Monday, August 22, 2005

CAROLINA FOR KIBERA: Setting An Example For Virginia

I must admit that I was quite surprised when I came across the web site of Carolina for Kibera, Inc. (CFK), because this was the second student organization that I had found in the state of North Carolina, that has a very dynamic program in Africa. And my friends at the University of Virginia had led me to believe that there was very little of interest going on at the Universities down there. (The other program in North Carolina, that I wrote about on July 5, 2005 is Project Bokonon at Wake Forrest University.)

CFK is a non-profit 501(c)(3) international non-governmental organization housed at the University Center for International Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

While CFK is housed at the Center for International Studies at UNC,it is not formally connected with the University. It is supported by private donations and grants from the Ford Foundation , the American Jewish World Service and RAINBO .

Its three main projects are a youth sports association, a girls' center, and medical clinic in the heavily populated Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

With only 5 paid staffers, CFK is virtually an all-volunteer effort run by young Kenyans and Americans and its primary mission is to prevent ethno-religious violence by using sports to promote youth leadership, ethnic and gender cooperation, and community development. Additionally, the organization works to improve basic healthcare and education in Kibera.

Participatory development is the cornerstone of the philosophy of CFK. It is relying on community driven development to solve the problems of poverty of the communities it serves. CFK believes that while "concerned outsiders can help by mobilizing communities, advising, networking, and providing resources" it is the knowledge possessed by the community and the motivation of the stakeholders that are ultimately necessary to solve the problems such as those that exist in Kibera.

CFK is a non-profit corporation that has established partnerships with a number of U.S.-based organizations and universities and acts as the umbrella for the three Kenya based organizations that it serves. The three organizations are the Binti Pamoja Center (Binti Pamoja means "Daughters United"), the Tabitha Medical Clinic and the Youth Sports Association. Each of these three organizations is led by residents of Kibera and is independent of each other and autonomous. There is, however, is a high degree of collaboration between the three organizations.

The Tabitha Medical Clinic is located in Kibera and specializes in maternal health. However, according to CFK's web site, the clinic also offers primary care, curative, preventive, and counseling services. All of these services are provided to the residents of Kibera on a sliding-fee scale. The Clinic receives supplementary medicine and supplies from its non-profit partners Stop Hunger Now and the University of North Carolina's MedWorld . The Clinic also receives help from volunteer medical students and faculty from UNC and Duke Medical Schools (Duke is another University in North Carolina).

The Clinic, which is one of the only clinics in Kibera that offers in-patient and outpatient care 24/7, was founded by, and named for, the late Tabitha Atieno Festo, a certified nurse, used a $26 donation to raise the funds needed to start the Clinic by selling vegetables for six months in 2000. Tabitha also received some funds from a women's merry-go-round. Tabitha Atieno Festo died in Nairobi in December of 2004.

In January 2003, when the U.S. Embassy in Kenya delivered laboratory equipment as part of its Ambassador's Self-Help Fund and Tabitha Clinic began developing an in-house lab. In early 2005, the lab became fully operational when it was able to purchase a binocular microscope. This not only tripled the number of tests that could be done at the lab, but improved the quality of services offered. Among other things, the lab carries out tests for Typhoid, Malaria, and HIV at no cost.

With the help of ten trained community health workers, the clinic is also providing Home-Based Care to twenty families that are living with HIV/AIDS. This involves free treatment of opportunistic infections as well as food and clothing for the patients.

The Binti Pamoja Center is a reproductive health and women's rights center for girls13 to 18 years of age in Kibera.
The Center was established in June 2002 by two college students, Emily Verellen and Karen Austrian, who met while attending in the School for International Training's Kenya: Development, Health and Society program in the spring of 2001. The Binti Pamoja Center "uses photography, drama, writing, and group discussion to explore the issues that young women face in Kibera, such as violence against women, rape, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, FC/FGM, poverty, sexual abuse, unequal access to education, lack of reproductive health care and information, and stifling domestic responsibilities." The Center also hosts monthly speakers and sponsors field trips. It has also initiated a community drama group, a newsletter, community service projects, family events, and an HIV/AIDS peer education program.

CFK's Youth Sports Association is used to promote youth leadership, community development, and ethno-religious cooperation. A committee of male and female youth representatives from Kibera's 11 villages advises the Association regarding organizational decisions. Sportsendeavors, Inc provides sports equipment.

In keeping with CFK's philosophy that everything must be earned and that nothing is free, the youth give back to their communities in return for the opportunity to play sports. Towards this end, the youth engage in projects like garbage clean-ups and youth-led public service initiatives. The Association members must also agree to adhere to CFK's Fairplay Code.

In addition to the athletic activities the Association also promotes additional projects, such as initiating a Community Library that will help to further its core goals.

Well, my dear readers, you get the picture about Carolina For Kibera, but, as always, there is much more to this story than is contained in this brief article.

For example they have a program entitled "Taka ni Pato" ("Trash is Cash") that is a collaborative effort within four large community-based organizations in Kibera to build the capacity for effective, environmentally-friendly, and profitable community-managed solid waste management systems in selected informal settlements in Nairobi.

So, I encourage you to visit their web site and find out more about what the folks at Carolina are up to with their projects in support of Africa.

Carolina For Kibera can be found by clicking the link below:
Carolina for Kibera

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