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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Monday, 04 May 2009

Location: Penticton, Canada

MapMay 1st

I wouldn’t recommend using the shuttle and travelling to Nairobi overland. The road has been under construction for three years and it doesn’t appear that they’re making any progress. It was seven hours of bumpy, gravel roads, and then it rained most of the way. We got off at the airport and tried to negotiate an earlier flight home but Kenya Air said it wasn’t possible. We weren’t about to give up that easily so asked a cab to take us into the city to the KLM main office where they finally agreed to put us on a flight that day.
We had just gotten to the point where we wanted to go home. Africa is such a beautiful place, the people are wonderful and I have many good friends there. It also can feel dirty, depressing and at times the problems they face just seem so numerous that it’s overwhelming and you begin to doubt that there’s anything you could ever do that could make even the slightest bit of a difference in anyone’s life. That’s when I really start to feel like I need to go home, recharge and regroup.

When we landed in Vancouver, we had been travelling for 42+ hours. We were tired but so happy to be home. In some ways it felt like we just left, but in others, it felt like a lifetime ago that we all were just setting off on our big adventure. The adjustment back to Canadian life is always hard at first. When I say to Denise, “I don’t know what’s the matter with me, I just burst into tears for no apparent reason,” she always reminds me that this is how I feel after every trip. It’s just so hard to forget what you’ve seen and experienced. It’s difficult to relate to people here who haven’t been there. (MJ and Wendy, you know exactly what I mean.)
For me, I feel such a big sense of responsibility to deliver what ever it is that everyone over there expects of me and of TOPP. Whatever we’ve done or are planning to do, I feel like it’s never enough or it’s not going to happen fast enough. Kahama District is a place with almost 1,000,000 people and only one actual doctor. The HIV/AIDS rate is 4% higher than the rest of the country. 58% of the people live on less than $1.00/day. Every year when we visit our kids, there are more orphans than there were the previous years. One third of the population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. Malaria, a very preventable disease, is still the number one reason that children are dying. People are still sleeping on mud floors with only rags to cover them.
The people there don’t want handouts, they want to work but there are no jobs. They’re watching whole generations of their families die from HIV/AIDS and don’t have access to the proper health care they need. They’re looking for ways to become self-sustained so they can provide for their families but they need help getting started. Those of us that are part of the One Person Project believe that we can’t change the world, we can’t change things in Africa, but together we can make a difference in Kahama.
On this trip, together, with the help of our communities, we purchased 5 more bikes for the HIV/AIDS Association that will enable them to reach more people in their outlying communities and provide them with support and palliative care. We bought 10 goats for the Faraja Orphanage who will breed them and sell them to provide an extra source of income for the orphanage. We bought 3 dairy goats and gave them to vulnerable families. We brought 4 volleyball nets with balls to distribute to schools. We brought almost 200 soccer uniforms along with balls/pumps for school children. We brought three large suitcases of medical equipment and supplies, which included a microscope and BP cuffs, etc for the Kahama Hospital. We donated $4550 CND to the Kahama Hospital to purchase supplies. We bought and distributed 21 bikes to families in Kahama. We donated supplies to some schools. We visited 61 sponsored children (five in Rwanda) and brought them gifts from their sponsored families as well as purchased food and other household items for them. We met with most of the associations (Women’s Headed Household, HIV/AIDS, Vulnerable Families,) that have been set up by NGO’s such as World Vision. They were able to give us specifics regarding how we can best assist them in the future. We met with the 36 ward (like a county) heads, the department heads, the local government (District Council members) and I was lucky enough to form a relationship with the head of the central government, Major Matala whom I stayed with.
The nurses and lab tech spent time at the hospital, which helped us gain a better understanding of the challenges that the staff are facing. They have all come home with specific fundraising projects to work on. Val helped them design the new lab that is being built shortly. All of these things have helped us further develop our relationship and credibility with the people of Kahama and we now have more of the tools we need to help us advocate for the people there, now that we’re back in Canada. There’s a lot of work to be done but as TOPP expands and more awareness is raised, we will make a difference in this area. If any of you reading this would like to learn more about TOPP or become involved please visit our website at