After the tragic death of Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10 last spring, many students struggled to find a way to pay homage to their friend. Now a group of four Wesleyan students and one alum are working to build a health clinic in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya in Justin-Jinich’s honor. Leah Lucid ’10, Ari Tolman ’10, and Inslee Coddington ’10 have teamed up with Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, founders of the nonprofit organization Shining Hope for Communities, for what will become the organization’s newest project.
This past summer, Odede and Posner oversaw the construction of the Kibera School for Girls, which provides a free education for girls in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, of which Odede himself is a resident. While the school is now successfully up and running, Odede and Posner believe their work is anything but complete.
“We’ve thought a lot about expanding the school to also have a community center, and we thought a lot about adding a health center as part of that,” Posner said. “We plan to build the clinic and establish it this summer.”
Joined by local staff, community health workers, and a team of medical experts based in Norwich, Conn., the students hope to have the clinic open by September.
Lucid, Tolman, and Coddington, friends of Justin-Jinich became involved in the project through their friendships with Posner and Odede. The idea to name the clinic in memory of Justin-Jinich occurred to the group over casual discussion.
“We were talking to Jess and Kennedy about coming with them to Kenya to help out with the school and the community center, and she told us about the clinic,” Lucid said. “Then one day I was with Ari having coffee and lunch at Pi. We were talking about this health center that specializes in women’s health, and it just suddenly hit me right in the head. Johanna would be going with me in a second, because what she wanted to do was graduate school in international public health and specialize in women’s health and reproductive rights.”
The group believes that building the clinic addresses the need for healing in the Wesleyan community in the wake of Justin-Jinich’s tragic shooting last May, while also serving some of Kibera often-overlooked needs.
“We feel like there hasn’t really been much talk about what happened,” Posner said. “We need, as a community, a way to both look back and think about what happened, and also to move forward.”
Posner said she hopes that Wesleyan students will be involved with Shining Hope for Communities, by both volunteering at the clinic in Kibera and participating in on-campus efforts to collect donations and supplies.
“Wesleyan students have been very involved in [the center] already,” she said. “I think that there will be a constant flow of Wesleyan students wanting to go over and spend time there, as well as doing stuff from over here.”
The group believes that the clinic will continue Justin-Jinich’s dream of fighting for women’s health rights.
“Johanna was my best friend, so it means a lot to me,” Lucid said. “And Johanna was a Wesleyan student so it means a lot to all of us.”