Managing Kenya Healthcare Leadership Team
Outrunning the Rain
Check in with the team is at 8am – we stand in a circle and report in brief what we did yesterday and what we’ll be doing today. It helps with the logistics for that day. After check in I’m scarfing down oatmeal and coffee, trying to send an email to my fiance’, and rounding up the papers I need to give Nelly or Pius, grapping my notebook/pen/planner, putting on sun-screen, filling up the water bottle, getting TP and hand sanitizer for the cho (latrine) in the field, and packing the raincoat. We are in the rainy season now – and MAN do the rains come!
I greet our guard and the boda driver and set out for Nyametaburo. Each day is a little different, but generally I’m meeting with Nelly, Pius, and Field Officers for Health. I spend the day with them Planning for meetings, discussing issues with our Health Reps, and carrying out meetings.
One of the practices that Jake started when we got here was debriefing. We debrief in order to learn what went well, what went wrong, and how do we improve for the next time. Or if you’re me in the meeting, you debrief to know what in the world everyone was saying! (Language can still sometimes be a barrier.)
This process of debriefing has transferred through all the program areas, and I’m happy to see Nelly and Pius running debriefs after our Health Representative meetings. The debrief was once a painfully slow process, because many people do not want to speak badly of their peers or much less their superior manager. BUT… we are encouraging feedback at all levels in order to become better servants to the community.
Today’s Health Rep meeting had 12 Health Reps (8 men, 4 women), 4 Field Officers, Pius, Nelly, and me. Charles led the meeting, Christopher collected money from commodity sales, Paul took attendance, and all 4 of the Field Officers led discussions in their groups of Health Reps. During the debrief after the meeting, the Field Officers were laughing with one another as they shared things like “we should know our roles so we aren’t whispering during the meeting,” “you shouldn’t be later than the reps,” “when you ask questions you should give time to answer.” This is all a part of the process of giving “the best of the best to the poorest of the poor.”
The Field Officers play different roles during the meetings; one might take attendance, while another is leading discussion about commodity sales (the Reps are selling soap and petroleum jelly). Each of the Field Officers are responsible for a number of Health Reps. They break into groups during the meeting in order to hear the concerns of their Health Reps. In the debrief, they share those concerns with the other Field Officers, Pius (the Field Manager), and Nelly (the CDC Health Manager). Issues are discussed with the group, and notes are made. Nelly takes certain concerns to the CDC meetings, and Pius marks down agenda items for the upcoming Field Officer meeting.
Nelly and Pius remained present for me to plan our next meetings with them. Like I said, they are conducting their first performance evaluations with the Field Officers next week, and we need to prepare for that. Our printer is out of ink, so I brought my computer to the field and Nelly was reading off a list of needs that she and I had made yesterday. Pius and Nelly and I all had out our planners and we were marking down the assignments. I asked them to continue working as I snapped a picture. This planning is a HUGE step forward! They have really come a long way in their management and leadership of this great initiative to improve health in their community. It’s pretty amazing.
I paused to call for a boda, as I noticed it was getting late and I have to be home before dark. My boda arrived and I was still explaining some things to Nelly and Pius. I only noticed when I stepped outside to leave that my boda driver, Charles, had sent me a text that said “Plz the rain is coming.” And it definitely was!!! I said goodbye to Nelly and Pius and jumped on the boda for a FAST drive home. As we were driving I looked back and saw a BEAUTIFUL rainbow, and amazing storm clouds hovering in the sky. My ride was a dry one, but I’m sure Nelly and Pius were soaked before reaching home.
On days like today I’m reminded of what caliber of people I work with; what sacrifice they make to serve their people. And I’m honored.