Thursday, February 28, 2008

The latest from Eldoret

Rejoicing all over Kenya is the rule of the day.

About an hour ago, an historic agreement was signed by Raila Odinga and President Kibaki. In fact, Kenya TV showed Raila Odinga referring to Mr. Kibaki as “President Kibaki”, the first time he has uttered that salutation since late December.

I received word from Bob to “Let the floodgates open! We are looking forward to any faculty member, resident, and other staff member wishing to visit here.”

Joe Mamlin stated “Prayers are answered, civil war is averted and Kenya is preparing to rise to heights never dreamed of in Africa. The IU-Kenya Program celebrates this victory and resolves anew to give all that we have to the new energy committed to nation building. We will reach for the sick, the poor and the marginalized as partners with our Kenyan colleagues to do our part to make sure the Kenyan dream is shared by all. We are simply overjoyed today and ready to work…. All of us together waited so earnestly for this moment. After two months, Tonight, Sarah Ellen and I will unpack the two small bags beside our bed. We no longer need an emergency bag as we run for our lives. Our lives are beginning afresh today just as Kenya enters the first day of true independence.”

We can finally begin the process of providing all necessary materials to IU OSAC appealing for a quick continuation of student travel approval. However, as stated earlier, student travel for March remains cancelled. We will alert all to new developments concerning student travel when that option becomes available.

We look forward to participating with Kenya as it reaches for new heights never before imagined or achieved for Kenya.

It’s a great day for Kenya, AMPATH, and all peace loving peoples of the world.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thanks to all of you who donated to the Kenya Recovery Fund. I thought you might enjoy these stories about the lives that your donations have touched:

Dear Friends of the Indiana-Kenya Partnership,

On behalf of our Kenyan partners, Joe Mamlin sends along a heartfelt thank you to all of you who acted swiftly and generously to donate to the Kenya Recovery Fund. As you know, an estimated 300,000 Kenyans have been displaced by the recent post-election violence, and many of our patients, colleagues and friends were left homeless and destitute. Your donations helped ease their pain and start them on the process of rebuilding their lives.

Joe writes today from Eldoret, “Dr. Kimaiyo has been a keen steward of these funds and I doubt if any gift in the history of Kenya has gone so directly to the heart of need---and did so immediately devoid of delay and needless paper work. Without these donations, we did not have a dime to do the very thing conscience demanded. Thousands have been touched by these gifts and each recipient would overcome their pain of the moment to embrace each of those who gave.

“Our task is not over. We all pray this week will bring peace. But whatever happens, no one can take away the peace in my heart today for having been able to bridge the hands that gave with the hands of those in such need.”

So far, the Fund has provided support to 401 patient families (with 1,978 dependents), 121 staff families, and support for some of the dozens of the refugees who were forced to come to the IU House compound for safety. A detailed report from AMPATH’s director of social work Cleophas Wanyonyi includes several moving stories of persons who you have helped:

Narrow escape

Mary Omusula is 45 years who has been working as a casual laborer. She is an AMPATH client and married to a 48 year old peasant farmer. Their gross monthly income is $25-30. This hardly meets their basic needs given that they have 5 children aged between 12 to 20 years. Most of the school aged children have dropped out of school for lack of school fees. This family shares a one room timber house they call home. They have an extra make shift room partitioned using a bed sheet. The older boys seek accommodation in the neighborhood.

During the election skirmishes, Mary and 3 of their children sought refuge in one of the churches in Kiambaa (worst hit by violence) while the husband stayed home with the elder son to provide security for their home. One of the children had gone visiting their grandmother in their rural home. Hell broke loose when gangs struck; burning houses in the neighborhood. The men of the family scampered to relatively safer areas all around camouflaging themselves as part of the demonstrators. The church haven turned tragic as attackers struck setting it on fire. Thirty plus people burned to death. It was a miracle that Mary and her 3 children escaped from the inferno alive!

She was unscathed but one of her daughters suffered mild burns. The AMPATH social worker came across them in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camp too traumatized to speak! As the social worker got her and the children into trauma counseling, she provided support for this family with 2 blankets, soap, and $50 for basic support and the costs of medical care for the girl. It was a gift well received. The repeat words, “thank you” tell it all. She sees a ray of hope in her otherwise dismal life. It is wonderful that someone did care.

Two Tears!

Alice breaks down and sobs! She has just been ushered into the AMPATH social worker’s office. She can’t believe that all that she had spent her life building had gone up in flames…

Alice was diagnosed HIV+ in 2001 after she had been admitted to the hospital with persistent cough and fever. On learning of her status her husband ran away from her and left her the burden of fending for their 3 children. Through the support of AMPATH social workers she had a roof on her head (the program put up a house for her) and had helped recruit her in the AMKATWENDE project where she had grown passion fruits and Soya beans. She had started enjoying the fruit of her labor by delivering her produce to the AMPATH restaurant, Cool Stream.

