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Hi, my name is Japheth and I am the Founder and Chairman of the organization that is duly registered by the government of Kenya as a charity organization. We are located in Siaya County in Kenya. Siaya is located in the southwestern part of Kenya in East Africa. It is relatively a small place that has seen rapid development since the start of the devolved system of governance in Kenya in 2013. It has a population of about one million people with almost ninety per cent of its population living in rural areas. Those living in urban areas are mostly people involved with small businesses, working for the government, or private organizations. The rural population is a farming population occupied with subsistence farming.
Mental health is still a very big challenge in Kenya and more so in Siaya county. This challenge extends to the southern and western parts of the Country and the whole country in general. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues in Kenya and many still find it a taboo topic. In Nyanza region, one in ten people has mental health issues. Of all the six counties that comprise the Nyanza region, there is only one psychiatrist in service. Women are more prone to mental illness in the region than men. There are about fifty psychiatrists in public service in Kenya meaning that it’s a ratio of one to over eight hundred thousand people.
Health became a devolved function in the new constitution of Kenya 2010 and has since been the Counties responsibility. This has led to the health sector encountering various challenges that have left it in shambles. Now, when it comes to mental health, the situation deteriorates further. The sector faces tremendous neglect with next to nothing funding from the government. This leaves the mentally ill living in dilapidated institutions or languishing in deplorable state at home. There is no relevant government mental health system in place all over the whole Country and by relevant I mean international standards. There is a huge lack of personnel and hospitals. Many of the mentally ill are left in the hands of relatives who use unorthodox means to cope with the mentally ill. Most rely on spiritual healers or just lock the mentally ill away. A Mental Health Bill was enacted by Kenya parliament in 2014 with major promises but it’s all just on paper. Nothing is happening on the ground.
I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia in 2005 in the USA. In 2015, I had a psychosis that led to my family involvement in my treatment and that left me with severe depression afterwards. While in that situation, I got an idea, to try and start something that will help me and others in the same predicament after realizing there is nothing going on in my region and by extension the whole Country. I lived in the USA for about 5 years and underwent treatment for mental illness while there and I had firsthand experience of quality treatment involving therapy, group therapy, and medication. I even joined a Clubhouse. All these things combined led to my quick recovery. I wanted the same thing for Kenya and that's how I came up with the vision of the Society. A grassroots, peer to peer, family, and friends support group with the aim of making life better for those who are seriously mentally ill and not necessarily just people suffering from schizophrenia.
We have synergized with other similar organizations like the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society in Canada, Clubhouse International in New York, Global Movement For Mental Health and Global Mental Health Peer Network to help us to our feet. We are also currently partnering with McLean Hospital and collaborating with Siaya County Referral Hospital, On The Move and Tinada Youth. I have learnt a lot in the past three years we have been in existence. It is the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society that introduced us to this field of self-organizing as mentally disabled. Their then Executive Director Deborah was quite helpful.
Kenya mental health situation is very unique in many ways. Kenya lacks the infrastructure and resources that are available to the western countries and other regions. This has caused us to think radically so that we can come up with a solution that mitigates our situation. We felt that starting a Therapeutic Farm Community would best serve our needs after considering the many western programs out there. We also felt that starting mental health clinics in main urban areas in Kenya as an extension of the therapeutic farm would help us reach out to the whole Country. We do know the therapeutic communities that are in existence out there are individually unique, and we know there is a need to tailor our farm to our needs. We have been in touch with Farms like Gould Farm in Massachusetts, Spring Lake Farm in Vermont, and Rose Hill Center in Michigan all who have been very welcoming and all of them inviting us for a learning visit. Apart from a therapeutic farm community and the clinics, we also hope to start Africanized clubhouses. What we are calling a Boma, with five mandates for its membership namely, education, employment, housing, advocacy and meaningful relationship.
We are looking for volunteers who can eventually join us on both long-term and short term basis and help us grow the organization in order to make life better for those with serious mental illness in Kenya and beyond. It is our vision for SSK to be a diverse community. As soon as we are able to, we will provide a stipend to our volunteers.
Here are some tourist attraction points in Siaya County and its neighbours. Its beaches along Lake Victoria are memorable attractions. A day spent at Crystal Charlotte Resort along the Lake Victoria beach is quite worth it. You can also tour Kogelo Village where Barack Obama's dad originates from. Or relatively visit Kakamega Forest famous for a number of bird species. It's located in Kakamega County. Neighboring Siaya County on the Northeastern border. You can also opt for a boat ride in the Lake Victoria or even homestay in rural Siaya. You can also visit Kisumu Impala Sanctuary to see wildlife. It's located in Kisumu County on the southeastern border of Siaya County. Lastly but not least, you can spend some time with the crocodiles at Elmolo Crocodile Park.
Cooking / shopping
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
Volunteers can learn how to cook local dishes, learn local dressing codes, interacting with the local cultures and integrating with the locals. Such encounter will help with self improvement and also the improvement of interpersonal skills.
We need volunteers with skills in networking, fundraising, management or people who are skilled in pioneering. If you luck skills but still want to support us in anyway you can, then please feel welcomed as well.
Networking: We are still a very young organization and we have few contacts. We are looking for people who are skilled in networking so that they can help with contact generation in such a way that those contacts become part of the solution to the mission and vision to the society.
Fundraising: We have managed to raise few monies by ourselves in the past but we do have a robust vision. That of setting up a therapeutic farm community and many other programs. That requires lots of cash. We therefore are in need of volunteers with such skill set. We are open to suggestions and are flexible as well.
Management: We have the vision and we do know we want to get from point A to point B. We do have the rough estimates but we do luck the skill set of putting the meat into the bone. That is why we need someone with management skill set. Someone who can spearhead the whole operation.
Pioneers: We do need people who can start us off. We are just newly registered. Even though we have been together for the past 2 years, we are not sufficiently trained for this kind of operation. We are people who are mentally ill together with our families and friends but luck professionals. You do not need to be a professional to do this. All you need is a "go getting" spirit and some adequate skills and motivation.
Dholuo, Swahili, English
The volunteer will be offered accommodation by the host and will eat together with the host. 3 homemade local meals a day. You will have access to TV and internet. We encourage you to bring a sleeping bag for local homestay if needed.
If you carry any valuable materials with you then you need not to worry. Security offered is top notch and everything will be done within a walking distance. There are motorbike aka piki piki or bicycles aka boda-boda for transport if needed.
Kenya is a country in East Africa with coastline on the Indian Ocean. It encompasses Savannah, lake lands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley and mountain highlands. It's also home to wildlife like lions, elephants and rhinos. From Nairobi, the capital, safaris visit the Masai Mara Reserve, known for its annual wildebeest migrations, and Amboseli National Park, offering views of Tanzania's 5,895m Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week