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More Than Meets the Eye – Part 2

by Helen Fosam

I was inspired by Janet’s story about setting up the Kindred Heart Health Mission. She permitted me to interview her to document her incredible work. 

Here is a snippet of my questions and Janet’s responses.

Why did you start Kindred Health Mission (KHMI)? 

To meet the needs of vulnerable people because many die unnecessarily and often from preventable causes. These individuals lack access to healthcare, increasing health disparities, complications, and mortality. KHMI desires to provide healthcare access to meet immediate and basic health needs and provide health empowerment through individual and community educational activities and programs. 

Who are the vulnerable people you serve? 

Vulnerable people are those at risk of being neglected or abused by society. Vulnerable people include infants, children, pregnant and non-pregnant women, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, prisoners, orphans, widows, the mentally ill, internally displaced persons, refugees, and impoverished people. 

What problem does KHMI solve? 

KHMI’s outreach programs provide access to urgent health needs and to vulnerable people, including providing them with knowledge for self-care and improving their health and general well-being. In addition, it gives respect and dignity to vulnerable people, supporting them to function optimally in their communities. 

What are the mission and vision of KHMI? 

To provide healthcare access to vulnerable people and communities and basic health knowledge to enable them to live healthy lifestyles. To deliver small and medium-scale economic empowerment projects that build financial independence and improve the quality of life for vulnerable people. To provide needs-based humanitarian assistance, including mobile clinics and telehealth systems locally that attend to the health needs of vulnerable people and communities. Long-term, to build schools, hospitals, and other large-scale projects for sustainability. 

How has KHMI grown or changed over time? 

Since its registration as a non-profit philanthropic organization in 2016, and the start of operations in 2019, KHMI has certainly grown and changed over time. 

Nigeria: Our initial outreach program was in Gembu Taraba State and Jalingo. We established an Empowerment Center, which included a trainer paid for one-year paid to provide free sewing classes. In 2021-2022, we started an agricultural empowerment project for the internally displaced. 

Cameroon: In March 2021, our outreach program served communities in Mbingo. The program included three monthly health outreach programs providing health education on hygiene, nutrition, mental health, and addressing chronic medical problems, and a sewing empowerment centre in Bamenda. 

Ghana: We carried out a feeding project for vulnerable children. 

Namibia: We did a program supplying disposal menstrual pads to young girls to encourage school attendance and humanitarian projects with an orphanage. 

How does KHMI operate in each African country? 

Operation in each country is individualized and based on the laws that regulate the operations of non-profit organizations. However, the needs of the vulnerable are the same, irrespective of the country. 

We identify a contact person to work within each country who builds a local team.

 Projects are determined based on needs assessment, and priority is given to the most urgent. 

These projects may include humanitarian assistance, health education, medical missions, trauma healing and psychological counseling, empowerment projects for economic independence, sewing, hairdressing, barbing, food trading, and construction. 

Can you describe your medical mission in Nigeria in July and August 2022?

The mission occurred in Jalingo and Gembu in Taraba State and Ikom in Cross River State. 

KHMI provided free medical care to at least 3643 people in nine days and included refugees, internally displaced people, and indigenous people. KHMI’s care team included local doctors, surgeons, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, and students. 

Several medical conditions were diagnosed and treated, including diabetes, hypertension, gastritis, gastric ulcers, gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, and dental and vision problems. 

Other medical conditions included spinal deformities, neurodevelopmental problems, infertility, brain tumour, and hydrocephalus.

Surgical procedures included the removal of ovarian and dermoid cysts and hernia repair. 

Individuals with complex medical issues, such as elephantiasis, were referred to specialists or local hospitals for alternate care. If immediate care is required, the patient is stabilized before transfer to a local hospital.

 Unfortunately, KHMI cannot cover the cost of hospital treatment due to a lack of funds. 

What did you learn from your medical mission?

I learned that vulnerable people truly lack access to healthcare; they have multiple and severe health needs, which are very concerning. 

The majority of people with uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension were not aware of their condition. Many people with chronic medical conditions treated themselves, usually against medical recommendations, and could not adhere to long-term medical treatment due to a lack of finances. 

How is KHMI expanding?

KHMI is increasing the number or frequency of outreach programs in each country registered to operate, which includes Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, and Namibia. KHMI is also registered to operate in New York. In addition, registration in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa is in progress. The long-term plan is for KHMI to expand beyond Africa to other countries with vulnerable people in need. 

Who are KHMI’S core team members? 

Dr Patience Ajongwen- Cofounder.

Dr Bernice Emmanuel- Coordinator of Nigeria. 

Ms Beatrice Ngala- Coordinator of Cameroon. 

Mrs Ruth Abordo- Coordinator of Ghana.

Mr Ivan Molefe- Coordinator of Namibia.

Mr Oscar Onyona – Coordinator of Kenya. 

Pastor Peter Serukera – Coordinator of Uganda. 

Mr Jules – Coordinator of South Africa. 

KHMI’s partners:

Dr Helen Fosam of MiLHO.

Taraba State University.

Dr Ayang and Dr Bassey.

Mambila Baptist Hospital Gembu.

Ms Ann Endouh of Building Together Cameroon. 

What challenges have you encountered working in different countries in Africa? 

We have found differences in how nations allow nonprofit organizations to register, operate, support, or the lack thereof for the operations of the charity organization. 

It is very challenging to identify a reliable local contact who understands the vision and can build a team that works to serve humanity. Likewise, identifying local partners for support is also challenging.

After establishing ourselves on the ground, we find that the needs consistently exceed our capacity, requiring more funds than we can provide. 

What is the perfect ultimate goal for KHMI? 

To see vulnerable people in Africa able to access professional healthcare for urgent/emergency care needs, primary care, and follow-up visits for people with chronic medical conditions. 

To see vulnerable people in Africa live healthy, productive, and optimally.

To build hospitals, schools, and industries and develop other sustainable projects for vulnerable people and communities. 

How can people support KHMI? 

We welcome and appreciate ideas that will make us improve and grow in the way we reach out to vulnerable people and communities. 

We appreciate volunteers that can donate their time, skills, and other resources towards our humanitarian, medical outreaches, and empowerment projects for vulnerable people. 

We will appreciate connecting with donors, grants, and other needed resources.

 We need funds for our programs and donations in any amount to help us provide for the humanitarian, health, and empowerment needs of vulnerable people. 

What drives what you do? 

Compassion for vulnerable people, gratitude for life, and the ability to give back to humanity are the drive that propels me to do what I do.

By serving vulnerable people, I am also answering my higher call to improve the plight of our society. 

How can people learn more about KHMI? 

Visit the KHMI website: www.KHMI.net