Sunday, June 3, 2012
ACCT International: SAIPEH
On Wednesday of the first week of class, we visited our second "service-learning" site. SAIPEH stands for Support Activities in Poverty Eradication and Health and offers a wide range of programming, including a HIV/AIDS support group, a daycare, a education theatre troupe, and multiple income-generating projects and educational opportunities.
On our arrival, we were given an introduction to the organization and its staff members. This was immediately followed by a group photograph. As you can tell, we have group photographs taken just about everywhere we go.
We then broke up into two groups. One group went to visit the daycare and a recipient of the SAIPEH dairy cow program, Mama Judy. SAIPEH gives away free dairy cows and goats. The owners of these dairy animals are able to supply their families with milk, and possibly make a small profit. The cows and goats are bred and the first calves or kids are given back to SAIPEH who then give them to another recipient. I did not join this group, so I do not have more details or pictures. I do know that those who met Mama Judy enjoyed meeting her, were inspired by her story, and loved visiting her farm.
The second group was to sit in on a HIV/AIDS support group presentation on an immunity-building plant and a table banking* activity. Things did not work out quite as planned. As it turned out, the table banking group and the support group were one and the same, so we were not able to see both activities. In addition, there was not a presentation on a local immunity-building plant (if I remember correctly, it is the bark of a tree, however, the name of this tree escapes me). Instead there was a health psychologist for a college in the US who had come to do a presentation on stress and immune systems. Her translator was a former Kenyan national footballer who is HIV positive himself.
*We have been trying to see a table banking group since we arrived in Kenya, as most of us were intrigued by the concept that we knew little to nothing about. However, as you will learn in later blog posts we were repeatedly thwarted in our efforts. Though I am still not 100 percent clear on the topic, here is a link to a project that has a small description of its table banking efforts.
It was clear from the conversation that the perceived need to keep one's HIV/AIDS status a secret and the stigma associated with disclosing status is a big source of stress for people with the virus. The members of this group have already disclosed their status and have the support of the other members, which is a big step towards helping alleviate stress and manage the disease. However, their lives are still filled with many stressors related to poverty, children, illness, etc.
We left the support group meeting early so we could visit SAIPEH's theatre troupe at their headquarters where we were lucky enough to have them perform several songs for us and one of their skits. The language barrier became a little bit of a problem here, as all the songs and skits were in KiSwahili. However, we had some helpful interpreters fill us in. One of the songs was a family planning song with refrain that lists birth control methods (pill, shot, condom, etc). Of course, there was dancing.
I was particularly impressed by the group's ability to make music on instruments in such poor condition.
The skit was a little confusing. Even with explanation, it is not totally clear to me what was going on. What I do know is that the daughter spoke in English on her cell phone in order to keep her visits to her boyfriend secret from her parents. Later she turned up pregnant, the family had a fight, and a mediator intervened. One person told me that the lesson was that parents should better monitor their children's cell phone usage.