Melkamu arrived in Kenya through the Moyale border town of Ethiopia in September 2011, after a long treacherous journey from Addis Ababa. A journey that could only be conquered by a dire search for freedom, an audacious hope in what lies ahead despite his current situation.
“In the beginning life was very hard, being in a foreign country for the first time with no friends or family, no knowledge of the local Swahili language and very little money. I remember that day like it was yesterday, a cold Thursday morning when I arrived in Eastleigh, Kenya, the bus I was on came to a stop and we were told this was its final destination. I was scared, no clue where to go or who to ask, but there was no turning back.”
Melkamu fell very ill a few days after his arrival, he was alone and could not eat anything, an attendant at his lodging place found him and alerted his colleagues who rushed him to a nearby clinic. “I could not communicate with any of the clinic’s staff to tell them my symptoms, so they could not treat me. Being a private clinic, they also refused to treat me because I did not have any money. Luckily one of the nurses knew about the Eastleigh Wellness Center (EWC) where I could get free treatment.”
This experience motivated Melkamu to register as a Community Health Worker at the clinic so that he could help other migrants who face similar situations. In the Ethiopian migrant community in Nairobi, most people get fundraising to be able to take their loved ones to hospital, because they are not aware of government healthcare aid and other health facilities that offer free medical care.
“I am a community health worker because I want to help my people. The lack of knowledge about access and availability of health services in the Ethiopian migrant community has been high; since I started I have been able to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and the migrants. When I came to Kenya I did not know at first that as a migrant I could get the National Hospital Insurance Fund card, which greatly helps in paying hospital bills, especially when admitted.”
Five years later, Melkamu is now a renowned name among the Ethiopian migrant community in Nairobi, they seek his help not only in matters concerning health but other communal issues as well. The bustling city is now a second home to Micky, a former teacher.
“I may not be rich but I have peace and freedom, far more priceless commodities that I wish I could take back to my people in Ethiopia.”