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Belinda Givetti (left) and her father Billy Givetti work together to provide healthcare in Kenya through the Fellbaum Medical Center. Billy Givetti founded the center in 2012. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Magazine

Billy Givetti helps his community.

He passes on this skill to his daughter Belinda, a freshman at Atrisco Heritage Academy.

The father-daughter duo continues to work towards the creation of the Fellbaum Public Health Center in Kenya.

Belinda is involved in a global health project, working with her parents to bring health care to her community in Kenya. She went to Kenya last summer and is going to go again this year.

“We caught up with a family we haven’t seen in a while and had a classic Kenyan meal of ugali, mbogi and sour milk,” said Belinda. “There was definitely a taste of home in the food.”

The trip was not only fun and games, as Givetti helped the locals in the area.

“We also tried to deliver school supplies to Kenya. So we also distributed school supplies, handing out pens, pencils, soccer balls to our local schools,” he said. “Professionally, I was also on an international fellowship at a nearby university where I supervised postgraduate research.”

Givetti is currently a Research Fellow at the University of New Mexico and the project in Kenya is one of his passions.

During the trip, Belinda accompanied her father to see what he was up to.

“I was visiting the university he was working at at the time and also made several trips to the house under construction,” Belinda said.

Back to basics

While in Kenya, Belinda had the opportunity to reacquaint herself with her roots.

“After about two weeks in Kaimosi, we went to spend a little over a week in Bungom and that’s where I met my mom’s aunt and my cousin Nelson,” Belinda said. “Sometimes the weather would cause power outages, and that taught me that even in literally dark times, you still have a family.”

Power outages came as a surprise, as she wasn’t used to them in Albuquerque.

“The only thing that was different was how everything was like the Internet,” Belinda said. “I automatically connect to the Internet and use my phone without thinking, but it takes a while to connect or have my own hotspot for something like a power outage.”

The Internet became available in Kenya in 1993.

Givetti said the outage was a revelation for his daughter because for the first time in her life, she was left without free internet.

“So she’s talking about the digital divide and free access,” Givetti said. “… We use mobile phones to connect to the network, so you buy packages.”

This is where Givetti’s life in Kenya provides important lessons for Belinda.

“My father grew up watching people struggle to afford or find medical care nearby and thought about how to help his community,” Belinda said. “His mother came to him and said she saw it in a vision when he went to tell everyone else about his plans and that was just the beginning as the Fellbaum Health Center is now a reality and is thriving.”

Givetti founded the Fellbaum Community Health Center in 2012 and named it after Lloyd Fellbaum, his friend’s late cousin.

“I am one of the very few members of the community who are lucky enough to study, work and live in America,” Givetti said. “So the expectations of the community here are much higher from health care, education, water, and supporting one or two people with a scholarship, so I try to travel as much as possible to see family as my mother is about 85 years old.”

Working for change

Givetti grew up in Western Kenya in a family of 10 and had to walk three miles to go to school.

“I understand the challenges of their needs, whether it’s waking up and not having internet or something we take for granted like a fridge,” he said. “Because the opportunity to live or study in America is a blessing that many people don’t have access to.”

Rice was considered a luxury, so the family could only afford it during big ceremonies or holidays.

When Givetti left Kenya for the United States in 2002, hundreds of locals came to sing, dance and give speeches on his behalf.

“We both share the dream of a community health center, so I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the building part of it,” Givetti said. “During the corporate period, the country was under quarantine and many people did not visit our medical center for a long time, and there were many undiagnosed diseases in the community.”

Primary health care in Kenya is a challenge, Givetti said, with a 33.4% infant malaria mortality rate and 10% infant mortality.

The son of a teacher, Givetti was the only child in his village who owned a pair of shoes.

“I speak several native languages ​​of Western Kenya, as well as a national language called Swahili, which has also been adapted to several international contexts,” he said. “We use English as the official language of education, business and everything.”

Although they have been hard at work on this important project, the work is not yet done.

“We are praying for a miracle to complete the ground floor so we can start serving the people,” Givetti said.

The medical center is more than half ready, but work is still ongoing.

“I’m working on shipping containers of medical equipment through an organization in Colorado, which costs me about $30,000,” Givetti said.

Luckily, Fellbaum has something else in store.

“And also we would like to invite medical professionals who can come for short visits to treat people with illnesses … when we provide medical services,” said Givetti. “So some professionals, such as research graduate students who can come in and just for a week or can make a big difference, are helping to bring these questions to light.”

Father and daughter hope to draw attention to this issue.

“We also need help putting this information on our website, which we don’t currently have,” he said. “Anyone willing to help us build our website so we can reach out to students and inspire them.”

Once completed, it will be the closest health facility for 25,000 people in the immediate area and up to 75,000 more people in neighboring communities.

After leaving Kenya in search of brighter opportunities, Givetti wants to help them in the future.

“Everything closed when I left, I was single and I was just a graduate student,” he said. “So this time we took the bus and met her grandmother, it was such a moment for the three of us.”

For Belinda, the opportunity to return to Kenya will not come soon.

“Just having company is always great, even though they teased me because they thought I didn’t understand Swahili,” Belinda said.

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