November Harambee: first impressions, first tasks — and first aid!

11 November 2014

Our thanks to Claire Hallinan and Jane Stanley for today’s (and tomorrow’s) blog. They’re part of the November Harambee team and, judging from what we've heard so far, keeping very busy. Over to you, Claire and Jane.

We set off from Cork city, a small, tired but excited trio, early on a cold Saturday morning, the 1st of November. The same evening we were greeted by the smiling faces of Friends of Londiani CEO Martin and Friends of Londiani chairperson Maria on our way through arrivals at balmy Nairobi airport, from where we were whisked off to dinner and a warm bed for the night.

We headed off the next morning for Londiani, getting some amazing views of the Rift Valley and a brief stopover in Nakuru en route. There were more greetings in St. Kizito's church, where we would be staying for the next two weeks, from Friends of Londiani operations manager Norah and from John, who combines the posts of driver and store manager. There was also a hearty ‘jambo!’ from Father Con and Father Martin, two members of the international missionary society known as the Kiltegan Fathers who are based in Londiani. After these warm welcomes we all hit the hay in anticipation of our first day on the job.

We rose on Monday the 3rd of November to the sounds of cockerels crowing, and began our Londiani adventure with a dawn walk. It was a beautiful introduction to our home for the next two weeks. After a whistle-stop tour of Londiani town from Caroline and the first (but certainly not the last) cup of chai with the Friends of Londiani Kenya team, we set out for the communities of Tulwap and Chebowar, where we carried out surveys of households that were planning to install smokeless stoves in place of the traditional indoor, non-ventilated clay stoves. We’ll be focusing on this (and the resulting installation work) in tomorrow’s blog but today we’d like to tell you about the three days following the survey. These were devoted to one of our main projects while in Londiani: the Wilderness First Aid course.

This course is designed to give Community Health Workers (CHWs) the knowledge and skills to deal with an emergency or illness that may arise in their locality. Many of the trainees come from remote areas where access to a hospital or health centre is extremely limited due to distance, expense and poor infrastructure. As a result, it is vital to have someone in the community who can recognise an emergency and respond appropriately to prevent harm, preserve life and promote recovery, by administering basic first aid and referring the injured or ill person to the nearest health centre. These voluntary CHWs are also vital in educating the men and women in their community.

After a day of training facilitators both old and new, including our very own trainee lawyer (who barely knew what the function of the heart was on day one and ended up lecturing on circulation!) we were ready to start working with the community trainees. We were struck by the attentiveness and eagerness to learn that all the trainees showed. They came from far and wide, giving up their time and energy so that they could gain the skills to help their communities. The course covered a wide variety of first aid topics from recognition and management of common illnesses such as malaria and diabetes, to the correct management of a major trauma, spinal injuries and obstetric emergencies.

Some trainees gave Oscar-winning performances as victims and first aiders during the practical sessions, which culminated in a dramatic car crash scenario. It was inspiring — and hugely entertaining — to see the enthusiasm with which all the trainees used the skills they had acquired over the previous two days.