In 2014 Nyalenda resident Elizabeth was too weak to sit up in bed. With the help of volunteers, she worked her way into a wheelchair and then graduated to crutches. A year later, she can walk without assistance and sells charcoal in the area as a source of income.
Many people in Nyalenda, the largest slum in Kenya’s 3rd largest city of Kisumu, have similar stories of hope that serve as a testimony of God’s love and provision. The area is only about a 30-minute car ride from Maisha, but paints a very different picture from life in the village.
Prostitution, high drug and substance abuse rates, teen pregnancies, school dropouts, high rates of HIV/AIDS and a large number of infected orphans and widows keep the poverty level high. Sharp, jagged shack metal roofs, overheated homes, cramped quarters, open sewage and trash line the streets and contribute to poor health.
In an effort to break the cycle, home based care workers and volunteers from Maisha’s Living Positive Project are sent each week to help care for clients by praying, witnessing, counseling, providing medical care and taking groceries as they can. They also monitor ARV adherence, nourishment, water, sanitation and children’s educational progress for each household. HIV may be managed through ARV medications so patients live a fairly normal life. But this depends on having the proper nutrition and care for your immune system.
Photo by: Trevor Taylor, Shawnee, OK. Instagram: @analogbeard
Our women such as Gaudencia, Merab, Mary, Pauline and countless others have worked tirelessly in home based care for years with much success with the women in the community. Many were once bedridden themselves and are now Living Positive examples sharing their testimonies and encouragement as they volunteer with Maisha.
Over the last couple of years, Maisha has pioneered the way in having men home based care workers in the field. It is rare to see men in this position in Kenya, but essential to be able to speak into the lives of other men. We began seeing great transformation and prolonged lives in our male clients with HIV once men like Maurice and Ian began ministering in their homes. Reaching out to men is key to stopping the perpetuation of this disease.
In addition, mission teams to Maisha often make rounds with our home based care workers to help pray and encourage our clients. It is always such a powerful time and witness to our own faith to participate in this ministry.
Maisha has up to 45 clients in Nyalenda and the majority are HIV positive. Without proper nutrition, health care and medication, people are at a higher risk of dying. Even relatively minor things like stress can cause their condition to worsen. One of the main stressors is their financial situation.
Like Elizabeth, we assist Nyalenda residents to start their own small scale businesses to create a source of revenue for themselves and their families. This development process is being refined as we learn what type of businesses work best for sick people in the slums. Maisha is in the process of starting both a child sponsorship project and a feeding project in Nyalenda to help reduce stress for parents and kids and give their bodies the consistent fuel they need to combat diseases and take their medicine. Once final renovations to our facility are completed, the feeding project will launch this summer.
Christa Humphrey’s, a volunteer from Guthrie, Oklahoma is working alongside our Nyalenda Director Ian Ojenge this year to make project improvements. Here is what she’s shared about the Living Positive Project in Nyalenda:
“Kenya will never come out of poverty and corruption if it does not start pulling itself up on its own and finding local solutions to local problems. Maisha is all about providing a hand-UP, and not a hand-OUT. Once these people are empowered and given the boost or the opportunity to help themselves, they will gain the confidence they need to make a difference in their own community.
I have many stories where this is already happening. Stories of lost hope that was found. Stories of loneliness that turned into love. Stories of desperation that developed into peaceful assurance. And all of these stories begin with someone sharing the Gospel of Christ to a sick—and many times bedridden—person living in a mud house as big as many of your bathrooms. Stories like that of Elizabeth or that of Beatrice who refused to make eye-contact when she was visited in 2014 because she had been convinced by her family and neighbors that she was worthless and unloved. Today she is one of the most confident, beautiful ladies you will ever meet. She has even gone out into her community and helped others like herself. I will never forget something one of the clients told me: “…when you came into my life, I knew that surely God loved me because He has sent me a friend.”
The progress I have seen in the slums could be calculated in numbers, days, expenses or clients; but the real progress I have seen—the one that REALLY matters—is that so many of these people have found their worth in Christ, and will live FOREVER rejoicing with Him. They may be HIV positive, but that does not define them. I encourage you to pray that the people of Nyalenda will continue to be receptive to the Gospel and the help Maisha is providing, and that God grants me, the Nyalenda team and every mission group who comes this summer with the wisdom we need to truly make a difference.”
Thanks for reading about Maisha’s Living Positive Project in the Nyalenda slums. It’s one of the many projects Maisha has begun to empower people to transform their communities.