Kenya PCT Project


Kenya12016/2017 Team Leaders: Kelly Leslie ( & Kate McWilliams (
Location: Kit Mikayi (near Kisumu), Kenya
Date & Duration of Project: 5 weeks in April-June 2017
Positions: 4
Faculty Supervisor: Videsh Kapoor & Jeremy Penner

For more information on Partners in Community Transformation, visit their website:

Through Dr. Jeremy Penner, a faculty member in the UBC Division of International Health and a physician who practices primarily in Kenya, GHI established a partnership with a Kenyan community-based organization called Partners in Community Transformation (PCT). PCT is a grass-roots community empowerment organization, passionate about helping communities develop the skills they need to make positive changes for themselves.

Our GHI team (Alanna Roberts, Kate McWilliams, Lauren Kan & Kelly Leslie) plus some of our amazing partners from Kenya PCT (Partners in Community Transformation) at our first mental health workshop for Community Health Workers, where we taught them about psychosis, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Our GHI team (Alanna Roberts, Kate McWilliams, Lauren Kan & Kelly Leslie) plus some of our amazing partners from Kenya PCT (Partners in Community Transformation) at our first mental health workshop for Community Health Workers, where we taught them about psychosis, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

Since 2014, the GHI Kenya team has focused on working with community members in the rural region outside of Kisumu to increase awareness and knowledge of mental illness and decrease the stigma surrounding it.

In Kenya, GHI works in collaboration with Partners in Community Transformation (PCT), a local grassroots NGO located in the Kisumu region that is passionate about helping community members develop the skills they need to make positive changes for themselves. In 2015, the GHI team in Kenya initiated a mental health education project in partnership with PCT, in response to feedback from the community about a perceived need for increased knowledge about mental health issues. Over the course of several weeks, the 2014-2015 GHI team assessed the local knowledge, practices, and perspectives around mental health in the region through interviews and focus group discussions with community members and local mental health professionals. Most notably, they identified a widespread lack of knowledge about mental illness in the community and a lack of ability for most people with mental health issues to access help due to financial constraints, pervasive stigma, and a lack of resources available.

In the spring of 2016, our team traveled to the Kisumu region for 5 weeks to implement and evaluate a series of mental health education workshops. These workshops, which we prepared over the course of the school year, were based on those developed by the World Health Organization and focused on topics that were highlighted as being most important based on the previous year’s research—defining mental illness and its causes, describing the symptoms of the most common psychiatric disorders, explaining how to provide mental health first aid, and outlining the mental health resources available in the community. The target audience of our workshops consisted of Community Health Workers (CHWs), community members who go door to door across the region to teach families about health issues and refer them to further medical attention if needed. By training CHWs to recognize and respond to mental health issues in the community, we were able to ensure that this knowledge would be passed down to families across the entire Kisumu region.

Our workshops proved to be a great success. The CHWs were very receptive to the topics that we taught, and eagerly contributed to group discussions and activities, with the help of a translator who worked with us. While most of the CHWs began our mental health education program with a very limited understanding of mental illness (psychiatric symptoms are often blamed on witchcraft and curses in the Kisumu region, and very few of the CHWs had ever heard the words ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’ or ‘psychosis’ before), it was incredible to witness the progress they made throughout the 5 weeks. By the end of our program, many of the CHWs had actually been able to identify people in the community who likely suffered from psychiatric disorders, educate them and their families about mental illness, and refer them to medical attention. Based on the results of knowledge tests that we administered to CHWs both before and after the series of workshops, we were able to quantify the amount of information that the CHWs absorbed, and focus group discussions that we held with them enabled us to gather valuable feedback on the effectiveness of our program.

It was truly an amazing experience to work with the CHWs and be able to see with our own eyes the impact that the knowledge imparted by our workshops had on the community in terms of mental health awareness and the reduction of stigma. We look forward to continuing this project next year in partnership with PCT, with further workshops with both CHWs and community members, evaluations of their effectiveness, and identification of local mental health resources, and hope to see it uphold its success!

This project is open to students from all faculties at UBC.

Nutrition Project:

The nutrition research project was implemented in the summer of 2014 within the Kisumu region, based on suggestions and preliminary work on nutrition education done by the 2013 GHI team. The goal of the 2014 research was to identify discrepancies between nutrition knowledge and practice for women and children. The research explored maternal health, breastfeeding practices and infant and young child feeding. Information was surveyed through three focus group discussions with women in the three rural sub-locations (Kit Mikayi, Kaila and Kajulu Koker) surrounding Kisumu, one focus group with men from the three sub-locations, and one focus group for Community Health Workers (CHWs) from each sub-location. The 2014 team also conducted workshops, but the main focus for the 2014 GHI team was the group discussions, which were well-received by the community. The 2015 team built on previous nutrition related initiatives by re-evaluating the knowledge of community members through focus groups. As well, there were teams that conducted home surveys with women in the three target communities in order to assess whether the nutrition education training given to the CHWs was filtering down to household practices. The team followed up by conducting train-the-trainer sessions with CHWs that focused on equipping them with the tools necessary to educate community members on best practices in maternal and childhood nutrition, as well as additional information on adolescent and elderly nutrition.

Health Education Project:

The 2014 GHI team continued the health education workshops for primary and secondary school youth. The main focus of these workshops was sexual health, as this was identified by the CHWs as an important health topic pertaining to this population. Hour long workshops were delivered, and students were given informative brochures on sexual health, and other health topics such as drug and substance abuse. A final workshop was conducted for out of school community members, primarily focusing on mental health. This topic was delivered for the first time, and was positively received by the community. Going forward, future teams will continue to deliver health education workshops. The goal is to continue to work with community health workers so that these workshops may be conducted consistently throughout the year. With the initial success of the mental health workshops, future teams will discuss and assess with PCT the potential to continue or expand on this topic.

Microfinance Project:

Micro-financing was initiated by the 2012 team. In the project’s first year, team members visited banks and met with groups practicing Group Savings and Loans (GS&L), in order to assess the feasibility of, one day, initiating a microloans bank in order to ultimately encourage entrepreneurship in the area. In order to promote microfinance, the 2013 team provided training to all 35 PLHIV support groups in Group Savings and Loans methodology. The 2014 team administered surveys to gauge the efficacy of the GS&L groups in terms of generating income, and supporting community members financially. There was mixed success amongst the groups, making it clear that further training is required, especially in the domains of record-keeping, group structure and management, maintaining accountability, and managing interest. We hope that with additional training and support that the GS&L groups will continue to expand and increase financial security in the area. The 2016 team followed up with several of the microfinance groups to learn more about this project and document its success.

Mushroom Farming Project:

The Mushroom Farming Pilot, initiated in 2011, was started in order to explore whether mushroom farming could become a stable income generating activity for local farmers. The project remains exciting in its potential. Over the past summer, the 2014 team provided further training to troubleshoot some difficulties experienced in mushroom germination. It is our hope that with this additional training, the pilot project will be able to maximize yield and achieve sustainability. With a successful pilot project, PCT and future GHI teams can expand the project to benefit other community sites.

Dairy Goat Project:

The Dairy Goat Project was initially developed to promote proper nutrition through the consumption of goat’s milk, as well as to improve income through selling of the milk. The dairy goat project has been well received by the community, and there has been slow but steady progress in breeding community non-dairy goats with the dairy goats to allow more community members to access goat milk. However, community awareness and engagement are not as high as they need to be in order to ensure sustainability. Future directions will include exploring how to generate interest and encourage a sense of shared responsibility.

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