Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lea Toto

Grant and I visited one of Nyumbani's Lea Toto sights: Kibera, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi that houses more than 1.2 million people (stats from 2003!) in about an area smaller than Central Park in New York. It is the 2nd largest slum in all of Africa! And they deal with all the destitute problems that come with a slum: no toilets (except a few government toilets in the central part of the slum where they have to pay 3 Kenyan shillings--the same price as 5 gallons of CLEAN water!!), no sewage pipes, no roads, no electricity, and only clean water if you pay for it, etc. HIV and malaria are also rampid in Kibera.

Lea Toto, Swahili for “to raise the child”, is a community-based outreach program providing services to HIV+ children and their families (addressing both people "infected" and "affected" by HIV) in the Kangemi, Waithaka, Kawangware, Riruta, Mutuini, Ruthimitu, Kibera and Kariobangi communities of Nairobi, Kenya. There are also 4 other new Lea Toto sights opening in other surrounding slums. Recognizing that the Nyumbani children's orphanage was unable to provide direct support to the growing number of HIV+ children in the Nairobi area, Nyumbani launched the Lea Toto Program in 1998. In 1999, with funding from US AID, Lea Toto became a full community-based care program, and now is supporting around 3,000 children with HIV and their families. Kibera alone currently supports over 500 HIV+ children and their families!

At Kibera, Grant and I went on 5 home visits with a social worker. Two of the homes were locked b/c the caregivers were working; at two of the other homes only the kids were there: one 6 year old boy who was an orphan and being looked after by his aunt-- his eye was swollen and on malaria meds and was getting more sick...he was at home by himself and states that he sleeps on the floor of the home and also mentioned that he gets wet b/c the roof leaks! The other house had a 3 year old taking care of the 1.5 year old who has HIV. The caregiver was at work and left the 3 year old in charge!! Eek! At the last home the caregiver was at home and the child that Lea Toto was following was at school. The caregiver mentioned that 10 people live in their small 10'x10' home-- the mom also had HIV but was on medication and looking healthy.

It was an eye opening experience walking through the sewage-filled mud paths b/w the tin-roofed shacks-- people's homes! I believe in Lea Toto's motto of "raising a child" and keeping them in their home or a relatives home versus abandoning them and giving them to an orphanage. This organization also doesn't just treat the HIV+ children, but they also take into consideration the needs of the family. For example, do the kids have a bed to sleep on, does the roof leak, what are the food rations like, what is the family's safety situation, how clean is the home, and are the children going to school? I am impressed in how they treat the "whole person."

The US AID funds most of Lea Toto, but in order for them to go above and beyond the medical needs of the HIV+ children, they are in need of outside donations. One of their goals is to make sure all the children they see have school $$ to go to school. If you are searching for a way to support an amazing organization, you can sponsor children in primary and secondary school by going to the website:

Grant and I leave Kenya tomorrow, Friday May 28th (as long as I am given my "emergency passport") to the UK where we will be traveling and seeing family for a month.

I hope everyone is doing well. We love hearing from you all. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Until next time,

Kibera Lea Toto Nursing Clinic

Kibera Slums--in the upper right hand corner of this picture you can see high-rise apartments with red roofs that the government built to move people out of the slums. However, bureaucratic red-tape has delayed this process and only a few people have been relocated out of the slums!

Sewage-filled mud paths b/w homes. Many people grow Kale (sukuma wiki in Swahili), a staple part of Kenyan's diet.

Kenyan's take pride in how they dress and present themselves, even when they live in the slums. Above is an example of how they are able to iron their shirts without electricity: an iron heated by charcoal.

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