20 Nov Meet Annemarie Ojunga-Ochieng – Programs Advisor
My name is Annemarie Ojunga-Ochieng’, I work as a Development Consultant in Kenya and am currently engaged with Happy Villages Organization as a Programs Advisor on a part-time basis. My role is to give technical support and guidance to Happy Villages with respect to designing and implementing community-focused programs.
I have an Agriculture Degree in Animal Production, a Higher Diploma in Psychological Counseling and I’m doing my research for a Masters Degree in Project Planning and Management. My experience has mainly been on diverse pro-poor programs with communities both with urban and rural populations in Western parts of Kenya for the past 14 years.
My experience with different groups in different communities has made me aware and sensitive to dynamic community demands and thus strengthened my capacity to facilitate participatory processes, design relevant programs and guide communities to appreciate and embrace sustainable development.
I believe Happy Villages’ approach to health is very strategic. We work with existing structures, the Community Health Workers, and support them to perform their function better. This approach has so far made Happy Villages to gain popularity in the community and I know it will eventually make it very easy for Happy Villages to use them to do mobilization for any other activity and to advance the health projects they want to carry on in the community. The Health Action Days are basically community forums that allow the Community Health Workers to mobilize people of the community so that they can be trained on health issues that affect them; they have an opportunity to ask questions about things that they don’t understand about health.
These community forums I believe are very important, because they give an opportunity to get clarification on health issues and get more information. I believe they are beneficial because the community can get free education in these forums which can demystify some of the myths that they have.
Lieta is a rural community. Most of these rural communities have diseases linked to superstitions. So when we have such a forum that links it to modern medicine, then it is possible to explain to them what happens in reality and how they can prevent all kinds of such diseases, and give them the confidence that the diseases that they suffer from are not cultural, but they are medical and they can be treated in the modern way. So I believe this is a future benefit that these communities may get just by participating in these forums.
We have already had a lot of forums where the community speaks very highly of Happy Villages because they were fully engaged during entry to the community, a lot of consultation was done. Happy Villages took it’s time to know and understand who is who in that community, and identified people across all areas. When we did the Participatory Rural Appraisal we consulted with people from as old as 100 years all the way down to children as young as 8 years so in this kind of a way makes the community feel that they’re all part of the process. So this unique approach makes them want to associate with Happy Villages.
The strategy Happy Villages has is unique, it’s sustainable and it puts the needs of the community first. I believe that Lieta Community will continue to experience beneficial outcomes, in the long run, after Happy Villages is gone, because of the foundation that Happy Villages has helped it to set up.
So a lot of capacity building has also been done, and I believe they appreciate the skills they have gained through this because they are able to apply them in their day to day life. And I want to mention specifically, the ones they mention are the training on leadership, and training on conflict management and resolution. They think these are skills that help them in their day to day life.
The donations that we receive from the current donors are very important, and I personally believe they are building blocks for this community in Lieta and the donors should be proud to be part of such a noble cause.
Our ability to continue to work with the people of Lieta from training farmers, to educating young women and constructing latrines at schools depends on the generosity of our supporters.