The Caris Foundation, Mark C. and Linda Smith Memorial Medical Mission Fund and The George W. Clark III Memorial Medical Mission Fund provide us with the comfort of sustained, ongoing, and generous support.
The Mark C. and Linda Smith Memorial Medical Mission Fund has provided us with funds to continue and grow many tremendously important activities: to provide ENT care to the poor and underserved, to foster translational research into new cures for head and neck cancers, to raise the next generation of cancer surgeons, and to help grow in Africa the healthcare infrastructure we enjoy in the United States. Their funding has been critical to the success of our medical missions.
The Smith family has also generously given us ongoing funding for the Smith Family Fellow in Head and Neck Surgery, whose travel to Kenya is partially funded by their contributions. The Smith Family Fellow works closely with the medical students on our team to train them in how to use the Electronic Medical Record system we've implemented, as well as how to help patients describe their symptoms and fill out quality-of-life surveys, all part of the Fellow's outcomes research which allows us to track how effective we are in improving the health outcomes of our patients. The Smith Fellow also spends significant time in the OR training the Kenyan ENT doctors.
In addition to helping us organize and fun our surgical camp, the Caris Foundation has several local Malindi projects including adult literacy classes and a single mothers empowerment program.
In 2008, Caris started their empowerment program with 60 young single mothers living in poverty. They helped them learn to read and write, to manage their money, to understand health, hygiene, and nutrition, and to provide service to their communities. They provided training in trades and in agriculture. Some of the women then went on to become leaders of future groups so the program could become self-sustaining. An average of 1.3 acres is under cultivation per participant, and the value of their food production for 2014 was over $100,000. As of autumn 2015, they have 626 mothers in the program, with 228 owning their own small businesses!
In October 2015, we were invited to attend a weekly meeting of their single mothers microfinancing group. In the group we met, the women sold clothes, lemons, fish, rope, charcoal, firewood, and chickens. One even owned her own small restaurant. The group took out a loan for 5,000 shillings (about $50 USD) at the beginning of 2015, and had repaid 2,600 shillings, saving 50 shillings a week between them. They and 34 other groups meet weekly to encourage each other, pray together, monitor their loans, and make plans to address community needs, including public health issues like cervical and breast cancer screenings.