With a graduation cap on her head, “Ann” steps in front of the audience of peers, family and well wishers to give a quick demonstration of what she’s learned from her time with TICAH. She pulls a chair across the concrete, which scratches and creaks across the ground, and places it in the middle of the stage. Atop the chair she delicately places a few herbs, roots, vegetables and fruit. With cheers and smiles, the audience applauds as Ann starts her story.
“You can save money and stay healthy with a kitchen pharmacy,” she tells the audience. “With the right knowledge about common illnesses and natural remedies, you can keep yourself and your family healthy.” She takes a ginger root off the chair and waves it above her head for the audience to see. Everyone claps and yells with joy as Ann takes the group through what she has learned about each item on the chair.
This was one piece of a recent event graduating and celebrating the 65 TICAH miale ya jamii (“community sparks”), the name community support group members chose for themselves. They graduated from a two year training on herbal medicine and nutrition. I’ve always thought graduation caps looked silly on almost everyone, but I loved seeing them on these women. They were so proud of this moment and of what they accomplished and the rest of us with them were excited with them. The caps may have just been a symbol of their transition into a new phase of their lives and education, but it was an important one and one which brought a lot of joy to everyone.
Theme of the day was, “Supporting the Future”. As part of this, the group also remembered those that died of HIV and celebrated the group members that are living positively and supporting one another. Everyone took turns silently lighting candles and placing them in a memorial red-ribbon shape. It was a humbling moment for everyone there – celebrating the future and the remembering the past.
It was really impossible not to feel the joy and excitement on this particular day. From informal communities across Nairobi, the TICAH miale joined together at the National Museum to celebrate their lives and what they had learned about health and wellness. Graduating from the TICAH Healthy Seeds program, these women will continue to use their knowledge of nutrition and natural remedies with their families, friends, and community. Some have already taken on new groups of women to teach what they have learned while others are taking the information into a broader context as Community Health Workers. Others have set up safe houses for children in their areas. Still others have become involved in other aspects of TICAH’s work, getting their children’s schools involved.
Forever in the TICAH family, I was proud to have been present to meet and celebrate the miale.