Another Wonderful Visit to Vumilia

August 20, 2013
Another Wonderful Visit to Vumilia

It was my great good fortune to be able to spend a week-and-a-half at Vumilia again this year. Luckily for me my nephew Matt was able to make the trip with me, and among many other benefits, not least his photography and horticulture skills, it afforded me the opportunity to discuss and really reflect on my history with Vumilia, and with Rose.

I first “encountered” Rose having heard her on Chicago Public Radio in November of 2006 with her friend (and now mine) Mary McVay. The interviewer, Jerome McDonnell, announced that interested listeners could meet her that evening. One of my daughters, Jessy, and I drove to the meeting place, and I finagled myself an invitation to visit Vumilia the next time I was in Kenya.

The girls playing jacks

The girls playing jacks

Well, that next time came in July 2007. A friend, Magdaline Wangeci, and I taught a lesson on sex edto one of Vumilia’s HIV+ support groups. A couple of days later Rose was calling me to ask if I would come back another time and train some of her staff and community members to teach HIV prevention and sex education, adding prevention to her HIV project in a more concrete way.
I came back for two weeks in November 2007 to meet with staff and locals and find out more specifically what the local area might need from me. Rose’s staff had set up meetings for me with boda boda drivers (bike taxi), unemployed youth, high school girls, women’s groups, several pastors, and her staff. When I came back in 2008 I was ready to run my first training.

I was back again twice in 2009, once in 2010, in 2011, in 2012, and now in 2013, spending from 10 days to 6 weeks in Kakamega District each time. Last year the girls had been moved to their beautiful new dormitory on their own spacious land and out of the rental property without room to roam and play. This year the girls have moved into clean, organized and roomy quarters in the gorgeous administration block, and their dormitory has been turned into their classroom.
The sustainable, integrated farm feeds the girls – body and soul. They eat densely nutritious food grown with their help, surrounded by chickens, a fish pond, rolling hills, a creek, and the Kakamega Rainforest. The farm looks terrific, the vegetables are lush, and there’s a hefty dose of demonstration and education farm to the whole piece, benefitting the girls and the broader community.

New books for the library, courtesy of my friend Toni Gilpin and her daughters

New books for the library, courtesy of my friend Toni Gilpin and her daughters

My main goal in my time at Vumilia this year was to meet with the two HIV prevention and sex education teams that are under Vumilia’s care – the Kakamega group and the Luanda group, which is a couple of hours travel time away. Each group has four dedicated volunteers, who go out and educate in the community in teams of two. Each team goes out an average of three times a week, and touches about 1000 individuals a month. They teach in schools, churches, women’s groups, support groups, chief’s barazas. . .They report great success, particularly with increased HIV testing, increased condom distribution and sales in the area, and decreased early pregnancy among high school girls.

We spent hours refining draft reporting forms and evaluations, and hope by the end of September to have our first output and outcome measurements formally collected.

As always – I can’t wait to go back!