I initially visited Malawi and Kenya in 2012 for 6 months and returned for another four months in 2013, spending two months in Malawi and two months in Kenya. Each project is very different. Malawi is a small country of sixteen million people, nestled by Lake Malawi, the 3rd largest lake in Africa, and about 500 miles long, surrounded by Zambia on the west and Tanzania and Mozambique on the north, east and south. The project we have been working on is in a small village called Chintheche, near Nkhata Bay, about an eight hour bus ride from the capital Lilongwe. It is a small trading post with a local hospital. A local man trained as a homeopath in a Dutch charity in the far north of the country, started a homeopathy clinic eighteen months ago. Harry van der Zee, Editor of LINKS magazine and I went there to help him establish the clinic. The local man, Joseph Msumba, was invited to start the clinic by the local health officer, specifically to help with HIV positive patients, and also with other general illnesses, initially using PC remedies but now functioning as a full homeopathic clinic The clinic has continued to develop, supporting the local community in many ways, and treating many diverse conditions, including HIV positive patients but also many other acute and chronic conditions. As with many projects in Africa, there have been challenges. Staff issues have not always been easy, with one member leaving suddenly with some of the supplies, including my original stock of the cassava proving I did. Financial issues are always nearby, with the rent doubling overnight and then managing to supply the clinic with necessary stocks. As with many things in Africa, there are always obstacles, nothing is that easy, yet with perseverance and having people on hand there to work, the project is continuing to develop. For more information on the project go at www.ARHF.nl and you can be sent ongoing newsletters on the project.
I had previously written of the great work going on in Kenya by a Dutch woman, named Marie Magre, who has lived in Kenya for the past six years and started a three year full time homeopathy program. She has raised funds, mainly in Holland, to build a school that caters for up to 150 full time boarding students, a phenomenal effort and which has the potential to really establish homeopathy in Kenya. But as in Malawi, there are significant challenges in making this work. Funding is always a struggle and with ongoing significant costs, including employing 22 people full time, Marie has to constantly seek funding sources.
Also, the political issues that homeopathy has suffered recently have also affected her and some foundations have not wanted to fund just a homeopathy school. Partly as a result of this, she has changed the name of the school to the Kenya School for Integrated Medicine. In some ways, this also reflects the development of the actual program, which offers basic medical training, and public health knowledge as well as homeopathy. This structure of the program allows graduates to choose to specialize further in regular medical programs, even going to advanced degree training in public health or to nursing and other medical schools after completion at this school. For those who want to take their homeopathy studies further, the school helps them in finding work opportunities. As similar to other countries, the transition into practice is not easy. When I was there this year, Marie and I worked on beginning a new organization called the Kenya Association for Homeopathy, which is designed to help graduates receive further ongoing education and clinical experience, leading to a post graduate training certificate. It is hoped to develop this into a formally recognized degree program in homeopathy. As of now, after three years of training, students get a state recognized diploma, but there is hope of aligning with a recognized university to gain further accreditation. The association can also serve to bring greater recognition to homeopathy within the public and government sphere, an important part of developing the profession.
I have watched Marie deal with many of the ongoing challenges of running the school, including dealing with staff issues, which are sometimes not easy, and also with all the necessary government regulation that has to be processed. One would imagine running a school in Africa would be easier than in England or the U.S., but in fact it is the opposite. In fact, the type of institution Marie is trying to establish is aiming to be equivalent to a university education and hence there are formidable obstacles to overcome.
Also, we recognized that the challenges of developing a practice after completion of training is something that needs further addressing, and so we looked at how to further develop post graduate supervision and clinical training to support students, as well as looked for places where graduates could work in established medical clinics in Kenya. For some students, going back to their home town would be an obvious choice but that again brings its own challenges, including especially the financial one. Kenya, although wealthier than some countries in Africa, is still a poor place and where earning any kind of living is difficult.
The foundations laid by Marie at the school give real hope of what is possible. Giving poor and orphaned women and men the opportunity to gain a higher education and then make an impression in the developing health care world in Kenya is no small thing. Kenyan law recognizes complementary and alternative medicine and so this is an opportunity to secure homeopathy as one of the most established practices of CAM medicine in Kenya. To find out more about the school go to www.4kenya.org.