Kissito International Solar Suitcase Update

It has been a busy, but successful month for us in Ethiopia!

With 75% of deliveries occurring at night, the Solar Suitcase at the Wejego Yato Health Center has provided light for women to give birth safely. It has also significantly increased the number of women coming to the health center for delivery over the past four months. Thanks to the WE CARE Solar Suitcase, the Wejego Yato Health Center has seen many improvements in birth outcomes and safer deliveries!


Another amazing accomplishment in Ethiopia: The KHI-Ethiopia nutrition project in Halaba Special Woreda helped treat and cure 112 children with severe acute malnutrition in the past month! Health education programs, on topics such as complementary feeding and malaria, also provided 8,170 caretakers information in order to prevent health issues. What a busy and life-saving month!


Missionary’s Smile Grows In Africa

MaeganHBy her mid-20s, she’d already fared better than many of her college-grad peers: Maegan Hubbard had already snagged a mortgage, a 401(k) and a steady corporate job — during the height of the recession, no less. As project manager/store planner for Bassett Furniture Industries, she traveled around the country helping the company launch dozens of Bassett Home Furnishings stores.

She had never stepped foot in a developing country until a church mission trip to Haiti in 2011, when everything about her changed — especially her smile. She returned to Haiti three months later, but by then it was clear.

“I couldn’t sit in my cubicle anymore,” Maegan said. “There were so many people needing help in this world, and here I was sitting there trying to get people to buy furniture.”

Maegan, now 30, is a long way from Bassett — and a long way from Haiti. She’s spent the past year in faraway Uganda, doing mission work for Roanoke County-based Kissito Healthcare International. She facilitates visiting medical volunteer teams from Roanoke and elsewhere, feeds starving children under the shade of a tree and, in a handful of extreme instances, has watched them die, too.

“It was never in my nature before to be bold,” said the 2002 Northside High School graduate. “But in Africa, you have to learn boldness.”

• • •

Elbowing your way into a chaotic non-line that is the supermarket checkout. Crowding onto a taxi filled with people who’ve hauled their chickens — and even mattresses — on board.

Trying to coax a mother into admitting her starving teenager into a regional hospital when she fears her abusive husband may leave her if she takes the boy there.

“Going into a dirty old hospital with crying kids and people are dying, and the place is a mess — you learn a whole lot about yourself,” Maegan said.

Couple that with terrorist strikes in nearby Kenya and civil war in neighboring South Sudan, and work in Mbale, Uganda, is rife with sorrows and potential pitfalls.

And yet, Maegan says she’s only cried twice during her first year of mission work — once, when the starving teen described above died despite all her organization’s efforts to get him admitted into the hospital.

Though she admits to being a bit rattled, she did not cry a few months back when the vehicle she was traveling in was tear gassed as collateral damage from a communitywide manhunt for a man who’d killed people and stolen their motorcycles. (The chase culminated in death by vigilante justice as the villagers took the law into their own hands.)

Ask Freida Hubbard if she worries about her daughter living with no salary in dicey Third World conditions, and she laughs — nervously. But mom recalls marveling when her daughter returned from her initial missionary trips to Haiti with an expanded, changed heart.

She follows the moving stories Maegan writes on her blog, and she witnesses the joy emanating from the pictures Maegan posts: an old man wearing glasses for the first time; a child cured of malnutrition-caused swelling and flashing Maegan his adorable, what-you-talking-about-Willis grin.

“The biggest change I’ve seen in Maegan is her smile,” Freida Hubbard says. “It’s huge. Huge. I mean, there’s a happiness and a joy in her that she just didn’t have before.

“Something inside her that’s a real fullness because she knows she’s making a difference now with her life.”

• • •

That’s the message behind the talks Maegan is giving during her monthlong visit home in Roanoke, where she’s speaking at area churches and selling jewelry made by female entrepreneurs in Mbale. She talks about the joy she gets from treating malnourished youngsters under the shade of a tree.

At Parkway Wesleyan, where she first got the missionary bug — she coordinated church mission trips and still receives donations from several members for her work in Uganda — she discussed Kissito’s latest Ugandan endeavor, a separate nongovernmental organization called Life Centers Ministry-Africa. It’s launching an inpatient malnutrition clinic in a hospital, largely supported by several Roanoke-area churches and businesses, including Gentle Shepherd Hospice.

