Young doctor with a big heart for the old and chronically ill

Cheka Tena founder Dr. Evelyn Kasimu during the interview at Nation Center, Nairobi on October 13, 2020.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group 

What you need to know:

  • The foundation trains caregivers such as the elderly, chronically ill and people with disabilities, such as the visually impaired.
  • Dr Kasimu's vision is that Cheka Tena will be a world class organisation that is a hub of caregivers.

Evelyn Kasimu, 24, is the founder of Cheka Tena, a foundation that she established in 2018 while still studying medicine.

The foundation trains caregivers — individuals that provide care for people that need extra help — such as the elderly, chronically ill and people with disabilities, such as the visually impaired.

So far, the foundation, through partnership with M.A. Math Charitable Trust Kenya, an umbrella organisation with a number of charities, has enrolled 20 caregivers in a programme that runs 38-45 days, culminating in 70 hours of e-learning theory and 180 hours of practical learning in a hospital.

After completion of the programme, the caregivers will then be deployed to partner hospitals, home healthcare agencies, nursing homes and palliative care centres.

“Our target is those that are 24 and above. At 24, I believe that one has a better understanding of what they want to do with their life. Besides, one should be able to read and write and converse in English. A health background is an added advantage, but not mandatory,” says Evelyn, who graduated from St. George’s University in Grenada, this year.

Her motivation to set up her foundation was inspired by the care she saw her mother, a critical care nurse, give her ailing grandmother, who had a stroke.

“I admired how she took care of her. The nurse aides she hired to help did not know much about nursing, but she trained them until they were experts at their job.”

Hub of caregivers

Her vision is that Cheka Tena will be a world class organisation that is a hub of caregivers not only in Kenya and Africa, but across the world.

“My vision is to be the go-to organisation for caregivers with a database of quality candidates to strategically deploy to nursing homes and chronic care facilities and disability stations all over the world. 

“To do so, I’d like to partner with organisations that not only work with the elderly, chronically ill and people with disabilities, but with children that require specialised care, such as [those with] cerebral palsy.”

Having completed her first degree in medicine, Evelyn would like to use it to enter a surgery programme, preferably paediatrics or neurosurgery.

“I’m partial to paediatrics because I was exposed to it during my studies; I was motivated by the way doctors took care of the kids and would get elated whenever I saw a very sick child get better,” she says, adding that she envisions a day her foundation will carry out free surgeries for children.

Neurosurgery fascinates her because it’s “a very dynamic field” and also “exciting because most intricacies of the brain have not been discovered yet”.

She adds that her initiative was founded on three principles— community health, women’s health and neurological health.

“With Cheka Tena’s maturation, the model could not focus on single elements, but rather, on creating an ecosystem, meaning that the effect caused by supporting and working together on a project has to synergise with everything we do and radiate to every group.” She says her achievement would not have been possible without networking.

Biggest challenge

“Be prepared to volunteer because it gives you an opportunity to learn on the job.”

For instance, when she took a break from her studies in 2018, she sought internship with Amref Health Africa for three months, where she learnt the nitty-gritty of running a foundation.

“I was attached to the Global Fund TB project, which works in, and with communities. They do data collection and analysis and focus on sustainability and longevity, which I thought were the two key factors needed to make a successful foundation,” she says, adding, she also learnt proposal writing.

As she looks for organisations to partner with, her biggest challenge has been her age.

“I think some wonder, ‘who is this young person, and will this foundation even last?’”

But she refuses to let this discourage her from fulfilling her dream and says she will keep knocking on doors until she hears, “come in”.

At the moment, she is doing a pre-internship at Kiambu Level 5 Hospital as she gets ready to do the Kenyan exam, which will enable her start her internship and eventually be registered as a doctor here, after which she will pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon.

“I shadow the doctors and interact with patients – I appreciate the learning experience.”