Karibu Kenya: Welcome to Kenya

July 06 2015
July 06 2015
Jane Friddell Blog Photo July 6, 2015_0050
By

The first day "on the job" was to do home visits to HIV positive patients.  My experience of a home visit was limited to what we perform in the U.S.; a worker runs into a home, asks questions, checks their cell phone, writes down notes and runs out the door to the next appointment. What I experienced in Kenya, with my on the job training, was an education on the potential and importance of an empathetic visit.

My first assignment was for myself and another team member to join a counselor from the Holy Family Center to visit a woman whom, only a week earlier, had tested positive. After an exhilarating ride in a "Mat" we were dropped off at the bottom of a dirt, rock covered hill.  Somehow the counselor was able to locate the woman and she led us to her 15x15 house "shed".  Even though her living quarters were extremely small for five people to live, she welcomed the three of us in and made sure we all had seats.  I quickly learned this was the norm.  Her 18 year old son was also present, but not for long.  After he was dismissed, she proceeded to let us know her diagnosis had not been disclosed to her family and that she told them she was taking medication for diabetes.  I watched in awe as the counselor and the patient talked about her family situation and her side effects to the drugs.  The counselor also noted the names and ages of her children.  All children of HIV positive parents under the age of 15 are strongly encouraged to be tested. But the final decision is for the parent to make.  The counselor also counted the remaining pills to confirm she was adhering to the instructions.

The patient  was truly struggling with disclosing her diagnosis to anyone and understood the importance of taking the treatment.  Most impressive was the care and empathy the counselor had to our new friend.  There was no judging;  just listening.  There was a dramatic transformation in demeanor of the patient as she responded to the guidance of the counselor.  As we prayed before we left, God's presence was evident.  This was so different from anything I had witnessed in the United States., in conditions that were extremely difficult.

The job of the counselor and the clinic is not just to test and dispense pills, but to follow-up, visit with the patients, learn of their family situation and report back with the results.  But what they really do serves a much greater purpose.  And because of their efforts and prayers, healing is happening in both body and soul.


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