In commemorating this year’s world health workers week, we highlight the work a community health volunteer in Korogocho slums in Kenya.
Korogocho is one of the largest slums in Nairobi, with an approximate 150,000 people. Koch as it is famously known is infamous because of the high rate of crime, poor sanitation due to it’s proximity to Nairobi dumping site and high levels of poverty.
It is in this neighborhood that we meet Joyce Wamaitha Kiarie, a community health volunteer who is the “Emergency and Rescue Center” in Korogocho, from her look you can tell she is a tough woman. We meet Joyce at a center she runs for children living with disability, we wanted to find out what inspired her to start the center. Her story is that of rising from the ashes.
Joyce starts by telling us that she was abandoned by her parents and was brought up by her single grandmother who was forced to do odd jobs to ensure she was fed. Joyce tells us that she was not that fortunate to complete high school and was forced to drop out to take care of her grandmother. This she tells us was the start of her work as a community health volunteer.
In a community where there is high rate of child sexual abuse, Joyce mobilized other young girls and formed a group to educate the community of child sexual abuse. They dubbed the group “No means No”. The group worked on training on self defense, what to do when one has been sexually abused and what do to prevent abuse. Her work gained her a reputation as the Rescue center, this evident by the number of of Emergency contacts pasted on wall from police, hospitals and ambulances. The number and complexity of cases led her to seek for training on case management on sexual abuse case, which she received from a USA charity group.
Her community work meant she would visit children in different parts of the Korogocho. In one of such visits she was expecting her second child, she tripped and fell, she went to the hospital and was given a clean bill of health. However when she delivered her son, she noticed he was different, on inquiring what was wrong with her child. She was told that he had cerebral palsy. She had never heard of the word before, she was told that the child brain was injured while she was still pregnant probable due to a fall. She cried asking questions and blaming herself for taking the community work too seriously, this led her to a post term depression.
Her husband on hearing and seeing the state of the new born son, abandoned her and the children. She tells us that this was the lowest moment in her life. Two children, one who has disability and a grandmother with no income. She almost resolved that she was meant to live a life of disappointment. She stopped her work to concentrate on taking care of her son. However, her situation did not stop the community members referring sexual abuse cases to her, with her son she was forced to juggle several things.
Her childhood friend James Wanjiru saw her passion and burden and advised why does she get a full time baby sitter so she can be able to free up her time to deal with sexual abuse cases. She agreed, but then she discovered that she was not the only one in community who had a child with disability, unlike her the other parents were locking their children in the house so they can be able to fend for the rest of the family. Her discovery led her to find a better solution to ensure safety of the children as the parents went to work.
She went back to James to ask for advice and they both agreed a community solution was needed, thus they started Light and Hope for Children with disability at Joyce one roomed house.The center enrolls children with serious physical and intellectual disabilities. Joyce says that the center has given a life line to many children with disability, while benefiting over 120 poor households in Korogocho and it’s environs. Currently the center runs a day care center for children with disability, trains parents and families on how to live with children with disability, a feeding program for children with and health program for children disability.
children having lunch at the center
With support from Embassy of Israel, Open Society of East Africa and Handicap International, Light and Hope for Children with Disability has built a center where they hope they can start providing physio therapy and psycho social support for children with disability in addition to what they are doing. James who now manages the project tells us that in the long term they hope to provide specialized education for children with serious disability so that they can contribute to the society.
Joyce, Korogocho’s emergency and rescue center continues to rescue children who have been sexual abuse and ensuring that they get timely health care and are rehabilitated.
As we end the World Health Workers Week 2017 we salute Joyce Wamaitha Kiarie for her work in Korogocho and her dedication to ensure children regardless their ability and economic status of thrive. Joyce and James can be reached through email@example.com or their Facebook and Twitter Pages Light and Hope for Children with disability.
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