Written by Rose Kimanzi, Communities Health Africa Trust (CHAT) Projects Officer.
Nothing in life is really what it seems. The human eye can only see what is in front of it. As a child, I used to believe there were happiness, peace, and unity in life; I was hopeful and I believed life was perfect. My mindset as a child was to always see the positive side of things. Was it naive? I don’t know. After all, a child’s perspective is like a blank canvas, eager to learn more about the world.
I learned a few lessons that opened my eyes since. My dad passed away and changed my mom’s name from “Kasyoka” to “widow”. I was the seventh born in a family of nine. Our lifestyle changed for the worst, the days we went without food are countless. At that time, I was overdue to start getting an education. My mom, half-naked in tattered clothes took me to a primary school 15 km away from home. I walked barefooted for eight years. Skipping meals for over three days in a week was the norm, and going to school with a tattered borrowed school uniform was the order of the day. My older sisters and brothers had to alternate between school and work to bring food on the table for the family. On top of that, domestic violence was a common occurrence in our home – from our uncles.
After high school, I started working as a housemaid, not really knowing what to do with my life. My faith brought some answers, but now I see the world through a whole new perspective. There is nothing wrong with seeing the positive side of life; however, one must be aware of the imperfect side of life.
Rose at work (bottom center) with the CHAT staff
I first heard about Communities Health Africa Trust (CHAT) when I met Shanni, CHAT’s founder, at an HIV forum in Nairobi. I had been thinking a lot about working with HIV positive populations. I lost my older sister to AIDS. Ever since I had been wanting to work in an organization that was directly impacting the lives of seropositive people. I told Shanni that day: “I will do what it takes to assist HIV patients, that they don’t lose life like my lovely sister”. After that, she introduced me to CHAT.
CHAT provides access to family planning services, HIV/AIDS and basic immunization services to nomad and isolated communities in Kenya. It uses multiple methods of mobility to reach even the most remote communities: 4×4, car, bike, camel… you name it! CHAT’s core strength is its extreme mobility. They work closely with community members to establish sustainable systems and enact positive change.
The camels are loaded with medical supplies and travel for days to reach communities in need
Family planning was a totally new concept to me. It is not something used or even talked about where I am from. It got me thinking about my own family and how, at the end of the day, a lot of our struggles were the result of my family needed more resources than it could afford to see us through education and other basic needs including affording access to health services.
I lost three of my siblings to health issues, including malnutrition. There had been so much suffering and pain in my family. Maybe some of it would have been overcome if my mom had information and access to family planning services.
It is through working with CHAT that I made the thoughtful decision of having only as many children as I know I could bring up decently and spare them going through the same life challenges I went through.
This work gave a direction to my life: to assist other women in making informed decisions about their health, their family, and child baring so as to not suffer as my mom did.
I always look back and say CHAT “turned my life around”. It made a way where many thought there was no way – access to family planning services. Being my own personal story or the communities we serve, it is a turning point to a better chance at surviving in this challenging world.
The CHAt staff at work providing COVID19 prevention services
Rose is now happily married, a mother of three, and an ordained leader of her church’s women group. She has been with CHAT for over eight years. She is certified in Monitoring & Evaluation (M & E) from Nairobi University and AMREF International, and has a certification in HIV/AIDS Counseling & Testing through the Liverpool Training Institute. She received her diploma in business management from the Kenya Institute of Management.
CHAT has launched an Emergency Response to Providing Access to Family Planning and COVID 19 Prevention Services on GivingWay. To be part of CHAT’s incredible work towards universal access to reproductive health services, click HERE.
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