For the last year myself and Laura have been studying Charity Apprentice with Child.org and are just getting ready to graduate in a few weeks time. However, in between this time we secured a placement to take part in the annual HealthStart anthropometric data collection in Kisumu, Kenya.
This involves the study of the human body, its movements and how it changes over time, and the research and collection of anthropometric measurements (in this case heights, weights, upper-arm circumference and ages), in 25 schools in Kisumu, attended by around 11,000 students.
The collection took place in schools which were thoroughly researched by Child.org to find out which areas would benefit the most from the HealthStart programme and which were determined to need the most help. Many of the schools were also measured the previous year, which means the data collection from this year will not only tell us how effective the programme has been in encouraging healthy living and nutrition in the past year, and allow us to identify cases of malnutrition, stunting or obesity; but will also give us a sense of trends across geographical locations, and how this can affect health.
Child.org are known for breaking down the barriers which prevent children from going to school, and health can be one of the biggest reasons for this; this is why this data collection is so important, not only for the children and families but also to allow us to identify situations and to intervene/help where possible.
For the past few weeks, Laura and I have been travelling out to schools with Child.org, the Ogra Foundation team and nutritionists from the local county hospital to collect the data. It has been a very challenging, long process, particularly travelling out to very rural schools where the roads are not always easy to drive through, but ultimately it has been a very rewarding experience knowing that the information collected will be used to help these children’s health. We have also been distributing mosquito nets to young children who need nets to sleep under at night to prevent bites and possible malaria infection, a very serious and life-threatening disease and can absolutely have consequences on a child’s health.
It has also been extremely enjoyable meeting all of the children who are so enthusiastic and happy to see us visiting their schools and having the chance to work with local partners who care just as much about making a difference for these children as we do. We have been so welcomed by everyone and looked after with the spirit of Kenyan people that this has been one of the best things about the trip - working with others and achieving something long term together.
We’ve also really enjoyed experiencing a taste of Kenyan culture, from the chapatis at the roadside, the cattle grazing in busy roads, the crazy traffic and tuk-tuks, and the African singing and dancing; to the quieter side of Kenya, like the beautiful sunsets and exploring the Kakamega rainforest.
Once back in Nairobi, we set about analysing the data we had collected, and merging this data into individual health cards, which will be distributed to all 11,000 students, teachers and parents across the 25 HealthStart schools. In the next few months, Child.org, alongside local partners like the Ogra Foundation and Omega Foundation, will then start to follow up with those schools where intervention on behalf of a specific pupil/s may be necessary, providing individual nutritional support where appropriate.
For anyone who is looking at taking part in an international placement with Child.org, we would definitely recommend coming out to experience collecting anthropometric data, particularly if you have a love for working with different cultures and people, data analysis and programming and of course a love for helping others and want to get some professional work experience.
Charity Apprentice is a free 10-month course that anyone can do in their spare time to gain the skills needed for a career in the charity sector. A combination of online learning and real-life challenges, the course has been designed by charity professionals and covers topics ranging from effective advocacy to social enterprise to fundraising strategy to sustainable development. As part the course, Child.org offer exclusive work placements to apprentices to apply for. If you're interested in being part of the 2019 Charity Apprentice intake, please visit charityapprentice.org.