Village headmen in my Village Kithituni are usually elected by people. They serve as volunteers with no salary from the government or from any other source. The people who elect them give them the mandate to lead from the front. Village leaders can really mobilize and organize the people to respond. We have seen village headmen steer strong the links between homes and neighbourhood conversations often facilitated by a team to big heights.
Issues are recognised
In May 2008, Kithituni SALT team began to support one of its neighbouring communities. A facilitation team was formed in a village called Kingotole. The team gained entry to the community through work with the children in the community. Issues concerning vulnerability and risk of children were coming up. The main concern was that children were dropping from school to offer cheap casual labour in the rivers where sand was being harvested. The teenage girls were falling sex pray to the Sand harvesters including the truck drivers.
Village headman takes initiative
In one of the community conversations in a small market next to the sand harvesting rivers, the village headman invited the facilitation team to help his community reflect deeply on health and life and strengthen response to the issue of HIV in that community. He was concerned about the future of the young who were being engaged in sex work.
The team paid home visit to the children who were members of the community youth club. The home visits opened a window to connect with one of the child’s mother. She had been unwell for quite some time with no clear diagnosis and rarely visiting the dispensary. Following regular visits to her home, the woman opened up, ‘I am really concerned about my deteriorating health. I want to live and see my children get education and live life to the fullest.’ As the team was seated in the home, a group of women popped in from the neighbourhood. They had heard of the conversation through their children who had visited the woman before and were also the club members. The women stimulated by the children had come in and helped her gather fire wood including helping her harvest her maize in the field for the rains were drawing near.
This opened an avenue for self-reflection by the lady and one day as the team was travelling to Makindu for a support visit, the lady asked if she could travel with the team to get assistance to visit Makindu ART Clinic for an HIV Test. She said, “I truly want to know my status. I have the confidence!” After the visit to the Clinic she came back home and shared with the team and the family that she took an HIV test and was happy to disclose her HIV positive status.
She said, “I want to contribute to the welfare of other people’s health and healing in their families and the community at large.” She asked the team to invite her to the facilitation team for she was happy to work with it. This was noted during a SALT visit later this year, September 2009 by the AIDS competent churches to Kithituni.
Village headmen engages the community in other issues
The village headman has also engaged the community through this facilitation process in other development issues in the community. For instance, there has been a serious drought this year. Cattle have died in large numbers. So, the community embarked on serious water catchment protection. They are currently gathering sand and stones to complete a sand dam they had started constructing three months ago.
Thus, the village headman has now become part of our facilitation team and he is mentoring a team of 14 people from his village to continue doing Home visits and community conversations.
Story drawn from the ongoing Local Response Kithituni