Watoto Wote Wazuri

LEA TOTO Program: Kibera, Kariabongi and Dandora

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Nyumbani by Lynn Ouellette on 02/05/2010

Approaching Kibera........

Yesterday we were in Kibera which, located right outside of Nairobi, you may recall is one of the largest slums of the world. Kibera is hard to capture without including pictures, but I didn’t take pictures inside the slum as it did not feel respectful to the people there to have my camera as we walked through this community of horrendous poverty. In one of my earlier posts from the day before we left, I included a YouTube video that gives you much visual material.

We spent the morning getting oriented to the Lea Toto (in Kiswahili, “To raise a child”) Program run by Nyumbani. The program does outreach and home based care in Kibera and 6 other sites in the perimeter of Nairobi and offers HIV testing, counseling, medical care, nutritional support, and educational support and prevention services. We first met with the Director to discuss the mission of the program and then the members of our group either went to the clinic to see patients or went to meet with the counselor to discuss the counseling services and learn more about his role. I did the latter and learned form Daniel, the one counselor to approximately 450 clients who has a dual role in Kibera; he not only counsels, but also does all of the HIV testing. The clinic provides care to children but often the first entry into care is an adult parent who comes in for HIV testing who is then referred for follow up care to another clinic. Children get comprehensive care including ARVs (AIDS medication), treatment for secondary infections, much needed nutritional support and counseling. Nutritional support is extended to the family as is social support and counseling. Food is provided for a year during which time adult caregivers are supported as they begin to save small amounts of money that they would spend on food to put toward developing some kind of self sufficiency (micro credits). I was fascinated by the focus on prevention, social support groups, and the complexities of offering emotional support and once again by the breadth of the life saving work.  When Lea Toto first began deaths were not uncommon; now they are rare occurrences. 

Kibera is overwhelming. It is a maze of bumpy dirt roads and tiny dirty, muddy alleys strewn with garbage, dirty water and raw sewerage streaming between the alleys where the houses are attached to each other. The stench is strong.  People live in tiny, dark, windowless, dirt houses with tin roofs and no ventilation.  They have at most 2 rooms as large as an average bathroom in the USA. We did one home visit in Kibera with the community outreach worker and met a woman who takes care of  multiple children including her 9 year old daughter with cerebral palsy who needs total care.

We went to 2 other Lea Toto sites today, Kariabongi and Dandora, both on the perimeter of Nairobi. The visit to Kariabongi was quite similar to Kibera in that we walked through a slum very much like Kibera. Here we did four home visits. In each case we were visiting families of HIV+  children who either had HIV+ mothers or were being cared for by a grandmother or adoptive mother. These were some of the most courageous and awe inspiring women given the adversity that they face every day and still manage to keep smiling, and express gratitude, generosity and grace.    Each home had an adult caretaker and multiple children, up to 8 living in an extremely  tiny space. We heard stories of many women fearful of being unable to pay their rent, often the equivalent of around $15 a month. We saw great poverty, but we also saw loving mothers who were keeping clean homes despite the filth around them and who were warmly welcoming and effusively thankful for our visits. All were caring for multiple children at least one of whom is HIV+. The home visit that affected me the most was going to see a home that had 2 caregivers—one was a grandmother and the other a 16 year old girl with a young child of her own. When we walked in, this young girl had an infant on her lap who appeared the size of a newborn. We learned however that this tiny baby was 3 months old and was an orphan who had been taken in by this 16 year old mother. The infant had been found abandoned on top of a garbage heap. This was the first time that I have faced something since I arrived here that truly overpowered me with sadness. I managed to choke out some kind words to the young mother about her generosity, but that image will never leave me. 

We finished our time at Lea Toto on a more upbeat note at Dandora with a group of “Mamas” in the Vision Self Help Group. This is a group that was begun 7 years ago with the inspiration of Sister Little from the Nyumbani Children’s home to help a group of Lea Toto women develop skills and self sufficiency so that they would be able to earn some income to support their families. All of the women have HIV+ children in the Lea Toto program and most are HIV+ themselves. All  were brought together to offer support to each other and were trained initially in bead making. They now sell their work and share the income and have tremendous sense of camaraderie. Many have gone on to train others in their skills, to be advocates for HIV awareness, and to become community leaders though all are still raising children of their own and many are also raising orphans. There is one widowed man who has also recently joined the group. The pride, warmth, and mutual respect are palpable when you are with them. They all shared their stories with us and expressed enormous gratitude for the opportunities which they have been given and as always we were welcomed with overflowing enthusiasm. We supported them by shopping heavily from their very fine jewelry, baskets, and other items.

All in all,  our time in Lea Toto was eye-opening, heart breaking, gut wrenching, but also awe inspiring and hopeful for much more progress to be made and many more lives to be powerfully impacted in the face of HIV/AIDS.


4 Responses

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  1. ANNE WAITHERA said, on 02/06/2015 at 2:56 am

    We thank for your work for remembering the needy in the society

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Grace said, on 02/09/2016 at 6:20 am

    I visited kariobagi Lea toto programme on a business issue….and was very much encouraged by the good work there of giving those kids hope in life.


  3. Josephine Ongoo said, on 03/30/2016 at 7:47 am

    only good people do good things, big up LEA TOTO


  4. phinehas said, on 08/17/2016 at 5:21 am

    oooooh what agood work lea too is doing.may you continue to other parts of the world.


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