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#MCJourney2016 Day Three : HEKO

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Four days have flown by already on #MCJourney2016, but somehow we’ve seen and heard more than words can summarize. We as a group have been talking about our experience so far, and we all relate to the beautifully frustrating struggle to communicate to our loved ones about this trip. Translating this mix of joy, despair, gratitude, conviction, grace, and overwhelming hope into words is no easy task.

I have to be the first to apologize to my friends and family for inadequately describing the nature of our journey as a whole. When asked in casual conversation why I was heading to Africa with the Mocha Club, I’d often say a quick response like, “To continue work with ongoing service projects” or simply, “With a non-profit.” Let me be so clear: this is no mission or volunteer trip. This journey is more like a learning trip or a listening trip; a let-me-know-your-story-so-I-can-genuinely-love-you-well trip. We joked today that it should be called a RelationTrip because that really is our whole goal. 

We are here to create and sustain relationships with African organizations who work within and through community members. We are here to listen to them tell us their greatest needs, and to hear directly from them about how to meet them in ways they know will best for the community. The “work” the Mocha Club has led us to do here exemplifies a quote I recently heard from Alexander Shaia: “Service is really going out with open hands and realizing that we’re standing in the presence of a magnificent other who is going to teach us.” Boy, we have learned so much in these four days. 

As a Mocha Club member, I had heard of each of the projects we would be visiting but I knew little about the stories behind them. What a gift it has been to sit down with founders of organizations like New Dawn Educational Centre and Heritage Kenya Organization (HEKO) to hear them explain, from the very beginning, how their visions came to life here in Kenya. 

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We spent yesterday afternoon at HEKO in the Kibera slum. Kibera sits in the center of Nairobi where over 500,000 people live in extreme poverty with little to no access to food, water, education, or physical/mental health care. Founders Peter and Monica Odero, residents of Kibera, recognized a growing issue specifically surrounding women with HIV/AIDS as the disease became more prevalent in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Societal stigma left many of these women abandoned by their husbands and completely shut out from family members who viewed HIV/AIDS as a (often inaccurate) reflection of immoral behavior or infidelity. Their homes were taken away, and these women were left with no way to feed their families or care for themselves. 

HEKO exists today to provide women with HIV/AIDS access to counseling to cope with their circumstances, nutritional education to ensure their medications work effectively, and physical activity to foster a community who moves and finds joy together. HEKO’s overall focus is to empower women with HIV/AIDS as they learn new skills to create products through which they earn a sustainable living.

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Listening to each woman’s story served as evidence of a yet another miracle in an unlikely place. Women receiving support through HEKO have seen major health improvements and some have even watched their children graduate from college. They have found light in dark circumstances, and community when they were once neglected and alone. And to think, this history of redemption all began when Peter and Monica chose to fight for a group of women who’d been told they were irredeemable.

Our time at HEKO was beautiful because it allowed us to peek into the darker corners of the lives of these women, particularly those who are afraid to share their diagnosis with neighbors and friends. But it also convicted me and begged to me to consider: Who am I overlooking? Whose gaze do I struggle to meet because I don’t “feel comfortable” loving them?  Instinctively, I want to wave my angry finger the families of these women — the relatives who left them with nothing — and tell them, “How dare you? How could you forget them?” But in truth, I have blindspots too. I’ll admit I have a hard time looking at the man on the corner with a handmade sign as he asks for help. I am fully aware of the thousands of people struggling to survive in my own community, and yet I carry on as if they’re not there. So many women in Kibera have a life and a hope because someone chose to seem them. What if we also made an effort to see those people and places we’ve kept behind our self-constructed walls?

If you have been moved by the work Peter and Monica Odero do through HEKO, you can contribute to their efforts today. Like right now! Peter assured us yesterday that the small sacrifice of one cup of coffee most certainly improves the lives of these women. More than this, when we empower one woman, we also guarantee a future for her children and we encourage growth throughout all of Kibera.

To learn more about how you can support this cause and many others, head to: http://www.themochaclub.org/journey

HEKO Stories: Relationships Formed

The relationships formed through African Leadership and HEKO are very impactful! They change women’s lives by giving them hope and by simply showing them love.

