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Update 5 – Zawadi outside her new home

Posted by on July 12, 2011

We finished the house on Thursday.

A few months ago Zawadi could barely move. She was sleeping on the mud floor of her uncle’s house and missing school.

Thanks to the work of Sister Veronica’s team she is now receiving regular Anti Retro Viral drug treatment to keep her HIV under control and she is expected to lead a long life. She has a proper bed to sleep on, goes to school regularly and will move into her new home this weekend.

I’m here for another week and hope to be spending time in schools trying to get an understanding of the education system, but phase one of my adventure is almost at an end.

I hope that you have enjoyed these occasional missives and, if nothing more, that they have raised awareness of something most of us winners of the ‘Lottery of Life’ had no real understanding of.

For me the learnings are:

* The drugs do work – if we can get them to the right people at the right time.

* The cycle of HIV infection, especially from mothers to their unborn children, can be stoped with early testing and medication.

* Communities, even very poor ones, will help themselves if they are given a chance.

* There are no perfect solutions and all of them require a degree of compromise, trade off and risk taking.

* Even in the most dire of situations people can still find humour and the ability to smile.

So to return to my original ‘trepidations’ about this project:

1. Liberal minded ‘do gooders’ we might have been, but we made a difference, touched some lives and shattered a few stereotypes of our own and of the people we worked with.

2. Staggered by the poverty, we certainly were. Some of us had seen similar elsewhere but coupled with the devastating  impact of HIV, especially  on the young children, it seemed much harsher.

3. Inspired to find a way to do more – absolutely. I am meeting various people from the British High Commission later this week to explore some options and will update you on the outcome.

In the meantime, Sister Veronica tells me that $2,000 (£1,300) will provide enough materials to build another house for an orphan like Zawadi.

Now I know that I am not as funny as Lenny Henry and I hope I am not as rude as Bob Geldof, but you know what I need you to do now, and you can do it HERE
It’s anonymous so I won’t know if you did or if you didn’t, although Sister Veronica might be able to tap into ‘higher sources’ to find out!

If we get to the target I’ll release a video clip of a ‘ tired and emotional’ white man dressed as a Masai Warrior dancing with a nun that I found on my phone the morning after the end of build party. Now if that wont make you cough up  – nothing will!

Many thanks to those of you that sent message of support.

Kind regards


3 Responses to Update 5 – Zawadi outside her new home

  1. lou

    John, thanks for blogging this so I can direct folks to it. I agree your thoughts and would add a couple of my own, if I may:
    1. The Kenyan govt is certainly embracing and addressing the HIV problem as evidenced by the signs we saw all over Mombassa with the “HIV takes away from work” sentiment and the “Follow ABC” admonition everywhere; and the fact that some NGOs are pulling resources out of some aspects of HIV projects because the Kenyan Govt. is now spending money for certain needed services, which also allows NGO money to go to other uses (NGO’s–another story)

    2. The mzungus impact: when one is spending much of the day hauling potable water, walking to work and everywhere else, and preparing food over a charcoal fire, it can be hard to have the energy to get started on other projects that need to get done. When everyone around you is in the same situation, it’s hard to have joint energy (although I always feel an energy when I:m there just from everyone walking, walking, walking). I think what we did it provide some of that initial spare energy necessary for folks to start the project. We didn’t tell them which project to do, or how to do it (ahem, water systems excluded). We just said “tell what you need us to do, and how, and we’re all yours for 4 days”. Hopefully local folks who were there can take away and share the “if we all do this together we dont need a lot of individual energy to get started”

    3. The educational system has to be addressed for Kenya to harness the potential of its people. It’s not a “free” education if you have to pay for uniforms, a desk, etc or you cannot attend school. But as we saw, a lot of those kids have so much potential that isn’t being developed by any, or by very little, education—there were a couple of budding mechanical engineers in the under 15 rock hauling cohort (NGO speak lives!) and neither of them was in school, as I recall.

    You must not have been too controlling—the formerly colonized didn’t feel a need to rise up collectively and overthrow you.

  2. Mary

    John, I’m a long-time supporter of AFCA. Val and Nick sent me to your blog to read about the success of the trip to Mombasa. Reading your blog was so much fun and so moving, just had to click the “donate now” button and give more to this great cause. Thanks a million to you for your participation! Mary

  3. tanya

    John, Thank you so much for being part of our work and for making a difference in the lives of many. I loved reading your blog and hope many others will get a chance to. On behalf of the kids,


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