Amidst a very festive atmosphere, the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg visited the DREAM Center in Nairobi, run by the Daughters of Charity and the Community of Sant’Egidio. The Grand Duchess was welcomed by women and children (many children from the School of Peace in the Bangladesh area, close to the DREAM center, attended).
The Grand Duchess was extremely interested in learning about the center, the laboratory and the area dedicated to nutritional supplements.
She repeatedly complimented the centre for the great work that is being carried out for the poor who live in the surrounding slums but above all for the kindness and humanity in their approach to the poor.
An activist greeted the Grand Duchess in the name of all the patients. The children offered gifts in return for the donation made by the Grand Duchess to the DREAM Center. They then continued the festivities with music and dance in honor of their guest.
Kyeni is nearly 50km away from the DREAM centre of Tharaka, the first DREAM centre to become operational in Kenya. Kyeni is difficult to find on maps, even maps of Kenya, but not for DREAM!!! The friendship with Kyeni hospital started back in 2006; the service was born as a satellite centre of Tharaka, but the number of its patients grew swiftly and soon Kyeni became a fully fledged DREAM centre. The hospital facilities are sparse, but the desire to treat as well as possible the 180 patients who come to the centre, is strong.
To date, all the work of the centre was still “on paper”: all the check-ups, all the drug deliveries and so on. Everything was recorded by hand and this was both tiring and expensive in terms of time.
Hence, last week a “computer” mission arrived in Kyeni to install a network, three computers, a printer and naturally the DREAM software for the computer management of patients’ data.
And soon there will be the internet too!!
This is a welcome revolution for the hospital staff members, who soon became aware of the potential of this novelty to help them to treat and monitor their patients better than ever.
Once the installation was completed, a course about how to use the software was given to the Kyeni staff. Special thanks go to the staff members of the Tharaka centre, who right from the start helped Kyeni centre to grow. The Tharaka centre ensured that at least two professionals (a clinical officer and a pharmacist) be present throughout the week for training. And for all of next month, the Tharaka staff will support the work and medical examinations of the Kyeni centre. It is a beautiful example of generosity.
At the end of the training, the hospital staff in its entirety wanted to thank DREAM for all it did to support this centre and for the modest “computer” revolution, which will serve to treat more patients in a more effective way.
On 25 April, the second DREAM centre in Kenya was inaugurated in Nairobi.
The centre is yet another fruit of the collaboration of the Community of Sant’Egidio with the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity. The Congregation has decided to commit in Kenya too, as it has already done in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Democratic Republic of Congo, to fight against AIDS together with the DREAM programme.
The new centre is situated alongside the Provincial House of the Vincentians, right in front of Kibera, the most notorious, largest, sprawling African slum. DREAM will be a close and friendly presence, a promise of treatment and an invitation to hope for the circa three million residents of this immense Kenyan slum settlement.
The local DREAM centre in Materi marked World AIDS Day on 1 December.
Hundreds of patients turned up at the centre early in the morning, to animate a series of public events aimed at drawing the attention of all to the importance of treatment and prevention to defeat the disease. Later, under the scorching sun, the patients and staff of DREAM went on a march throughout the township. When it was over, performances animated the rest of the day, with local dances and music.
The DREAM centre in Materi has just marked its second anniversary. Throughout these two years, DREAM has proved to be an extremely concrete hope: the hope of healing, the hope of a better tomorrow.
The joy and hope that DREAM has spread across all the land of Meru were reflected over and again in the witnesses of many, in the words of people and the presenters.
The slogan of World AIDS Day 2007 was “Keep the promise”. DREAM has done more than keep its promise. It has gone way beyond. It has conveyed – to the West as well as to Africa – that feelings of powerlessness and resignation, which often permeate speeches about AIDS and about the future of the African continent, are a wrong path to follow. And that audacious moves and choices that show faith in the future can be counted upon.
All this is also due to the tirelessness of the staff and campaigners of DREAM in Kenya.
Going out of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, we leave behind the confusion and smog that are characteristic of big African cities and head for the north-east, towards the completely different landscape of the country’s central region. The destination of our journey is the village of Materi situated in Tharaka district. At the beginning of the trip, we find ourselves in the heart of luxurious nature: fruit tree plantations line the street, alternating with others covered by low bushes of tea or coffee that constitute one of Kenya’s sources of wealth. Near the city of Chuka, however, the asphalt road is abruptly transformed into a dusty track (it is never easy to cross and gets worse in the rainy reason) that we travel at a slowed-down pace to reach the destination of our trip.
Tharaka could well be the poorest district in Kenya. Due to its geographical characteristics (it is situated in the middle of a depression), it is often subject to long drought with consequences that could only be imagined for peoples living there. People are very poor. Materi, the village we have just reached, appears to us like typical rural African world, without drinking water or electricity, without any connections if not those made available by makeshift means of transport. People live most of all from subsistence agriculture and sheep farming or rather from modest trading ventures.
It was in this scenario that the “Emiliano De Marco” association from Ferrara intervened in 2001. The association constructed a big hospital and got it working, with the aim of responding to the health needs of the people of the entire region. It was in the same context and to answer to the same need that in 2004, in collaboration with the Community of Sant’Egidio, the idea emerged of offering the possibility to treat HIV infection in the hospital.
And thus it was that in December 2005, the DREAM centre of Materi was inaugurated. The centre offers all patients in the area free medical treatment, antiretroviral drugs and advanced diagnostics specifically for people with AIDS. The maternity department of the hospital, working in close contact with the DREAM centre, allows effective monitoring of pregnant women to bring about a decline in the vertical mother-child transmission rate of HIV infection. Nutritional supplementation completes the aid package and it is proving to be decisive in a region where malnutrition and frequent drought unfortunately claim too many victims.
Materi was chosen due to its geographic location: it is in the heart of the region, situated in such a way that it can easily be reached from neighbouring villages that are generally isolated and excluded from health services. People must undertake long journeys to arrive. In the best possible scenario they would use the “matatu”, battered chock-a-block minivans; but more often patients can be seen turning up on bicycles or on foot after many hours of walking.
In any case, notwithstanding the difficulties, word is getting round about this health centre where people can receive free treatment, and more and more people are being prompted to turn to DREAM to win their battle against AIDS. It is especially women that come to us, often accompanied by their little children. To date, less than a year after the opening of the centre, just over 500 people have been treated and initial results are already in evidence. Even in re
A DREAM mission recently went to Kenya to assess the possibility of offering diagnostic and treatment services in the country capital Nairobi.
So far, the presence of DREAM in Kenya has been limited to the centre of Materi in a rather rural area near Meru.
The opening of an AIDS treatment centre in the chaotic populous Kenyan capital, a city full of contradictions, modern and poor at the same time, would be a big sign of hope for the slum settlements on the outskirts, where despair and neglect often prevail.
The community delegation also visited Meru region in view of the opening of a new centre in collaboration with other religious congregations at work in the area.
The visit involved the Materi centre and provided the opportunity to celebrate its first year of activities.
Patients, staff and relatives wanted to thank DREAM for being there and for bringing the hope of treatment to such an isolated area.