Kissito President Tom Clarke said he started Life Centers Ministry-Africa as a separate, church-affiliated nonprofit. Kissito International gets funding from the United Nations and U.S. Agency for International Development, “and separation of church and state seems to be a bigger issue every single year,” he said.

Domestically, Kissito operates a range of housing and nursing facilities for the Roanoke region’s aging population. But its Africa arm partners with local governments to buttress health care operations in Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia and — until a few weeks ago — South Sudan. Late last month it arranged for the emergency evacuation of seven employees working in South Sudan because of the brewing civil war. (See sidebar on former Kissito accountant Scott Montgomery, now operating his own agriculture NGO in South Sudan.)

Maegan’s current focus is forging community connections and health education by connecting with village churches. Uganda is half-Muslim and half-Christian, and most Ugandans are accepting of others’ beliefs, she said.

“Religion is very important in Africa; everyone believes something.”

Maegan has not only retained her passion for mission work; she’s expanded it, Clarke says.

“What ends up happening a lot of times is people go to Africa and after a month or two months, they start missing Home Depot and Sheetz and Kroger. But the longer Maegan’s there, the more committed she is.”

In her Roanoke talks, Maegan says her goal isn’t to rattle the can for donations, but rather she’s “trying to encourage people to look at life from a different perspective.”

Visiting her old co-workers in Bassett last week, she did sell some jewelry, but mostly she visited and hugged and answered questions about the Ugandans she writes about on her blog.

“So many people live in their bubble here in America, so I’m just trying to give a broader view,” she said. “People are fascinated by the little white girl who’s enmeshed in Africa and ‘She must be so brave.’

“I’m not scared there but I also don’t feel brave. I’m just trying to show people you don’t have to live your life the same way every day. You can make a difference.

“By giving up something,” she says, “I’ve received God’s best for my life.”

This story in it’s entirety was written by Beth Macy and can be found on the Roanoke Times website

Kissito Partner Laura Stachel Finalist For CNN Hero of the Year

  • In some countries, a lack of reliable electricity is to blame for deaths during childbirth
  • Dr. Laura Stachel witnessed this tragic truth during a trip to Nigeria five years ago
  • She and her husband are now delivering a solution: solar energy in a suitcase
  • Who will be Hero of the Year? Cast your vote here or through your mobile device
  • Vote up to November 17th one time a day

Hospitals Operated and Supported by Kissito Receive #1 Hospital Rankings for All of Uganda

There are currently 14 referral hospitals in Uganda, and 154 health center IVs in Uganda. It was just announced by the Ministry of Health during the National Assembly Review Meeting that sat at Africana Hotel in September 2013.

uganda_mgaletraining2 Ministry of Health ranks the health centers and hospitals based on their Annual Assembly Review meetings and through their field officer’s situation analysis Kissito’s Mbale Referral Hospital and Bugabero Health Center IV have received the highest grading, from #60 last year (2012) to #1 this year 2013, of all the health center IV’s or hospitals in the entire country of Uganda.

In Uganda there are 70 health centers IV’s and 1 Referral hospital that Kissito operates or supports. One type is called a Health Center IV, a health center that typically serves around 150 – 250 patients per day with a cachement population of around 400,000 people. Kissito supports the closest referral hospital, Mbale Regional Referral Hospital in Mbale, District. Mbale serves around 500 – 1000 patients per day with a cachement population of around 4,000,000 people or 14 Districts in Eastern Region in Uganda.

“While this latest grading for two of our 70 supported health centers and hospitals shows tremendous progress, Kissito believes this is only scratching the surface. This is a marathon for these communities and Kissito plans to support it with everything they have. We won’t rest until all 70 are graded number 1 and then we will build more because that is what the people of Uganda deserve”, said Tom Clarke, CEO of Kissito International.

mAmbulanceBugabero Health Center IV three years ago was a down trodden clinic whose operating theater was closed, and the only services being provided were distribution of minimal medications and referral services to the larger hospital in Mbale. Prior to Kissito’s involvement in operations Bugabero served around 20 patients per day. Since Kissito offered support and operational services, Bugabero now averages 250 patients per day. The difference is in the services being offered. Since Kissito has been involved Bugabero has served 110,169 patients, 2,015 surgical procedures have been performed, 1,011 babies have been delivered, and 1,227 children under five have been rehabilitated and treated.

