I met beautiful, kind, caring, intelligent Millicent at the Tostan training in Senegal. An experienced nurse, midwife and hospital administrator, loving wife and mother of three grown-up children, she is fiercely devoted to serving her community.
When Millicent said she was from Kenya, my ears pricked up because it’s in this beautiful East African country where I want to work.
Millicent lives in Chogoria, 140 miles north-east of Nairobi, near Mount Kenya National Park, where she runs the vibrant Faraja Community Center, with her dedicated husband, Josphat, to empower vulnerable children, adolescents, and women to play a more active role in improving health in their communities.
Millicent explains: “Many families in Chogoria struggle with poverty. Economic instability severely affects individual’s capacity to acquire information about their health and sanitation to make healthy choices.
“We provide health education, outreach medical clinics, agricultural training and critical mentoring to families to teach them the knowledge and skills they need to improve their lives.
Faraja provides basic health education on common illnesses such as malaria and HIV, family planning and hygiene through Mobile Health Clinics in remote rural areas of the Maara district.
“We also provide food, clothing, school support and opportunities for play to orphans and vulnerable children.”
Many children in the region are orphans or live in vulnerable, unstable families. The Faraja Center provides nutritious meals, clothing and school materials.
Millicent says: “The school materials are especially important for HIV+ children to reduce the stigma and help them stay in school. We also offer a day care facility for children under five.
The Center has a spacious hall for children to play, with eight rooms, toilets, chairs and tables, books and toys and balls. There are also sewing machines for the women to gain sewing skills.
A Good Cause
Millicent also teaches health to adolescent girls and supplies reusable menstrual pads through the US charity, For The Good Period.
Humanitarian worker, Kayce Anderson from Colorado founded the non-profit organization, with the support of Molly Secor-Turner and Sharon Secor, nursing educators from North Dakato, and adventurous travel photographer and writer, Kate Lapides.
These dynamic women raise funds to bring reproductive health education and sustainable, re-usable menstrual hygiene pads to girls in rural Kenya.
The 4TGP team makes regular visits to rural Kenya and, with Millicent providing education in the local language of Swahili, they distributed pads to thousands of girls.
A Vision of Empowerment
Millicent is already working hard to support her communities. But she wants to do more.
In fact Millicent and I, although we look as different as chalk and cheese, share a passion. We would love to introduce the Tostan Community Empowerment Program (CEP) into remote rural villages and empower women, men and children with knowledge about health and human rights.
We have a vision of bringing the grassroots program to villages, where knowledge of basis health care is lacking, and lack of knowledge is at the core of sickness and despair.
In West Africa, we witnessed how knowledge about health, human rights, child development, conflict resolution and good governance, shared in their own traditional languages, has empowered millions of people living in rural villages.
The Tostan approach requires teams of local people to be trained as facilitators in the Tostan’s CEP and teach the program over three years.
By the end of the training Millicent and I became firm friends and soul sisters, united in a grand vision, which we presented to the group.
I am travelling to Kenya in September to visit Millicent and her community and meet with the 4TGP team from America. How exciting!
The vision to bring empowerment to remote villages throughout Kenya and other East African countries might seem like an impossible dream.
But when I look at history, I see that all worthwhile achievements started with someone’s daring dream.
And when I look at nature I see that tiny seeds grow into mighty trees.