The Development Office of the Jesuit parish of St Joseph the Worker in Kangemi runs the sister programmes of Uzima and Upendo. Both belong to the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) of the parish. The first cares for people with HIV and the second for children at risk of abuse or neglect, some of whom have parents who are HIV-positive. Kangemi is a very poor settlement of Nairobi where at least 100,000 people live.
Uzima, a parish development programme, supports people living with HIV, offering: social assistance, including nutritional support; home care; individual and group counselling with five support groups; educational support for orphans and vulnerable children; and backing for IGAs, namely modest vending concerns, poultry-keeping, tie and dye, soap making, bead making, planting crops and micro-credit. The products of the bead-making group sold as far as Belgium and Italy. Soap bars had a ready market in the parish projects, the Hekima College of Theology in Nairobi and Jesuit communities.
One Uzima initiative is a self-help group called Hope of Life; the 52 members of this micro-credit union support each other economically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Free medical assistance is provided, together with transport to hospital for patients and relatives. Uzima has Friends of Life, who are trained in basic nursing care and, under the supervision of a nurse from the parish dispensary, visit beneficiaries at home.
In response to felt need, Uzima has employed a fulltime social worker to conduct regular home visits and liaise with the counsellors.
On the prevention front, Uzima seeks to create more awareness among men and those aged over 45, and to support couples and youth. The programme focuses on the importance of knowing one’s HIV status, spreading the message through the many groups of the parish.
Upendo supports nearly 200 children, including those sponsored and followed-up in primary and secondary school. Some are enrolled in Upendo, usually referred by the SCCs and occasionally by Uzima. Apart from providing education and recreational activities in a safe environment, the Upendo team offers counselling and care to help the children learn a different way of being. Daily meals are an indispensable service, so much so that programmes are devised for Saturdays and during holidays partly to make sure that children eat on the weekends, otherwise their hunger would drive some onto the streets to search for food.
Upendo social workers go on home visits and work closely with the children’s carers – parents and guardians. Since the latter need help to survive from day to day and have expressed the desire to be involved in IGAs, Upendo has organised training in the production of yoghurt, shampoo, soap and cakes, and other skills. Parents and guardians belonging to the Upendo self-help groups have formed a mini-micro-credit union.