Mbale Regional Referral Hospital in Eastern Region, Uganda is supported by Kissito. Between 2011 and 2013 with Kissito’s involvement 149,333 patients have been served, 23,485 surgical procedures have been performed, and 10,576 babies have been delivered, and 1,312 malnourished children have been rehabilitated and treated.

Kissito PACE opens with great awareness in Roanoke

Willie Amos pulls busOver 175 community members and state dignitaries made the drive over to Kissito PACE in Roanoke to witness a rather unconventional grand opening. Speakers included Terry Smith of the Department of Medical Assistance Services, House of Delgates member Onzlee Ware of the 11th district, global anti-poverty pioneer Cabell Brand, Tom Clarke CEO of Kissito, and Sean Pressman Executive Director Kissito PACE. The theme and the message was heard loud and clear: PACE is the alternative to a nursing home and our seniors now have the option and the services available to them to age in place in their home and community.

Kissito PACE TeamThe day started off when Sean Pressman warned everybody that “Kissito was a non-conventional organization and the grand opening they chose to attend would be a non-conventional break through event.” Boy was was he right. Willie Amos the the 11th strongest man in the world strapped on a harness and started the event by pulling the 28,000 pound Kissito PACE participant bus single-handedly out from in front of the PACE center entrance.

Speakers then went one by one touting their own personal experience and beliefs about how PACE is the answer to remaining safely in the community for seniors. Cabell Brand, founder TAP at the ripe age of 90 spoke eloquently about the need for PACE and the pleasure he feels now that he knows the communities of Southwest Virginia finally have all inclusive care for their seniors. Terry Smith and her team from the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services spoke of the importance PACE has in the healthcare system and how PACE is the only coordinated care for the elderly that is local and not fragmented. Tom Clarke CEO of Kissito spoke of the journey and the passion it took to get the reality of PACE and thanked many individuals and teams that made it all possible.

willie breaks through wallJust when you thought all 175 were headed for a ribbon cutting and something to eat inside the Kissito PACE center, Wham-O! Willie Amos comes crashing through a 7 foot cinder block wall with words spray painted on it that symbolized the barriers that existed up until now for seniors to be able to receive the coordinated services they need to remain safely in their homes.

Busted up cinder blocks littered the ground. Everybody was in shock and awe of the spectacle. Symbolic blocks and pieces were scooped up by dignitaries and guests alike as a memento of the occasion.

The event wrapped up with tours and delicious catered food, photo opps and media interviews. A great time was had by all.

Here is the TV coverage:

WSLS News Channel 10

WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

WDBJ 7 News

Kissito board member and former NBA great Kermit Washington to be interviewed by Neil Haley

Kermit_WashingtonKissito Board Member and former NBA great Kermit Washington to be guest on the Neil Haley Total Education Network radio show. Kermit, founder of Project Contact Africa and board member of Kissito will be interviewed about his work in Africa over the last 20 years, his support of the Kissito White Storm Relief efforts taking place in Uganda, and many of his life lessons learned while working in Africa. You can tune in online or find an affiliate radio station in your market. The interview is scheduled for October 15th at 2:30 EST

Neil Haley’s The Total Education Network is the ONLY educational network that airs shows seven days a week. The Total Education Network is heard in over 180 countries and has over 1 million listeners a week. The Total Education Network is syndicated on 90 plus stations. For more information or to find a station near you visit

What’s In a Name? When It Comes to Kissito Village, Everything

Naming, or renaming things, changes them. It defines them. Names can determine our character and our future. Native Americans named their children after observing something that happened at the time of their birth thus: Running Deer, Kneeling Bull, or New Moon. Nicknames bestowed on us by our friends often highlight some aspect of our strengths or character, often forcing us to live up to the name. Biblical and religious names are carefully chosen in order to ensure an infant lives up to their destiny—God instructed Mary and Joseph what to call their son, and throughout the Bible told characters what to name their children. Names are powerful things, capable of changing a person, or even a building.

