Baby bonding takes root in Kisumu

Lullaby Africa trustee, Helen Revans gives some impressions of her most recent trip to Kisumu in Kenya, where the baby bonding teaching is really taking root.

Monday

First proper day in Kisumu. As we walked, we invited women and their babies to the workshops. It was super hot.

On the way home, we bought a couple of ice-lollies. We gave one to Pascal our tuk tuk driver. He had never had one before, so we had to tell him to eat it quickly. He described it as being like a race!

A tuk tuk is like a three wheeled motorbike with a rough carriage over it. It would never be a smooth ride and the driving rule seem to be “If I can fit through and get there first, that’s fine.” Sometimes it is simply best not to look.

Tuesday

All along the roads there are stalls selling something – coals, shoes, dried fish, fresh chapati, fruit, wood. Men solder iron gates at the side of the path, school children walk along looking smart in their uniforms. The children have free education until they are 7, but they have to buy their uniform.
And still the cows, goats, chicken, dogs and children (mostly barefoot) roam around, with litter and waste everywhere.

We took our tuk tuk to Manyatta, a tough area; even when they shake hands it is done with a hard slap! Last year when lullaby visited, very few women came at all.

This afternoon we had 16 women and 1 teenage boy. This is great testament to the work that Lillian and her team have done.

Wednesday

In Kasarani today, our session focused on a baby’s hearing and the importance of communication. When we asked at what age a baby can begin to hear, there were many suggestions ranging from 4 months to 1 year after birth. When we explained that the baby can hear while still in the womb, they were shocked… they found it very funny when I said hello (haribu) to a lady’s bump!

Friday

Last night it rained, and boy did it rain! Thunder lightning and rain all night.

Many women arrived and there was a good feeling in the room. We recapped the teaching from the previous days, taught about trauma and fear reactions and then about play. It was a long session but with lots of singing and dancing.

As we sang, a little gorgeous one sat on the floor and played with the stacking cups, putting in dirt and pouring it from cup to cup, balancing them together and happily playing. Other babies were hugging and swinging their knitted teddies, while the mothers held their certificates with pride. It was a good day.

Sunday

Pastor Joseph walked us through Bandani to his church where we could already hear the people singing and praying. They had no instruments or words and no one stood at the front to lead the worship. but someone would sing out a line or two, and others would copy, then this would be repeated, developing the song a little, and then another would start a new song. It was beautiful and very freeing.

Monday

We went to Nyalenda Omboch this morning. This is a much busier region and there is a feeling of being a bit more affluent (though that is very relative). We were met by Lucy and Everlyne who were wearing their blue Lullaby Africa Leaders T-shirts and looked very smart.

Many of the ladies had been before and there was clear evidence of this in the way in which children were chatting and engaging in play with their mummas, including one mumma who was made to breast feed our teaching doll by her little girl, taking turns with her. The women were attentive and engaged, and laughed at us every time we tried to use swahilli words.

After lunch we went to Usoma, a much more rural and gentle area. We were met by Anna, who is both our Lullaby Africa leader and the Tribal leader. The women hear were quieter, but they responded well when encouraged to look at their babies and in the massage sessions.

Kenyan people are very friendly. I have had my had shaken in greeting more since being here than ever before. The children are all taught to greet every adult they pass with a handshake and ‘haribuni’ (how are you), many call out in English ‘How are you?’, responding with ‘I’m fine’.

Tuesday

One lady gave a testimony. She told us that, when her grandchild was born, both mother and baby had been poorly. They were unsure how to help the baby, to help him to exercise; he was crying a lot and his limbs were stiff. Then Helen and Janet came in October and taught about Massage. She remembered this teaching, took it to the mother and they massaged the baby. In time the baby got well and is strong and using his legs well to stand. He is now 8 months old and was with us today. Brilliant! She encouraged the mothers to continue and to follow our teaching.

Heln R baby massage

One lady asked for advice about carrying babies around by one arm. It is quite common for a mother here to grab a small child by one wrist and lift them quickly and walk off – not at all gently and without explanation; the children just hang on. We were able to explain that this is not good for the baby’s shoulder, nor is it good for them emotionally. To talk and explain what is happening next and to be more gentle and supportive when lifting is so much better.

One of the most precious things from today was when one Mumma said she had a present for me and passed me her 3-week old baby to hold. So very precious. But I did give her back!

Wednesday

We tuktuked over to Otonglo Lower, another region in Kisumu and more rural than many. This is where Pastor Joseph and Lilian live with 5 of their children. Little Suzi Blessing (3) was happy to sit with us, Emmanuel was around for a while but returned to school.

We met a 15-year-old was attacked last year and is now pregnant. She was very shy and embarrassed to see us. She hopes to return to school after she has had the baby. That was so hard to see and hear about, but is not an uncommon story here. The girls are often attacked by the pikypiky (motorbike taxis) drivers who give them lifts. So sad.

Thursday

Bandani brought some excitement as BBC Radio Solent phoned and our mummas were able to sing to England and Jane told everyone what we have been doing.

Friday

The final leaders’ session went well. We heard how the teaching and sessions are going in the various areas. The ladies seem very positive and mostly enthusiastic. There are difficulties though, the primary one being that the ladies who come to the group are hoping to receive some form of tangible benefit, money or gifts. Some of the groups have managed to find a way to overcome this. but we have encouraged them to teach that the real benefit is in the way their children will grow – healthy and with clever minds.
We provided our leaders with Lullaby Africa bags along with the oil. We explained that, for each bag given, someone in England will buy another bag and receive their photos so they can pray for the leaders and their work. Finally, we prayed a blessing over them.

It will be sad to say goodbye to the sun and these wonderful people, but we’re very ready for a rest and to see our families.