Friday, September 11, 2009

Support Groups May Need Support Too

To Lanet, not far from Nakuru. We turned up for a support group meeting for people with HIV. It's not unusual for people to be very late for meetings but an hour after it was due to start it was clear that people were not going to come. I wouldn't blame them if the rumour I heard was true; that one of the local churches was distributing free maize! Well, after a while three people drifted in. They wanted some medicines that we were able to distribute. Two got their medicines and drifted out.

One man sat and talked for a while. Although many people who need antiretroviral drugs in Kenya are not getting them, perhaps as many as 65%, some of those who do get them are very happy to have arrested the disease. This man is healthy and fit to work. Unfortunately, there is no work for him to do. And it's difficult staying fit and healthy with no guaranteed income.

I also met an 11 year old girl who had had meningitis. She had known that she was HIV positive but she was not receiving enough medical attention to catch the meningitis in time and now she is blind. Her mother refuses to believe that her daughter's eyes could be permanently damaged and has yet to take her to be assessed. Perhaps her sight could be saved. If not, she needs to get back to her education as soon as possible and to get her specific needs attended to.

Some kind of support group may well be able to help the two people I met today, I don't know. But several people I have spoken to have alluded to the fact that there are so many groups and meetings that they can sometimes interfere with each other. Perhaps there's a case for a bit of networking, so support groups can support each other as sell as supporting their members.



Michael J Starks said...


I'm amazed by how consistent you are on posting..great job!

In my experience, the problem with CBO's (and support groups) is how much competition arises between the groups, especially if any funding is involved. Coordinating support or communication between groups seems to be seen as 'compromising' or 'losing' power. It seems hard for many groups to recognize the potential advantages of working together.

I remember with IYAP they were unable to coordinate outreach or other activities with other VCT centers in Isiolo, though they tried. The other groups felt like IYAP might be trying to infringe on their turf and steal their clients. This is where the numbers game that funders like makes things tricky. Another reason this happened with IYAP is that most of their members come from the Boran tribe. When they approached the VCT in the area of town where the Meru lived they were rebuffed.

Simon said...

Hi Michael
Thanks for your email. I have long evenings at the moment, which makes posting easier!

Absolutely, there are many CBOs and other groups here and they are effectively competing. Most neither know nor care about other groups that are interfering with each other's work.

I'm not surprised that the CBO clients just go around trying to find out who is giving out food, drugs or whatever and turn up. So the ones who have nothing to give out get no clients that week. But it wastes a lot of time and energy.

There is the same potential friction here between tribes and I have noticed that one of the people working for this organisation recruits her friends, who are all from her tribe. She ignores the rest. This are has a history of violent disturbances gong back a long time. I'm disappointed that someone from our group is using these frictions for her own purposes.

Anyhow, sometimes things work, sometimes they don't. I hope everything is going well for you.