KissitoVillage CommMtgOn Saturday Oct. 5, Kissito renamed Hawthorne Towers, once a name synonymous with crime, filth, decay and poverty. They christened the towers “Kissito Village,” a name Kissito CEO Tom Clarke equates with community, hope, security and family.

Clarke told a group of approximately 50 residents that the name was taken from Kissito’s work in Africa.

“We’ve learned from Africa that it takes a village to accomplish anything of importance,” he said. “So that’s why we’re calling this Kissito Village. It will take all of us to make this our village our home.”
Clarke also explained that Kissito’s experiences around the world suggest there are better ways of caring for the frail elderly, disabled and financially challenged in America, other than through institutional settings such as nursing homes. The 1884 house was Kissito’s first Roanoke venture into affordable housing. They’re also working with the University of Texas and Harris Health System to establish a community-based program of care for the elderly in the Riverside District of the City of Houston. They closed on the purchase of Hawthorne Towers, making Kissito Village their next community based project. The property will be senior friendly but not age restricted. Rent is expected to be around HUD levels $345/month before utilities.
While not all elders can be safely cared for in a community setting, a significant number of those currently institutionalized want to—and could thrive in the community, if adequate services were available to them. Clarke said Kissito has learned that institutionalization rates can be half of the U.S. average with the right programs and housing in place.
All new landscaping has been installed at Kissito VillageResidents agreed, cheering, clapping and jumping up to ask questions and engage with Clarke and John Surprenant, the CEO of JMS Building, the company doing the Kissito Village building renovations.
Deborah Williams smiled, laughed, clapped her hands and wiped tears from her eyes as Clarke spoke. She said she loved the idea of the building being a village. Williams doesn’t currently live in the building, but her brother, George Turner, has been a resident for seven years. She visits him regularly. Both she and her other brother, Richard Turner, want to move into the building as well. The move would not only provide affordable housing, it would bring their family together again, proof that Kissito Village was living up to its new name.

Williams was a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Salem Health Nursing Home for eight years. She said she was laid off due to a disability and now spends much of her time visiting her brother George at the building.

Elizabeth Wright, a very elderly Kissito Village resident sitting with Williams, and Shapla Maden, a 22-year-old woman were happy to hear that every unit in the building will receive new appliances, including a full-sized refrigerator, new floors, ceilings, paint jobs and air conditioning.

Kissito Village and Kissito now own 144 apartment units. It’s not just Kissito Village Clarke is excited about. Kissito was officially approved to enroll seniors over the age of 55 into their PACE organization, allowing them to help seniors age in place, live independently, and transition out of the nursing home and back to the community.
As beautiful and comfortable as so many in the Roanoke Valley are, there are still hundreds of seniors living in nursing homes that have been abandoned, have no one to care for them, or who can’t maintain their homes due to age, infirmity or poverty.
The numbers just don’t add up, Josh McGilliard, Vice President of Business Development said.
“In Oregon and AZ about 1.7% of all people over the age of 65 are institutionalized in a nursing home. In Virginia that number is 3.4%. That means it is entirely possible that over half of the long term care nursing home residents could transition back into their community if not for the lack of affordable housing and coordinated services to keep them safe…until now. Kissito has a solution. By using their Money Follows the Person (MFP) transition coordinator status, PACE, and the newly acquired 144 apartments in Kissito Village, formerly Hawthorne Towers; a person could transition out of a nursing home, return to their community safely, live in their own affordable apartment, and have all the healthcare needs coordinated and delivered by PACE.”
New name. New PACE Center. New days dawning. Change takes a village and now Kissito has one.

Kissito 1884 House

Kissito Healthcare is a Non-Profit organization involved with many socioeconomic issues in our community. Kissito’s experience with servicing the elderly has led to the creation of the Kissito 1884 House. Kissito saw this house as a window of opportunity that could provide affordable housing as an alternative to nursing homes. Within this community-based home, residents will be able to keep their independence, yet participate in activities with other members. The Kissito 1884 House is located at 301 Gilmer Ave., Roanoke, VA 24016. This central site is only five minutes away from downtown (driving), with great local attractions such as museums, restaurants, the farmers’ market, etc.

