Dear friends, what does your workplace look like? This is mine—a beautiful coastal community in Kenya where the danger is real.
Since the rise of the terrorist group Al Shaabab, Lamu County has been under constant attacks and threats. The region is highly volatile. Although for some of us, the security checks and constant alerts have become routine.
In 2014, these threats culminated in a full-blown attack in Mpeketoni, with more than 50 people killed, Pathfinder offices destroyed, and a continued onslaught on the town up until this day.
I will never forget running barefoot and bleeding into the woods to stay alive.
Several people have been beheaded by militants. And, in the most recent incident, four civil servants from neighboring Tana River County were killed while on their way to Lamu Town. Two health facilities supported by Pathfinder have also been attacked by militants—vandalized and medicine stolen. These health facilities remain closed to this day.
The road to Kiunga, which has four health facilities supported by Pathfinder, is a no-go zone. Explosive devices planted along the road have caused massive fatalities.
How can we possibly work here? Because we are committed.
Dear friends, I want you to know that you are supporting courageous and lifesaving work.
Access to health is enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution. And thanks to you, Kenyans living in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the country have been able to exercise this basic human right.
Communities can access family planning, maternal, newborn, and child care, and HIV services—all of which have saved thousands of lives since Pathfinder started supporting the region.
Our team has even purchased a new speed boat that will be used by staff and health care workers to go to the hardest to reach islands in Lamu East, where 1,200 people receive antiretroviral therapy every month!
Will you fight violence with courage?
In the face of so many challenges, I have seen remarkable reason to hope. Where others see barriers, Pathfinders are inspired to do more. It is a calling for each of us.
For me, going back to Lamu after the Mpeketoni attacks was difficult, emotionally and spiritually. But I came back because I believe in Pathfinder and the work we are doing.
I no longer spend sleepless nights wondering about what might happen next, but instead count each new day as a blessing. And with renewed energy, work even harder to confront our obstacles head-on as we endeavor to challenge the status quo to achieve our vision—
A world where everyone has access to contraception…
where there are zero new HIV infections…
where no woman dies from preventable pregnancy-related complications…
and where everyone leads a healthy sexual and reproductive life.
Together, we can make this vision a reality. It will not be easy. The most important things are hard. Please join me in continuing to transform and change lives. We can make the world a better place today than it was yesterday.
Now let’s stand tall, proud, and unafraid,
—John C. Karisa
Winner of Pathfinder International’s 2017 Courage Award and Clinical Manager for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Lamu County, Kenya