in some areas of rural Kenya. Such needless violence against women was shocking to both of us. The work that has been done, and is still being done, by the ARP advocates and Friends of Londiani to eradicate this practice is phenomenal and truly worthwhile.

On Thursday we heard from Caroline Chelangat, also from the Friends of Londiani team. She spoke to us about the Girls for Girls programme which includes HECA (Healthy Environments for Children Alliance) and the peer education courses. She spoke specifically about the provision of affordable, hygienic sanitary products and of clean toilet facilities in schools.

Something so simple that we take it for granted makes a massive difference to young girls in this region who cannot afford disposable sanitary products. As a result, they can miss at least a week every month in school, which has a devastating effect on their education. They are also at risk of infection from unclean sanitary products such as old rags and blankets. Some girls do not get any education even from their female relatives about menstruation and this leads to distress and fear about it. Thus, something that we view as a slight inconvenience can be a terrible burden on these young girls.

The Girls for Girls programme is helping to change their lives for the better. We were especially struck by Reuben and Richard, two men on the Friends of Londiani team who were strong advocates of the Girls for Girls programmes.

Our time with Friends of Londiani Kenya came, all too soon, to an end and we eventually said our final farewells to the Friends of Londiani Kenya team and to Frs. Martin and Con who have been so welcoming and generous to us over the past two weeks. It is not an experience that either of us will easily forget.

On our last two days in Kenya we had the chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Lake Naivasha and Crater Lake in the stunning Rift Valley. A walking safari followed by a boat excursion on Lake Naivasha was a truly unforgettable experience. We saw some wonderful wildlife, from giraffes and zebras, antelopes and vultures to hippos and fish eagles. We even had a close run-in with a sleeping python!

Finally we left Martin and Maria in Nairobi and flew home to Ireland. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to them both for all the care and attention (and chauffeuring) they provided during our two weeks in Londiani. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to meet two such inspiring, hard-working and caring people. We would also like to say thank you to Anne Healy, our project leader, who is a credit to the people of Cobh and of Cork and who could not have done more for us during our time here. It has been a memorable and inspirational trip. Asante sana.