The Kissito 1884 House was acquired in challenging conditions. Kissito completed renovations (including new appliances) to make the building more livable and home-felt for the elderly. With a window of opportunity having been opened, the opportunities are endless. Through this project, we are hoping to also create more involvement in the neighborhood, as well as aid from other organizations for the development of new amenities.

The residents of the neighborhood are hard-working, proud, warm, and caring people who will embrace and welcome the elderly community at the Kissito 1884 House.

1884 House New Kitchen

The pictures to the right show some of the renovations that JMS Builders has done to the building. The house will host 16 people of 65 years of age or older, that do not wish to enter a nursing home. Each apartment has two bedrooms in which 2 individuals will be paired up (unless they already have someone with whom they would like to share the apartment). This will allow them both to split water and electric bills. Other bills such as phone, cable, and internet will have to be discussed between the residents of the unit. The cost per bedroom is $345 per month. We are excited to see all the renovations coming to an end, and getting closer to the big opening. We are now accepting applications.


Kissito and Fork in the City Restaurant Explore a PhilantroPub in Roanoke, VA

Fork in the City Restaurant Downtown Roanoke Virginia


Tom Clarke, CEO of Kissito Healthcare and David Trinkle, Owner of Fork in the City Restaurant, were recently interviewed by a local Roanoke publication about their plans to partner together to bring Roanoke their very first “PhilanthroPub”. The idea is to take a staple restaurant location in downtown Roanoke and create a business model that allows for the profits to flow through to local non-profit organizations.

Read the entire story

Findings from the Uganda research team

Photo by: April ParsonsLaura Fisher, with translation help from Uthman, surveys a patient at a health center.

Photo by: April Parsons
Laura Fisher, with translation help from Uthman, surveys a patient at a health center.

“We really should be working in all 69 of these health centers,” said Kissito President Tom Clarke one night, during a casual conversation at the Ugandan volunteer house. It was a simple statement that brought about one of the biggest tasks the KHI research team has ever taken on.

We knew they needed the help, and we knew we had help to give, but what were the specifics? That is what our key researchers Laura Fisher, and Doug Dasilva, have set out to find. Instead of just giving out goodie bags of gauze and gloves, or placing incubators in random facilities, the research team will be going into all 69 facilities in the Mbale, Manafwa and Baduda districts to find out what each facility needs; everything from the types of drugs, and supplies, to water and electricity, and to possible improvements on staff and patient satisfaction.

After a lot of hard work, literature reviews, and discussions with doctors they created a three-tier comprehensive study. The first part is a massive survey, 747 questions to be exact, that asks about every single drug, supply or piece of equipment that a health center would have. The second is health worker surveys, which get both qualitative and quantitative data; how often to they work, what do they need to better perform their job etc. The third is patient satisfaction surveys. They ask the patients about their experience at the health center; whether they knew what their diagnosis was, or when to take their medicine.


It’s been about two months and the research team is not even half way done with the baseline. Most facilities take anywhere from one to two hours to get to, and you could never complete the surveys at more than two health centers in a day (and that doesn’t include the document organizing or data entry!).

So far they have completed the entire Baduda district, and half of the Manafwa district. Although they have a long way to go, some of the statistics they have found already are quite surprising, and really tell a tale of just how much work we have cut out for us.

Data below is from 25 facilities – 4 Hospitals/Health center 4s, 11 health center 3s, and 10 health center 2s:

12% have running water from the city.

Only 60% have a functioning water tank.

That means 40% percent of facilities do not have water.

80% of facilities do not have electricity.

40% do not have nutrition patient education services

20% do not have a thermometer.

12% do not have a stethoscope.

76% do not have a measuring tape for height.

And only 24% of health facilities have access to an ambulance.

This is just the beginning of their assessment. They hope to have the surveys completed by the end of April and will then be able to give completely accurate statistics for the eastern region of Uganda.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog! And make sure to stay up-to-date with the research team, as well as the rest of our volunteers on Facebook and Twitter!.