Contributions by Joy Barnice Henry | Written by Hannah Bain
The Story of Joy Barnice Henry
As the daughter of CFK’s co-founder, Tabitha Festo, Joy Barnice Henry feels like she is “trying to fit into shoes that are too big” for her. While Joy takes pride in upholding her mother’s legacy, she is also creating her own path and impacting the lives of many in Kibera and beyond. Growing up in Kibera, Joy experienced firsthand the health challenges stifling the community, and she was inspired to take action.
“The environment is hard. People lack access to clean water and sanitation, and you have to walk quite some distance to get to the toilets, which is paid for in some areas” Joy said.
With a soft heart and strong will, Joy decided to pursue a career in healthcare, a field that would allow her to have a direct impact on her community. She chose to study health systems management and, though her studies were difficult, she persevered and graduated with high marks.
Creating a Unique Path for Impact
After graduation, she returned to Kibera and volunteered with CFK for six months. In 2018, she received an offer for a full-time position as the Tabitha Medical Clinic Administrative Assistant, working for the same clinic that her mother started out of their 10 x 10-foot home with $26 in 2001.
Just a child when her mother established Rye Medical Clinic, renamed Tabitha Medical Clinic after Tabitha’s passing in 2004, Joy has watched the facility grow into what it is today and is proud to be a part of the team. As Tabitha Clinic’s Administrative Assistant, Joy ensures daily administrative and operations roles. She also orders critical medical and non-medical supplies for the clinic and coordinates delivery logistics, which is a large challenge due to the difficult terrain throughout Kibera. The COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges as many medical items are out of stock or facing delays in delivery, but Joy has adapted and worked hard to ensure that the clinic has the tools it needs to continue providing essential services to the community every day.
Over the past 19 years, Tabitha Clinic has transformed healthcare in the Kibera community. It was one of the only clinics that remained open during the post-election violence in 2007, and it is one of the only medical facilities providing consistent, high quality services during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“Tabitha Clinic is a one-stop-shop where you can get all of the services you need,” Joy said. “Most clinics in Kibera do not offer all of that. The fact that Kibera residents have a chance to find quality and affordable healthcare makes me happy every day.”
Honoring Our Past & Pursuing Our Future
Though a fixture in the community for nearly two decades, Kiberans commonly referred to Tabitha Clinic as the CDC Clinic due to the facility’s partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This misnomer failed to honor the clinic’s local roots and it deterred Kiberans from visiting the facility.
Clinic staff, including Joy, agreed that a re-brand was necessary, and Joy led the initiative by ensuring that all patient-facing materials included the CFK logo and the name Tabitha Clinic. Everything from lab coats and receipt books to appointment slips carried the Tabitha name. Though branding materials helped to subtly enforce the clinic’s correct title, the most effective change was making sure that Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) used the proper name.
“They are the ones who take information outside to the community, so we encouraged them to say ‘Go to Tabitha Medical Clinic’ instead of using the term CDC Clinic,” Joy said.
While it is difficult to change people’s learned habits, Joy has noticed more community members referring to the clinic as Tabitha following the re-branding efforts. Growing up alongside CFK and Tabitha Medical Clinic, Joy has seen the organization overcome challenges, and she and many other staff take pride in the organization and Tabitha name.
“I believe my mom is smiling very big seeing how much CFK has grown and all that it has achieved,” Joy said. “As our 20th Anniversary approaches, I think it would be best to celebrate the three heroes [CFK’s co-founders] that have done so much for us and helped us get to where we are today and the power of 26 dollars.”
Moving forward, Joy hopes to see CFK expand into other communities and operate as a bridge between the communities and the government, allowing residents of informal settlements to find the quality healthcare they need at an affordable price. Joy wants to help “make the faces of these people smile” by continuing her work as a champion in health advocacy. She has made it her personal mission to ensure that all people living below the poverty line in Kenya can access quality, affordable healthcare.