However, the post election violence began a nasty turn on her life. Her cherished home was destroyed by arsonists who also destroyed the crop in her small farm. All that she depended on for income was destroyed completely. Alice and her children found refuge at a camp for the displaced persons in the Eldoret Show Ground. She met a social worker at the camp who got her on food; gave her blankets for herself and her children and $20 to help purchase a mattress for her 4 year old girl who until then was spending the night on the wet floor in their new home---a tent!. As she bundles up her gift pack at the end of the interview with the social worker, her eyes well up again, this time they are sobs of relief and gratitude for the support! At least somebody cared!

The Burden of Care

The post election violence had an adverse impact on many AMPATH workers! Many had a change in lifestyle as they assumed new roles as caregivers! Isaac, a data manager in AMPATH data centre, played host to 11 persons in his 2 bed-room house. His parents had their house torched after the violence broke out. His brothers and their spouses also had their houses torched in various parts of Eldoret: Isaac’s home was a refuge for them all. He had to use up all his savings for the month to feed the increased dependants as he met the cost of relocating some of his relatives to safety. He looked confused even as he worked religiously. Recovery fund support came in handy to provide relief for Isaac and his family.

The tragic recent events in Kenya have only emphasized the importance of AMPATH’s work, and how critical your support of that work continues to be. On behalf of Mary, Alice, Isaac and the thousands of others who you have helped, thank you very much.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Indianapolis Dilemma?

Just found out that Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food is going to be speaking at a free event at Butler University on 2/25/08 at 7:30 P.M.

I'd urge any and all of you who live in the area to check it out.

Friday, February 8, 2008



The Daily Nation reported today that opposition leader Raila Odinga stated that ODM was no longer demanding to be given their alleged presidential victory. UN mediator Kofi Annan said “The topic is a crucial one, and proved divisive at times, but the talks proceeded in a good spirit, moving more slowly than in previous sessions but moving steadily ahead.”

Regardless of the speed of movement, progress is progress … even if at a snail’s pace.

AMPATH started with just one patient in 2000. A short 7 years later, over 60,000 HIV-positive patients receive care and over 30,000 people per week, receive food. Beginning with one single patient, a generation of Kenyans will see their children grow up to become adults. From one small crack in the dam of immovable positions, the weight of a country’s yearning for peace could overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of those freedoms.

AMPATH continues to serve those in need. The 900+ heroes of AMPATH continue to demonstrate the true human spirit of care and compassion.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Kenya Update

Another update from the IU Kenya Program:

Today’s issue of The Indianapolis Star contains a page one story entitled “Courage and Hope Amid Kenya’s Carnage.” This article describes the extraordinary bravery and generosity showed by Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin and many of our Kenyan colleagues and friends during the most frightening days after the disputed year-end election. You can see that article online at

After reading this moving story, I think you will be proud to be associated with the Hoosiers and the Kenyans who showed so much compassion and grace in the crucible of Kenya’s worst days since independence.

Star reporter Bobby King wrote a terrific piece, but limited space forced him to leave out some inspiring stories. You may be interested to learn about the selfless heroism of IU House staffer Javan Odinga:

Late last Wednesday night, Joe and Sarah Ellen received a frantic phone call from a small bible college in Kapsabet, about an hour’s drive from Eldoret. There were rumblings of tribal violence coming the next day, and the school had three Kikuyu students who desperately needed to escape the area. But they did not have a vehicle, and the roads were filled with crude roadblocks set up by gangs for the explicit purpose of searching each car for Kikuyus.

Just before 4AM Thursday, Javan decided to take an IU vehicle and head for Kapsabet, even though getting caught in the car with the students would have likely meant gangs burning the car and killing him and his passengers. Because of the early hour, none of the roadblocks were manned. For most of the trip, Javan was able to slowly move the jeep around the boulders, railroad ties and logs left in the dark road.

Then he came across a huge log set up as a road block. Javan could not drive around it, and the log was clearly impossible for a normal person to move alone. But Javan is not a normal person in terms of strength: he happens to be a heavyweight champion body builder. Like some kind of Kenyan Superman, he got out of the car, leaned his muscles into the weight of the log, and heaved it off the road.

Javan arrived in Kapsabet and quickly put the three Kikuyu students into the car, ready to hide them under blankets if the car was forced to stop. They were able to make it to the Eldoret airport, where the students flew to safety. Hours later, Kapsabet exploded into violence. Cars burned and several people were killed. Joe Mamlin says he has no doubt that these three students owe their lives to Javan.

But that is not the whole story, as Joe reports: “Let the record show that Javan is Luhya and he risked his life for three Kikuyus. This kind of story doesn't make the international media reporting, but it is the best of Kenya in action.”