Here is the story of one woman who changed her life after meeting the people from African Leadership and HEKO:

Teresa Anyango Odiawo was diagnosed HIV/AIDS positive after her husband died from the disease. She was living with her two children and her HIV/AIDS positive younger brother. She was having a hard time coping with people mistreating her because of her disease.

She was introduced to HEKO, where she participated in psycho-spiritual counseling. She also met Barrett Ward and Emily Blackledge from African Leadership who supported her micro-finance training. The support and help shown by these two organizations gave her hope and inspiration.

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Teresa and her brother

Teresa started a bead work business and trains other people living with HIV/AIDS on knitting, beadwork, and crocheting. She has become a role model for people living with the disease and volunteers as a social health worker.

She now understands the importance of community and having relationships with people. She would not have gained this confidence without the example shown by Emily Blackledge being there for her third child’s birth, Barrett Ward’s support and teaching, or HEKO‘s compassion and training.

When you give to Mocha Club, you are helping create relationships that build communities.

 

 

Mocha Club Journey Stop #2 : Heritage Kenya Organization (HEKO)

Next summer we are headed out on a journey to Africa with visit Ethiopia and Kenya! Our trips provide an opportunity for Mocha Club members and their friends to visit Africa and witness firsthand what giving up a few mochas a month can do, while having a chance to serve the African people. 

We will take the next couple of weeks to introduce you each of the spots we will be visiting on our journey!


Next up: our partners at HEKO.

We will finish up our visits with our partners as we travel to Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa and home to the Heritage Kenya Organization (HEKO). HEKO provides mental, physical, and spiritual support primarily to women impacted by HIV/AIDS. We will spend the day meeting, engaging, and praying with members of a HEKO support group, alongside founders and group leaders Peter and Monica Odero.

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Mocha Club
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HEKO Stories: Education is Power

There is a need and YOU are answering the call.

The money raised through giving up mochas helps support the HEKO program in Africa. Last year, as the HEKO program was conducting door-to-door visitations where they prayed over famScreen Shot 2015-09-28 at 9.39.05 AMilies, they met a woman named Jane Akinyi Obonyo.

Mr. and Mrs. Peter Odero of HEKO later learned that the woman they were visiting was living with HIV/AIDS. Jane was abandoned at home with her two children and feeling hopeless.

The Oderos invited Jane to be a part of the HEKO ministry where she got regular support and hope. She learned about the importance of nutrition and how to take care of herself then she began spreading the ministry to those around her.

So when you give up a mocha and donate to the Mocha Club, you are helping people just like Jane and impacting an entire community!

 

HEKO Stories: Spreading Compassion

Esther Nekesa is a single mother of four that lost her husband to HIV/AIDS related illnesses in 2002. She was also positive for HIV/AIDS herself and ended up bedridden with no hope. She had no husband, no way of taking care of her children, and no strength or health to live.  Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 10.07.21 AM

Mocha Club and HEKO began to take care of her by providing food vouchers and giving her education to sustain herself. With their patience, Esther felt their love and kindness being poured into her.

From the ministry, Nekesa says that she learned the importance of being compassionate to those with the disease. She says that she now loves to encourage and help others who are discriminated and abandoned because of HIV/AIDS. She wants to show them that they are important and can be loved.

What are you doing to spread compassion to the people in your community? You can start by joining Mocha Club to impact thousands of people in Africa!

Before and After : HEKO

HEKO (Heritage Kenya Organization) is located in the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Dedicated to bringing value and worth to women with HIV aids, HEKO also provides job training and nutrition education for these women.  Hundreds of women throughout the slum meet together in support groups to care and counsel one another. They also make jewelry together and sell the products in the markets.

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January 2010

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February 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were first introduced to Jenny back in 2010 when she started going to HEKO to receive support after contracting HIV/Aids. When you have HIV/Aids, there is a stigma that exists in the community and many people don’t want to be around those affected. HEKO is a safe place to bring these people together.  She is one in more than 1,000 women who share stories with one another at HEKO.  In 2014, we went back to HEKO to visit and reunited with Jenny. She is still attending HEKO to help counsel and care for new women who come into the organization.


