How a man named “Rubbish” encouraged us

Sometimes we hit obstacles when planning a project that make us wonder if we are ever going to be able to pull it off.

When HPIC’s Pamoja project for Mothers and Children in Kenya was in the concept stage, our Kenyan partner sent us the most moving email message to encourage us:

Why the project matters in our partner’s words
“The Lord God will provide the funds,” wrote Rev. Philip Makokha, a priest who was the assistant to the Anglican Primate of Kenya at the time. “This project will save the lives of mothers and children.

“My parents lost many children before and after I was born. At birth I was thrown on a foot path and picked up by an old woman. The woman gave me back to my mother and named me MAKOKHA meaning rubbish* so that I could survive!

“When I bury babies and mothers who die in childbirth, I pray to God to help the remaining mothers and babies. You are on the right course.”

First shipment arrived
We remember these words and his determination that it would work out and give thanks for the first provision of medicines and supplies for the Pamoja project that arrived in Nairobi, Kenya in November.

“Thank you for this precious support for the women and children and the community in general,” wrote local project co-ordinator Bwibo Adieri. “To all who worked so hard to make this come true, I say Asante (thank you).”

This shipment of medicines and supplies is providing treatment for an estimated 9,000 women and children. The first community to benefit was the Kibera slum in Nairobi, home to about 1 million people living in extreme poverty.

Backgrounder on the project
Pamoja, which means together in Swahili, is a project that was requested by the Anglican Primate of Kenya (most senior leader of the church in the country) in 2015 and is implemented in partnership with Anglican Development Services Kenya and the Anglican Church of Kenya. Kenya, like many African nations, relies on health services provided by churches to care for more than 60 per cent of the population.

Many women and children around the world still have little or no access to essential medicines or other basic health services.

Every year Kenya loses 8,000 mothers and over 7 million young children under 5 years old. Most of these deaths can be prevented. HPIC’s Pamoja project aims to be part of the solution.

More mothers and kids will live  in five targeted communities 
The project will provide shipments of essential medicines and medical supplies to five of the Anglican health facilities: Holy Trinity Clinic in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Butonge Dispensary in Bungoma County, Maseno Mission Hospital in Kakamega County, Mount Kenya Hospital in Kirinyaga County and St Luke’s Hospital Kaloleni in Kilifi County.

Increasing the availability of medicines and supplies means that more mothers and children will receive quality healthcare during pregnancy and after childbirth. Over time, this will encourage more women to attend the clinics. In the targeted communities, mothers will be alive to care for their kids and young children will grow up.

The prayers of many are being answered, just as our partner assured us.

*Note about Kenyan naming practices:

When parents produce children who die immediately after birth, a ceremony known as ‘khuboelela’ is carried out to stop evil spirits from killing babies. It is carried out after parents have lost hope after so many children have died at a very tender age.

Immediately after giving birth, the baby is neatly dressed and taken to a path/ road side near the home. A humble blameless old woman is instructed to go and pick up the baby from the road side and bring it to its parents.  On reception of the baby, the parents will pretend the baby is not theirs but they are just to take care of it. Names given to a baby girl after this ceremony include Nabangala, Nang’unda, and boys names are Kundu, Kuloba, Makokha, Namunyu and Wenani.

Sometimes, if a child is born and dies and it is believed in that family that the death was caused by the spirits, in order to deceive them, a newborn child is given a name that is supposed to deceive or scare the spirits.