December 6, 2011

Senior Fellow, Nancy Cabelus, DNP, MSN, RN, is an international forensic nurse consultant currently working with Physicians for Human Rights on a program addressing sexual violence in conflict zones in central and east Africa. She will be reporting from Kenya over the next several weeks. Here is her first post.

December 2, 2011. Nairobi, Kenya: Rain could not stop the outpouring of generosity and support for Africa HEART.

heart_newheaderI arrived early in Kenya for my work with Physicians for Human Rights  which I will write more about in the coming weeks. I previously spent 2 years living in Kenya working on gender violence issues and developed relationships with many amazing Kenyan people and organizations. This week we’re in the middle of a global campaign known as 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign and on December 1, World AIDS Day is honored each year. How fitting that my dear friend Vickie Winkler, an American nurse and founder and executive director of Africa HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team) invited me to attend a dinner of celebration and fundraising to mark HEART’s eleven years of service in Kenya. Despite extraordinary rain this season that caused Lord Errol’s staff to push the event from outdoor tents to an indoor dining room, guests arrived with outpouring  generosity and support for HEART’s mission “to empower the people of Africa to survive the HIV/AIDS pandemic.” This event was HEART’s first fundraising event in Africa. Local business leaders and health care professionals listened as radio celebrity Caroline Mutoko made an eloquent and powerful speech about restoring the dignity of girls and women through HEART’s programs. She encouraged guests to reach for their checkbooks and to continue to support the amazing work of HEART.

HEART’s WEEP Project (Women Equality Empowerment Project) identifies mothers who are dying from advanced stages of AIDS, provides them with medical care and nutrition, and infuses them with life. The project spares children from becoming orphaned and often provides children with school uniforms and resources needed to attend school. Evelyn, a recent graduate of the WEEP program told guests that she was diagnosed with HIV ten years ago. She had never even heard of the disease before. When she learned what her prognosis was, she believed she would not live for long and that her children would be raised by their grandmother. At that time, there were no anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs available to her. With the help of the WEEP project, Evelyn tells how she is living positively and that she has recently seen her oldest child graduate from secondary school.

As I anticipate the arrival of my project team members to arrive in Kenya this weekend, I also look forward to telling about the launch of PHR’s project in Africa targeting sexual violence in conflict zones. Stay tuned.

Nancy Cabelus, DNP, MSN, RN