Our Africa Circle of Hope(ACOHF) Community Health Team is returning to Mathare after more than a year. These five dedicated women are led by Dr. Katrina, who helped to establish our first health team three years ago. The participants are medical, education and business professionals from Illinois, California and Florida. Their goal this year is to complete a health assessment of more than 200 orphaned and abandoned children, from babies only a few months old to teenagers, in the Good Samaritan Children`s Home in the Mathare slums of Nairobi. The ACOHF team is assisted by nursing students, including Gladys, an ACOHF scholarship student at Regina Pacis University College completing her Community Health degree.
The 2016 ACOHF team members-- Katrina, Simone, Joanie, Kellee, and Kristin-- are competent, caring and professional as they assess each individual. Many of the children are shy and avoid eye contact. Others come and show one of the members of our health workers a hand, arm or leg that is painful, injured or infected. Sometimes an older child brings a younger one and points to a problem. Chronic skin conditions including scabies. fungus and bacterial infections are most common. The children live in close quarters so one child may infect others as they share beds and clothes.
The health team is working in the library, one of the cleaner and more orderly spaces in this crowded and noisy facility. Three long tables fill the room surrounded by bookshelves that cover each wall. Dr. Katrina and the team have set up an organized system for handling the youngsters who line up outside the door. The children are brought into the room, five at a time. The kids sit at a table with coloring books and crayons as they wait their turn to see the doctor. Then one by one the children move into the area where all the medicine, bandages, and other supplies are arranged neatly on one of the tables. A photo is taken and demographics and other essential information gathered with the help of a translator. Then the doctor examines ears, nose, teeth, head, chest, arms and legs for health concerns, injuries or infections. Any abnormalities or health problems are noted in each child`s individual record. Then they are washed and wounds are treated and bandaged. After treatment each child receives a sticker and a biscuit or cookie.
Each member of the health team has a specific assignment and they are all working together to help each child. Some of the more severe cases the team has treated several times over the week. It is encouraging that the girl with sores all around her mouth and chin is now healing. The small boy with twisted hips is walking better even after a few days. The child who was malnourished and sleeping all the time is now more alert and getting individual feeding with nutritious supplements.
Three or four children who are in need of immediate medical attention are taken to a nearby hospital in our van. The clinic is a very different environment for them. They touch the clean white benches and are amazed at the place, but taking blood samples and injection needles are frightening for them. The kids are hurting but very brave. Somehow they sense that these people can help them feel better.
It is the attention to these children and human touch that are also healing. Each child is important and treated with respect and kindness by all the members of the team. Every child they see is, for a few minutes at least, the most important person at Good Samaritan. Each day the health team checks on the progress of children who have critical medical issues. We are all concerned about how to ensure continued monitoring and health care for everyone from babies to adolescents at Good Samaritan.
The answer actually came through the interactions of our group. This was a powerful experience for the ACOHF health team and the nursing students helping these vulnerable children. Our working synergy created a collaborative solution. A team of student nurses will go to Good Samaritan every week or two to check on the children, provide necessary care or intervention, and maintain an ongoing health record coordinating with our ACOHF group. Our team also started a dental health initiative "Brush Your Teeth Every Day" campaign with demonstrations of how to brush, health posters and donations of toothbrushes and toothpaste. This will be reinforced by the nursing students. ACOHF has also provided funds for building wall shelves to organize clothes for each child rather than all of them picking something from a musty pile in the corner and sharing clothing, which can get moldy and also spread skin diseases. The health team and student nurses are working on implementing this system and also organizing medicines so that the staff can effectively dispense them to children with specific needs such as those who are HIV+, suffering from malnutrition or with severe infections that require antibiotics.
Our community health program has now expanded and Africa Circle of Hope will collaborate with our Kenyan partners to provide basic health care to these orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. The success of all these efforts will be the improved health and quality of life for all the children at Good Samaritan. We are so thankful for our Community Health team. Now, what we need is some dentists.