Friday, September 12, 2008

We loaded into our vans and drove twenty minutes to Sister Freda’s. Steve Rutenbar entertained us with a story of Dean R, Steve’s friend and right hand man on these trips, who is not with us this year. Dean is in charge of the chicken coop project, a source of pride and income for part time pastors who are given one. Although this story took place in Oaxaca Mexico it could just as easily been here. A Oaxacan minister told Dean that he had a confession. He was not using the chicken coop as originally intended. He had moved his family into the coop and his chickens into his house because the coop had a cement floor and stable roof and his home had neither.

Sister Freda is now telling our group about her work, which has been eloquently told by Darlene Sala in her book Heart of Compassion Hands of Care (available at web site She describes the crops they grow to help fund the clinic, the school she has that educates and feeds eighty plus children daily, many of them orphans, and her dream of nursing school on her campus to give young Kenyan women a stable and independent career to free them from the dowry system that condemns many women to a lifetime of servitude and abuse. She mentions that she has a patient for me to see after lunch – a fifty year old woman with new onset of seizures.
We then divide into two groups one led by Richard Robinson, Sister Freda’s husband, to tour the school and crops and the other, led by Sister Freda, to begin in the clinic. At the school the children perform math drills for us and then are dismissed for lunch of ungali, a starchy cake made from corn or maize, and sukuma wiki, a delicious spinach like staple of the Kenyan diet. Then we meet Jacqueline. Her nickname is “Dot” and all the women fall in love with her, a diminutive 3 year old who weighed 10 lbs when she was found in a ditch unconscious. She had been at Sister Freda for a little over a month and has gained 5 lbs. The whole compound has adopted her and Cherry wanted to bring her home but Sister Freda knows that Dot is in the right place in Kenya.

Then we toured the shamba or farm. Richard grows corn, tomatoes, papaya, plantains, pineapple, pumpkins, and coffee. In 2007 he harvested about thirty 60kg (~ 130 pounds) bags of coffee beans worth about $200 each and hopes to bag forty this year. He has cows, chickens, turkeys and some big ole pigs partitioned separately from vegetation so that worms and parasites are not spread.
After our own lunch of beans, potatoes, plantains, pineapple, peas, carrots, and soda we saw two patients in the clinic. I would not see the lady with seizures until tomorrow as her doctor from Kitale had arranged to see her. So we saw Mary, a fourteen year old girl with worm infestation and malnutrition due to family neglect. Sister Freda hoped to keep her at the clinic as long as possible. And then we were introduced to Boaz, a seventeen year old brain injured boy, either from malaria or as Sister Freda related an overdose of malaria medicine as an infant.

After a busy day we were happy to reach our home in Kitale even if it was in a driving rainstorm. The Kitale Club is an old British Country Club with lodging and a nine hole golf course. We rested for an hour and then gathered in the meeting hall. During dinner we learned that the truck containing our luggage that was being driven to Kitale from Nairobi had overturned between Eldoret and Kitale and the fate of the driver and our luggage was unknown. After a prayer and a tense forty five minutes we learned that the driver was unharmed and had called Stonic, our tour director and point man in Kenya. Stonic had called the Nairobi police who dispatched officers to the site to protect our belongings. Even though there is a seven PM curfew, the Kenyan countryside at night is not a safe place. So we went to bed not knowing if our belongings were safe or not.

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