SOPHIE NDUNGU, Safety in Pregnancy and Childbirth Project Director
My name is Rosemary Waithera Ndungu (Sophie) a mother of two daughters. Barkay 17 years and Sultana 13 years old. I was born in the year 1970 the first born in a family of three in Kiserian village in Kenya. I went to Robo girls’ primary school and later to Oloolopon secondary school. In the year 1989 I enrolled in Nyeri medical training institute where I trained as nurse for three years. My first posting for a job as a nurse was in 1992 in a remote area in Tana River district called Ngao hospital, where I worked for three years.
Working in in this remote area where women had no say because of their culture, I had this feeling deep in me to help these women. First all they never gave birth in the hospital. Pregnant mothers only came to hospital after a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) from their village failed to assist them to deliver. Although I was very young in the profession I did all I could to assist them.
In 1995 I was transferred to Kilifi District Hospital where cases of TBAs were also common. Together with various partners we conducted outreaches to educate the community and TBAs on issues of pregnancy. A year later I was transferred to Malindi District Hospital, and scenarios of home deliveries and TBAs were not any different here. Driven by the desire to eliminate maternal complications and impart knowledge on pregnancy care, I started reaching out to communities. There were a bunch of challenges ranging from community attitude to financial constraints, but despite all this I managed to reach the community and assist to my capacity. For twelve years I relentlessly educated community through outreaches with little support from the government or partners, while still working in the maternity.
It was not until 2009 that I hosted Danielle, a humble and intelligent girl. For the months that we were together she showed a lot of interest in what I was doing with TBAs. It was a short stay that inspired her to the point of promising to return to Kenya again. True to her words she returned to Kenya in 2011 and this time round we went to several villages educating and monitoring progress. The outcomes were impressive with a significant number of TBAs practicing learned knowledge. Infant mortality and maternal complications were not only subsiding but the community attitude to change was phenomenal. Seeing how community was embracing change, Danielle and I deliberated on making this a lasting program by sourcing for partners. We are still looking for support as we move to engrave change in the community.
Apart from dealing with TBAs we’ve encompassed cervical cancer screening, breast cancer screening, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, gender based violence and nutrition and hygiene. I also happen to chair a breast cancer support group where we conduct screening regularly.
Starting this project with Danielle is the best thing in my life. Seeing the lives being saved and change being accepted is the ultimate satisfaction one could derive from doing community work. It is so touching going to the ground and hear and see crazy things they do to pregnant mothers only because they have wanting knowledge. When I teach them and we correct mistakes together, they become very happy and they always want me to return teach more. I feel this should be a continuous program to reach more villages to save lives and have healthy babies.
PAUL NYAEMA OGOLA, Kaswanga Farm Manager
My name is Paul Nyaema, I was born and brought up in Kaswanga village where my mother worked as a p1 teacher. I went to Agiro primary school in Kaswanga up to standard eight after which I joined Tom Mboya Secondary School also in Kaswanga where I cleared form four in 2005.
In 2006 I joined kisumu polytechnic and graduated three years later (2008) with a diploma in Human Resources Management. Thereafter I upgraded my diploma and graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Human Resources Management in 2012.
In December 2009, Danielle Kellem came to volunteer in my village where we met and became friends. Seeing the rising need for food versus rising food insecurity we came up with a farming project that would support the needy in terms of providing for food and the project would be funded by Danielle and her family. Kaswanga farm project was started in March 2010. The farm has since supported many families in the village.
I am the overseer of this project that has made lives of many in Kaswanga better including me. This project has created me a job where I earn money monthly and has provided me and my family with easy access to food. Thanks to everyone who has made this project a success!
DANIELLE KELLEM, Executive Director
I made my first trip to Kenya in 2009. While there, I stayed in three very different communities and was struck by social and economic problems I’d never experienced while growing up in the United States or in any other of my international travels. I saw some very serious problems, and yet the solutions seemed so simple. As a result, I started Teaching More, a nonprofit whose aim is to provide sustainable (as much as possible) solutions to the health and wellness problems I saw amongst the communities that took me in. As they say in Kiswahili, tupoko moja…..we are one. I believe in this adage wholeheartedly and am so grateful to be in the position to tell the important stories about the Kenyans I’ve met and to connect with so many in the U.S. who truly want to help.