Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sustainable Development Through Dolphin Research - A Dhow For The Dispensary

On the remote island community of Mkwiro where GVI are based, it is has rarely been easy to access healthcare. The community themselves raised money to build a dispensary and for a few years enjoyed medical assistance on their doorstep with a government nurse. However by the time GVI arrived the dispensary had been effectively closed for a couple of years, the nurse having been transferred and never replaced.

Thumbs up from Fadhili for support to the dispensary

In April 2006 our friend and member of the Mkwiro dispensary committee, Fadhili, appealed to us for help - without a nurse, the provision of drugs and medical resources was to be cancelled - this would mean that there would no longer be vaccines and basic medications available for a visiting public health officer from the mainland in Shimoni to administer. All healthcare needs, including child vaccinations, would depend on crossing to the mainland. Having already been called upon twice in just a few months to provide emergency night time medical evacuations in our boat for advanced cases of malaria - Juma, a boy from the orphanage and Shafii, our own boat captain - we were acutely aware of the risks of delaying medical assistance because of the expense and inconvenience.

With the agreement of Mkwiro orphanage we allocated some of their funds from GVI's Charitable Trust to pay a nurse's salary, get the dispensary re-opened and ensure medical care was available once more for the orphans and wider community. Generous donations, including from one of our volunteers, Mirka Meyer, ensured the nurse's salary for two years, but we were aware all along that this was not a sustainable solution and sooner or later the donations would dry up... which is what happened last year.

Jane volunteering in the classroom

Fortunately another former volunteer, Jane Hainsworth-Birt was on the case with her employer, Timberland. Raising over £4000 for Mkwiro, they managed to fund new furniture for Mkwiro primary school, send students on to secondary school with scholarships and allocate the biggest slice for a sustainable business initiative that would allow Mkwiro dispensary to earn the money to pay for their own nurse and improve facilities. It has taken a long time to find the right initiative but in an exceptionally generous gesture to help his community, Pandu, the owner of the dhow boat 'Bardan' that we hire as a research vessel agreed to sell it to the dispensary at less than market value.

Pandu's generous offer provided the ideal solution in supporting his community

And so last month, the money we paid to hire our marine research vessel went directly to the dispensary committee to employ a public health officer. And when GVI don't need the boat, Kisite Marine Park will continue to draw tourists in search of dolphins aboard a traditional dhow. With enormous thanks to Jane, Timberland and Pandu, it looks as though we have found the perfect, sustainable solution for Mkwiro and look forward to a happier, healthier future for the community!

Dolphin research... it's good for your health!

Take care, Corti