 

Take a look back at our visits with the Mocha Club Experience 1 & 2 and see the great work that continues to happen throughout the years because you keep giving throughout the years…

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HEKO believes in every life

In Kenya, 1 in 5 teens has sex before age 15. Nearly 10,000 young adults died of HIV/AIDS in a year. That’s why HEKO is so important. Believing every life matters, they are working with these young adults to keep them healthy, educate them about the risks they can avoid to reduce their chance of getting HIV+, and what to do if they are.

From April – June of this year, HEKO:

  • Helped 38 women gain occupational skills and go through group counseling, all while keeping on anti-retroviral medication (ARVs) to keep them healthy.
  • Gave food to 57 more people who are HIV+ and taking ARVs to keep healthy.
  • Taught 57 people about ways to stop the spread of AIDS through the “Prevention with Positives” program.
  • Provided 123 people with sports and recreational activities, as well as group therapy, to help them cope with their disease.

This is hard work. So many organizations around the world are combatting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Cheers to Peter and his team for so directly impacting the lives of people learning how to live with their disease.

Heck Yeah, HEKO!

HEKO - the Mocha Club Sept 2013

Mrs. Merceline is a nutritionist at HEKO who ministers to those infected with HIV/AIDS in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. At the end of June, she conducted a study and recorded the following progress. We are excited to share these findings about the progress at HEKO:

40% of those that we worked with between April and June 2013 had improved stabilized weight and body mass index as a result of nutrition and therapeutic food products.

35% of those that we worked with reported reduction in frequency and severity of symptoms of opportunistic infections as a result of health and nutrition education.

57% of those that we worked with are responding to positive living behavior change as a result of psycho-spiritual and social support services on a personal basis.

60% of those that we worked with show an indication of interest in physical activities, such as sports and recreation as part of behavioral change activity.

 

Despite enormous progress made so far by HEKO among the infected households, challenges are still far from over.

The rate of infection remains unacceptably high, and there are major differences in the risk of infection faced by different population groups. HEKO continues to seek innovative ways to minister to the infected/affected communities surrounding the facility as well as financial opportunity and sustainable solutions for their patients. Thank you for supporting this important work with us.

Kibera, Kenya

Kibera, Kenya

A letter from HEKO.

Janet & her grandchildren

We love to tell you stories of the lives that are positively affected by our HIV/AIDS project. As you can imagine, there are very few patients willing to have their names and stories posted on the internet. The stigma that goes along with being HIV+ in Africa is still very evident, so many of our patients ask for anonymity.

We recently received an email from the director of HEKO and thought we’d share an excerpt of how 2012 has begun for them, challenges and all…..

As we welcome 2012, we also proudly reflect on the tremendous achievements we realized in our project activities through the improvement of Health and Nutritional status of people living with HIV/AIDS in the slums of Kibera, through your valuable financial support in the past year.

Our outstanding challenges, though many are within our reach. It is our prayers that we jointly continue to concentrate our efforts in enhancing and expanding the services by creating more opportunities of hope to the hopeless families devastated by the effect of HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Last year we experienced economic threats due to severe drought, calamities and inflation due to high cost of basic commodities which made it difficult for us to meet some of our targets. Kenya has been besieged by rocketing prices of key foods, fuel products and other basic needs. This runaway surge in the cost of basic living is probably an eye-opener to redefine our priorities in mitigating the negative impact of HIV/AIDS among the target population we work with.

I am confident that with your prayers and continued support we at HEKO will emerge victorious and a united team.

How are things looking at HEKO?

We were excited to receive these pictorial updates from the Heritage Kenya Organization (HEKO), an organization that we partner with to help improve the lives of 480 families affected by HIV/AIDS in the Kibera slums of Kenya.

Click on these pictures to enlarge them and see the variety of needs that are being met at HEKO every day for many families.

Though we often do not show pictures from our HIV/AIDS projects, we were given permission to show our members all the good things that are going on because of your donation of $7 a month.

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